Home > Films > S > The Sand Pebbles

Wednesday October 4th 2023

The Sand Pebbles | 1966

The US gunboat, San Pablo, tangles with Chinese warlords on the ‘Yangtse River’ in 1926 ‘Hunan Province’, but Robert Wise’s movie was made on the Keelung and Tam Sui Rivers at Taipei, on the northern tip of the island of Taiwan. The island of Taiwan lies 110 miles off the southeastern coast of mainland China, which lies across the Taiwan Strait.

In the Tamsui district of Taipei, 900 of the 5,000 locals were recruited as extras to storm across the ‘Changsha Bund’ and hurl lighted torches at the San Pablo. The boat itself, at $250,000 the most costly action prop built at the time, was modelled on the Villa Lobos, which had been captured from Spain after the Spanish-American War.

The climactic fight, with 30 Chinese junks, supposedly on the ‘Chien River’, was shot in Hong Kong, on an inlet in the Sai Kung district.

The interiors were filmed back at Twentieth Century Fox in Los Angeles (you can see some of the sets recycled in the Master of Economy, Roger Corman’s The St Valentine’s Day Massacre).