|The cover of my DVD of the movie, and the source of the above quote.|
No. No, sorry, it's not. This 1953 movie was released on DVD in 2011 by VCI Entertainment, a company that specializes in the release of "classic" British films. Classics like Alistair Sim in "A Christmas Carol" and "Doctor at Large." The sort of black and white classics my oldest brother Frank would watch Saturday afternoons on the color TV, and this dialogue was repeated every week in our living room:
Mom: Why are you watching that crap? (sorry, Mom, but that is what you said)
Frank: It's not crap! It's a classic!
Mom: It's a grade B movie! Why don't you watch something good, something in color!
And it went on from there. I don't recall if Frank watched "The Malta Story"; I only heard of it myself this year, and I finally got around to watching it this summer.
|Another version of the DVD cover|
No, the star of the film is Malta during the second World War. This is the film to watch if you've visited the National War Museum in Valletta and want to see actual newsreel footage of the bombing, the air raids, the destruction, and the aftermath. The director, Brian Hurst, skillfully blended archival footage with scenes he shot in Malta and at Pinehurst Studios. He made good use of his location shots in Malta. I'm pretty sure the production crew used the Lascaris War Rooms, particularly the tunnel outside the entrance. (I don't suppose NATO let them use the Sector Room with its plotting table for filming, but the set sure looks like they did.) They filmed in Valletta, in the countryside, and at the temples, too.
Some of the on-line commentators describe the film as a documentary with a love story, and I think that is the best description of the movie. It explains, in simple narrative format, Malta's strategic importance, the position of the British forces on the island, the difficulties of supplying Malta with food and fuel, and the extreme privation that the Maltese people suffered during the war. Malta had to import food and fuel by ship, and like any siege, the enemy tried to prevent its arrival. This is the real drama -- will the convoys get through? Will the tankers make it in time? When will the British be forced to surrender the island or let the people starve?
|Alec Guinness chastely kisses Muriel Pavlov in The Malta Story.|
The love story exists to present Maltese ambivalence about British rule in wartime. Muriel Pavlov plays Maria Gonzar, who has two brothers: one serving in the King's Own Malta Regiment, the other interned in Italy until he returns to Malta to spy against the British. Not for the Fascists, mind you; against the British. Flora Robson plays their mother like she's in a different movie, a Russian one perhaps, full of symbolism and suffering. Flora's character is supposed to be Mother Malta herself, who endures so much woe for the sake of her children. (No wonder Sir Alec looks so uncomfortable when she asks him his intentions towards her daughter!)
No, don't watch it for Alec Guinness. If you're a fan of British actors, watch it for uncredited glimpses of Peter Bull, Rosalie Crutchley, Maurice Denham, Gordon Jackson, and others. Watch it for Jack Hawkins, worrying about his Spitfires landing safely; watch it for the heroic arrival of the Ohio receiving full military honors as it limps into the Grand Harbor; watch it for the authentic glimpses of Malta during its last great siege.
Some related links:
The Malta Story at IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046029/
VCI Entertainment: http://vcientertainment.com/
Heritage Malta, National War Museum: http://www.heritagemalta.org/museums/warmuseum/warmuseuminfo.html
Fondazzjoni Wirtartna, Lascaris War Rooms: http://www.wirtartna.org/Default.aspx?tabid=2483