25th April 1953
Guernsey-set film The Sea Devils hits cinemas
Name a Guernsey film, and The Sea Devils probably isn’t the first one that comes to mind.
Yet the film, which starred Rock Hudson, Yvonne de Carlo and Maxwell Reed, does recycle some of the names from Victor Hugo’s Guernsey-set book, Toilers of the Sea. It opened in UK cinemas on 25 April 1953 (and in the US almost a month later, on 23 May).
The Sea Devils plot
Gilliatt is a fisherman, who helps Drouchette (a name remarkably similar to Deruchette in Hugo’s book) escape to France. England and France are at war at the time.
It looks like she might be a French agent for a while, but it turns out she’s actually working for Britain. She is captured, and Gilliatt rescues her. They kiss, but it’s not clear whether they have a happily-ever-after following their escape.
The plot thus bears little similarity to Hugo’s invention, unless Deruchette could, despite her name, actually be a stand-in for the Durande. This was a ship, whose engine Gilliatt saved in Toilers of the Sea. The film’s title – Sea Devils – is also a play on Devil Boat, which is the name given to the boat in Hugo’s book by the local fishermen.
A Channel Islands film
The film made no effort to hide the fact it was set in the Channel Islands – indeed, it made a virtue of it. The trailer was overlaid with the promise, “Over the horizon of the historic Channel Islands, into NEW and exciting worlds of spectacle and thrill come adventure and romance presented in vivid colour by Technicolor”.
The film, which runs for 91 minutes, was directed by Raoul Walsh for Coronado Productions, an independent British film company. It was distributed by RKO Radio Pictures.
The Sea Devils was also the name of a storyline in the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, although this was unrelated to Hugo’s book or the Rock Hudson film.