Enemy Below The (1957)

Enemy Below The (1957)

One of a handful of films directed by actor Dick Powell with a screenplay by Wendell Mayes (Anatomy of a Murder (1959)) this essential World War II submarine film gives more of the surface Destroyer perspective as a U.S. Navy Captain (Robert Mitchum Story of G.I. Joe (1945)) matches wits with a German U-boat Commander (Curt Jurgens). It won an Oscar for Best Effects Special Effects even though all but the actual depth charge explosions are pretty lame by today’s standards. In spite of this however the battle between these two seasoned war veterans makes for terrific drama which holds up quite well today. It was voted one of the top five sub films by USAA members in 2004.

The film begins with the current crew of a Naval (submarine) Destroyer questioning the capabilities of their "so far" absent Captain Murrell (Mitchum) who remains sequestered in his cabin. We learn through their discussions and the ship’s doctor (Russell Collins) that Murrell is back in command after only two weeks of rest and relaxation after surviving an earlier battle found stranded on a lifeboat at sea. We are also introduced to Von Stolberg (Jurgens) whose first in command is ‘Heinie’ Schwaffer (Theodore Bikel The Defiant Ones (1958)). Stolberg is also a veteran of many battles and therefore is not quite as gung-ho as one of his newest officers Von Holem (Kurt Kreuger) who can be seen reading Hitler’s "Mien Kempf". When Murrell finally does "surface" he shows sharp skills and excellent leadership qualities as he allows his first in command Lieutenant Ware (David Hedison) to assume some Captain’s responsibilities to facilitate his growth as an officer (as well as when he shows concern for an injured member of his crew). Stolberg exhibits similar leadership skills especially when his crew gets rattled as well as loyalty to Schwaffer his partner of many years. Most of the rest of the crews’ activities are secondary compared to the strategic maneuvering that both Captains initiate during their "cat and mouse" game where the hunter can become the hunted at any time. The ending was "stolen" from Action in the North Atlantic (1943). Frank Albertson & Biff Elliot are credited; Doug McClure is not.

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