A retired Royal Navy captain challenges corrupt local government after his property is condemned and seized. [ All at Sea credits: Dir: Charles Frend/ Alec Guinness, Irene Brown, Percy Herbert/ 82min/ Comedy/Britain/Eminent Domain, Government Enforced Morality] Note: film also listed as Barnacle Bill.
During the 1950s, Britain’s Ealing Studios produced some of the finest comedies ever made. One of Ealing’s less well-known triumphs, All at Sea, is the story of a just-retired Royal Navy captain who intends to operate an amusement pier in his retirement, only to find, after he has already purchased the pier, that the local city council plans to shut it down.
The council sees the pier’s offerings—dancing, drinking, and games of chance—as stimulants to public immorality, and coincidentally a few corrupt members of the council are positioned to profit from the pier’s demise. But the captain, the proud descendent of a long-line of seafarers, is no pushover, and he knows something of maritime law and naval battlefield tactics!
All At Sea is a wonderful film — entertaining, and with strong libertarian content, focused as it is on both the misuse of eminent domain and attempts by government to control morality. Modern audiences will typically associate Alec Guinness with his dramatic persona as Obi-Wan Kenobi, but in his earlier years Guinness was one of the finest comedic actors of his time, and he shines in the lead role here; many supporting roles in this film are also played with wit and style.