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The Riddle of the Sands (1979)

In 1901, two British yachtsmen visiting Germany's Frisian Islands accidentally discover a German plot to invade England.


Tony Maylam


Tony Maylam (screenplay), John Bailey (screenplay) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Michael York ... Carruthers
Jenny Agutter ... Clara
Simon MacCorkindale ... Davies
Alan Badel ... Dollmann
Jürgen Andersen Jürgen Andersen ... Von Brüning (as Jurgen Andersen)
Michael Sheard ... Böhme
Hans Meyer ... Grimm
Wolf Kahler ... Kaiser, Wilhelm II
Olga Lowe Olga Lowe ... Frau Dollmann
Ronald Markham Ronald Markham ... Withers


In the early years of the 20th Century, two British yachtsmen (Michael York and Simon MacCorkindale) stumble upon a German plot to invade the east coast of England in a flotilla of specially designed barges. They set out to thwart this terrible scheme, but must outwit not only the cream of the German Navy, but the feared Kaiser Wilhelm himself. Written by Jonathon Dabell <J.D.@pixie.ntu.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In these shifting sands, men can disappear without a trace . . . and their secrets with them. See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


English filmmakers such as Michael Powell, Sir Michael Balcon and Sir Alexander Korda tried to earlier film this picture's source Erskine Childers novel but his widow would not sell the movie rights. See more »


When Clara visits just after the attempted ramming, she is wearing a hat and coat. When she leaves and rows away, she is just wearing a dress without the coat and hat. She is clearly seen throwing the coat into the boat before rowing away. See more »


Davies: Do you realize that England has not defenses at all facing Germany? No North Sea fleet? And all her naval bases are in the south: Portsmouth, Chatham.
Carruthers: Historical accident.
Davies: Oh quite! But now it's not France whom we have to guard against. Germany is growing stronger every single day, and very soon, her navy will rival ours.
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Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: Frisian Islands, Germany 1901 See more »


Referenced in The Last Horror Film (1982) See more »

User Reviews

Unfairly Ignored Classic Story
26 June 2009 | by markie6See all my reviews

It's a great old sort of thriller based on a well known and loved Erskine Childers novel.

The cast are excellent and the feel for the time and place, with what was to come are of an older world Don't expect action but prepare to either love it or hate it.

Michael York at the height of his game

Simon Macorkindale was also never better

And Jenny Agutter reminding us all what a beauty and fine actress she is.

I'd love a return to old style thrillers based on great stories without relying on special effects.

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English | German

Release Date:

16 March 1979 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Riddle of the Sands See more »

Filming Locations:

Holland See more »


Box Office


GBP1,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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