The Big Blockade. Skipper (Will Hay). Copyright: Ealing Studios / STUDIOCANAL.

The Big Blockade

1942 British comedy film about the wartime economy. Stars Leslie Banks, Frank Cellier, Alfred Drayton, Will Hay, John Mills and others.

The Big Blockade. Image shows from L to R: Mate (Bernard Miles), Tom, RAF (John Mills). Copyright: Ealing Studios.

The Big Blockade

Wartime propaganda film with a comic edge, illustrating the importance of waging economic battle against German industry and manufacturing

Leslie Banks, Frank Cellier, Alfred Drayton, Will Hay, John Mills, Robert Morley, Michael Redgrave, Bernard Miles and others
Angus MacPhail
Charles Frend
Michael Balcon

Our story itself opens in the summer before the war in Budapest with a discussion on a train between Herr Schneider, a German business man, and Mr. Taylor, a British economist. War breaks out, and we see the long-prepared machinery of the blockade being put into instant action.

Hitler's conquest of Europe is shown in relation to his struggle to free himself from the ever-tightening grip of the blockade. In an attempt to mollify his people, who feel the pinch at home, the story of the Battle of the Atlantic is trumpeted by the German propaganda machine into a succession of overstatements and false victories. "Wishful sinking," as Quentin Reynolds describes it at a M.E.W. conference.

A fantasy reconstruction of a meeting of the Quislings of the occupied territories shows how Hitler loots his conquered territories in an attempt to make up for the insufficiency of food and materials caused in his own country by the economic warfare.

An argument between a skipper and a mate on a British trawler presents an explanation of the navicert system in forthright and humorous terms.

During the time of the uneasy pact between Germany and Russia, we meet a young Russian travelling through Germany to study economic conditions within the Reich. He falls into the company of Herr Schneider, whom we have met before, and from their train journey together, a journey interrupted by the frequent visits of the R.A.F., we see conditions within the Reich through the realistic and satirical observations by the Russian.

Finally, we see how Hitler's attack on Russia and Japan's attack on America serve to tighten the economic ring round Germany. Into Hitler's greatest gamble - his attack on Russia - go not only his troops, but his precious stocks too: oil, metal, rubber, wood and leather, plundered from Europe. The full strategic plan of economic warfare is set in train. Russia against Hitler in the East. In Iraq, Syria and Persia, the Allies have locked the gates. America's entry into the war has deprived the Axis of one more great supply base in South America.

And now British bombers hammer at the heart of German industry, uprooting communications, despoiling the mechanism of war itself ... not the overworked squadrons of 1940, but a brand new bomber force, with further range, height and speed and a far higher bomb load. We see the reconstruction of a great R.A.F. night attack on Germany. The film ends with the return of our planes.

The commentator ends the film with the words: "Their targets have been reached. Their bombs have been placed. So they do their part in the master plan of the Big Blockade. Over the green fields and the grey cities of Britain, the planes come home at dawn. It is the prelude to another dawn - for a new day is coming - the Day of Freedom for all men."

Production Details

UK certificate
77 minutes
Release date
Production company
Black and white
Laugh track

Broadcast details

Last repeat
Sunday 4th April 2021 at 10:00am on TPTV

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