Hell Boats

Hell Boats is a 1970 Technicolor British war film directed by Paul Wendkos that was filmed in Malta. It stars James Franciscus, Elizabeth Shepherd, and Ronald Allen[1] in a story about British Motor Torpedo Boats in the Mediterranean in World War II. It was the last film made by Oakmont Productions, a branch of Mirisch Films. The film's technical advisor was Lieutenant Commander Ian Nagle Douglas Cox who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order whilst serving in HMS Malcolm in 1940.[2]

Hell Boats
Directed byPaul Wendkos
Produced byLewis J. Rachmil
Written byDerek Ford
Donald Ford
Anthony Spinner
StarringJames Franciscus, Elizabeth Shepherd, Ronald Allen
Music byFrank Cordell
CinematographyPaul Beeson
Edited byJohn S. Smith
Oakmont Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
20 March 1970
Running time
95 minutes


In 1941 Lieutenant Commander Jeffords (James Franciscus), an American serving with the Royal Navy is assigned to Valletta, Malta, to command a flotilla of Motor Torpedo Boats for a top secret mission. Jeffords is granted permission to take his friend Chief Petty Officer Yacov (Reuven Bar-Yotam), an Israeli/Palestinian with him.

Through scrounging spare parts from sunken craft, the battered flotilla is able to piece together three seaworthy craft. Jeffords' mission is to destroy a former Italian submarine base in Augusta, Sicily, that now contains the German's Fritz X glide bombs that have been taking a heavy toll of British shipping. As the bombs are stored in former submarine pens tunnelled inside a mountain, an aerial attack is unfeasible. It is up to Jeffords to determine how he will accomplish his mission.

Off duty, Jeffords meets Alison Ashurst (Elizabeth Shepherd) bathing in the nude who turns out to be the wife of his commanding officer Commander Ashurst (Ronald Allen). Jeffords turns down her offer of having an affair.

Jeffords first decides to make a reconnaissance of his target by being taken into the base by the Sicilian Resistance. Jeffords' mission is successful, but at the cost of the lives of his Resistance escort.

Jeffords schemes to capture a German E-Boat in a manner similar to Commander Ian Fleming's Operation Ruthless. By sending a false radio message that General Alexander's aeroplane has gone missing in a certain area, Jeffords and crew pose as survivors of the crash then capture the boat attempting to pick them up. Jeffords uses the captured craft as a Trojan Horse to penetrate the harbour, having the other boats in the flotilla follow his captured craft in once the Germans have lifted their boom gate. Jeffords and two others don Scuba sets to swim into the tunnels and plant explosive charges.

The Allied invasion of Sicily took place in July 1943.



  1. http://www.allmovie.com/work/hell-boats-94710
  2. The London Gazetter, 27 August 1940
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