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The Sand Pebbles


  • Theatrical Version
  • Roadshow Version
Release: Mar 05, 2024 - Author: brainbug1602 - Translator: Muck47 - external link: IMDB

The theatrical version was compared with the roadshow version, both available on the US DVD

In 1926, the Chinese people are oppressed by corrupt warlords and Western occupying powers. A civil war is imminent. The soldier Jake Holman is assigned to the gunboat "San Pablo", which patrols the Yangtze River. The political situation in China is also reflected on the ship. A group of Chinese workers with a parallel structure have to perform menial tasks. Jake opposes this system and comes into conflict with Captain Collins. Meanwhile, he falls in love with missionary Shirley Eckert, knowing full well that their relationship hardly stands a chance in these chaotic times.... Under the direction of Robert Wise (West Side Story), a stirring military drama was created in which the complexity of international conflicts was integrated. Beautifully reflected in the grandiose finale.

In addition to the well-known theatrical version, there is a roadshow version of The Sand Pebbles that is a good 13 minutes longer. A brief explanation of the term: in the 1920s to 1960s, some films were released in cinemas in the USA as roadshows before their official theatrical release. The focus here was more on promotion and the event character, whereby the film was to reach the public through word of mouth. In some cases, roadshow releases were usually longer than the subsequent theatrical versions.

In The Sand Pebbles​, the roadshow version features new action scenes as well as some shorter extensions. Jake makes a date with Shirley, the two are later seen having dinner and during the fight with the junks, we see how a fire breaks out on board the "San Pablo". It is interesting to note that the roadshow version has a short censorship cut when Po-han is attacked by the insurgent with a knife. The theatrical version is longer at this point.

The roadshow version can be found on the US DVD from 20th Century Fox. The film was released here in the Cinema Classics Collection with two DVDs. The first DVD contains theatrical version. The second DVD is a flipper DVD, with the roadshow version on one side and the bonus material on the other. So far, this is the only release to include the roadshow version. All other DVD and Blu-ray releases worldwide only contain theatrical version. The roadshow version has a red cast and appears to have been pulled from a theatrical print.

Picture comparison:

Theatrical version:

Roadshow version:


Theatrical version: 182:33 min.
Roadshow version: 195:39 min.


Before the "Repel boarders starboard" command is shouted, a new scene follows in the roadshow version.

Jake wants to leave the foredeck, but is stopped by a Chinese man who wants to measure him. Jake asks Frenchy what this means. The Frenchy explains that it's Sew-Sew, who wants to make the uniform for Jake. Sew-Sew says that he thinks Jake is smaller than P'tocki. Jake asks Frenchy who P'tocki is and learns that he was Jake's predecessor and died last winter in Changsha. Frenchy tells Sew-Sew that Jake needs shorts. Jake says that he wants calico. Sew-Sew finds this unusual, so Jake explains that he needs them at work. Frenchy is surprised because Chien does all the dirty work.

RS: 44 sec


Jake can still be seen pushing past the pipes. In between, a quick cut to the Chinese workers above him.

RS: 18 sec


Po-han stands up and walks to the nearest hatch. The foreman, Chien, looks at him grimly. Jake continues to push past the pipes. Po-han kneels down to the hatch.

RS: 22 sec


After Jake has reported the damage to Captain Collins without having taken it first, the scene continues.

The sound of gunfire can be heard coming from a small island, judging by the clouds of smoke. The soldiers reach for their weapons and start firing. Collins runs down the stairs and meets Jake, who asks what's going on. Collins explains that they are local bandits who do nothing but shoot holes in the chimney. The attackers are shot at with a machine gun. Bordelles gives the order to stop firing.

RS: 1:00 min


Jake climbs back up out of the flask opening. He calls Po-han over with a hammer. He begins to loosen the screw on the piston. A scene transition follows. Jake repairs the piston and says to Collins that everything is now fixed so that he can continue on to Changsha. Collins says that when they arrive in Changsha, Jake should report to him in the cabin.

RS: 1:07 min


More scenes follow before the ship docks in Changsha harbor. Bordelles calls for the bow line to be pulled. Then he orders the engine to be stopped.

RS: 11 sec


As Jake collects the money for the bet, Frenchy comes up to him and gestures with his head, indicating that he wants to talk to him.

RS: 5 sec


After Jake leaves, Ski continues to rehearse his punches. Frenchy waits for Jake and asks what he's up to, knowing that Frenchy wants to buy Maily off. Jake says that it was his fault that Po-han got kicked off the ship and he wants to fix it. Frenchy says that Jake will lose the money and get Ski Maily and it's all because of this "slopehead." Jake asks what Frenchy calls Maily. Frenchy reacts angrily and then leaves.

RS: 35 sec


After Collins gives the order to stop the engine, a Chinese soldier shouts something to him from the jetty. Collins asks Lop Eye what the man said. Lop Eye says that Genla Pan spoke and that the ship should go to the other side of the river. Bordelles says that this is not a warm welcome.

RS: 16 sec


The soldier shouts something again. Lop Eye translates that no sailor is allowed on this side of the shore. Collins orders that the people are to be brought on board and that they will dock at the river. As soon as the engine is ready, they want to cast off again.

RS: 21 sec


As Po-han's shirt is ripped off, theatrical version continues to show Po-han being cut with a knife several times.

Theatrical Version: 5 sec


Collins adds that he doesn't think Jake's temperament makes him unsuitable to work on a ship like this. In the fleet, where personality is less important, he fits in better. A cut to Jake follows.

RS: 17 sec


The intermission is longer in the roadshow version. You see the black screen for longer while the music continues.

RS: 45 sec


Bordelles continues to walk with the men across the jetty to the boat. Collins is called to the deck and sees the commotion on the shore and Bordelles returning with the men on the boat.

RS: 44 sec.


In a new scene, Jake waits outside the missionary building. Shirley comes out and says that it's not possible for Frenchy and Maily to get married. Jake asks if it's because Frenchy isn't Chinese. Shirley explains that the problem is that they don't have families and compares it to two loose twigs that can't be tied together. Jake asks if there isn't a Chinese office where you can get married quickly. Shirley says no and Jake says thank you. Shirley asks him how things are going on the ship. Jake explains that he will be transferred as soon as a replacement arrives from Hankow. Shirley asks where he is going. Jake replies that he is going back to the fleet. Shirley wishes he would come to China Light to get the engines running. Shirley says that I'm sure she'll be back there soon too. Shirley asks if he knows Changsha well and if she could show him around. Jake agrees.

RS: 1:17 min


The roadshow version fades from the boat to Jake and Shirley having dinner. Shirley tells him that she's excited to see kids learning because they're really willing to achieve here. Jake says that they want to get rid of the U.S. Navy. Shirley asks if he wouldn't feel the same way if Chinese warships were sailing on the Mississippi. Shirley hopes that one day people will pledge allegiance to something that isn't tied to a country. Something that shows their similarities rather than their differences. What Jake saw in Po-han. Shirley does something similar in China Light. The people get along, just the nations don't. She cites Frenchy and Maily as an example and asks why they can't get married. Shirley has had enough of people who want to tell her what to think and do. She assumes that this is how it is in the Navy. Jake doesn't like this either and explains that he was forced to join the Navy. Shirley says that the judge didn't bind him to the Navy forever. Jake thinks Shirley is analyzing him well. He looks outside and says that he better get back to the ship now. Jake stands up. Then it fades to the shot of Frenchy and Maily holding hands.

RS: 1:59 min


Bordelles agrees that he will wear the armband. Collins tells him that Franks should take care of the men and Bordelles should stay out of it. As long as Bordelles doesn't see or hear anything, they don't have to make a report. Collins' authority remains intact as long as he doesn't overuse it. Bordelles understands.

RS: 23 sec


The militia continue to fire on the ship. Fire breaks out on deck. Collins gives the order for the fire to be extinguished. The militia rejoice. Using a water hose and sand, the men manage to put out the fire. Collins is informed and takes stock of the situation. Collins wants to storm the main junk in two waves. Jake is to be in the second group with Harris. The men prepare themselves. Collins goes back to the bridge and orders fire to be opened again.

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RS: 2:47 min.