The Enemy Below

( 4 )

Overview

The Enemy Below (1957) is a war movie that has only improved with age, and it started out with an excellent reputation. The direction by Dick Powell is about as perfect as has ever been seen in a World War II thriller of this kind. It's not an epic about D-day or some renowned battle, but a story of one relatively small action -- no less ferocious or deadly -- between an American destroyer escort and a German U-boat. What made it special, apart from the excellent performances all around and the fine special ...
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Overview

The Enemy Below (1957) is a war movie that has only improved with age, and it started out with an excellent reputation. The direction by Dick Powell is about as perfect as has ever been seen in a World War II thriller of this kind. It's not an epic about D-day or some renowned battle, but a story of one relatively small action -- no less ferocious or deadly -- between an American destroyer escort and a German U-boat. What made it special, apart from the excellent performances all around and the fine special effects by L.B. Abbott, was its script by Wendell Mayes, which brought out the human element on both sides, an aspect of war drama that was new to American movie audiences in 1957. The DVD release was announced for the spring of 2003, but the disc didn't actually make it into stores until May 2004, almost a year late. The reason for the delay is anyone's guess -- what we have here, however, is nicely programmed. This film actually should have been part of Fox's Studio Classics series, because it is that good -- David Hedison and Theodore Bikel are still around, among the movie's cast members, and could have been at the core of a commentary track with a good war movie scholar. But as it is, there's a lot to watch beyond the movie itself. A Fox Movietone newsreel tells about the combat situation in the Atlantic early in the war and the German attack on southern Norway, made up of footage passed by censors on both sides. There's a very brief account of a U-boat captured by a British sea-plane and a much longer look at the German U-boat pens in Lorient, France, made up of footage captured from the Germans, and shots of Allied bombers blasting those same pens. As for the movie itself, it looks gorgeous -- better here than in any prior home-video presentation, with deeper color and sharper detail than was seen on the old letterboxed laserdisc. This release keeps the proper Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and that is essential to viewing this movie properly; apart from the fact that this is a film about ships at sea -- one of the most horizontal subjects there is -- Powell and cinematographer Harold Rosson use every part of the widescreen frame, so that there's hardly a shot in which there's not useful picture/plot information spread across the screen. One of the wonderful bonuses of the DVD format, as opposed to laserdisc, is the absence of bleeds in the bright lights -- even the red lamps aboard the sub show a razor-sharp glow, and no fuzziness. The source material is in superb shape, with even the darkest shots aboard the U-boat offering usable visual information. The audio is set at a low volume but it is very clean and boosts up nicely on speakers without distortion, bringing out aspects of the highly nuanced acting -- Robert Mitchum's style is built on the notion of less-is-more, so his every pause is worth taking in, and Curt Jurgens is just as good in a slightly different manner. Additionally, there is an unexpectedly good action score by Leigh Harline. The 97-minute movie has been given a very generous 28 chapters that are well chosen and labeled. In addition to the English-language stereo/4.0 surround track, there are mono French and Spanish audio tracks available and English, French, and Spanish subtitles. The disc opens automatically to a multi-layered menu that's very easy to maneuver around and advances automatically as one screens the trailers (to this and a handful of other Fox war movies from the 1940s through the 1960s) and newsreels.
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Special Features

Closed Caption; Theatrical trailer; "Fox War Classics"; Movietone News
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
Eschewing romantic subplots, patriotic propaganda, and much of the other nonsense that Hollywood tends to throw into combat pictures, 1957's The Enemy Below stands as a superb example of the battle-of-wills type of tactical film. One of the earliest post-World War II films to give a personal face to a heroic enemy, the film nicely avoids taking sides between the two ship captains. The performances by Curd Jurgens, as the sub commander, and Robert Mitchum as his surface counterpart, are both first-rate. The details of the naval combat have a feeling of authenticity, and it's fun for the audience to play along as the two foes attempt to outwit each other. The film has two significant weaknesses. The Oscar-winning special effects at times really do look like the toy ships in a tub that they are, and the intensity of the chase is undermined by a needlessly contrived ending. Where 1958's Run Silent, Run Deep concerns itself with internal crew conflicts and presages such films as Crimson Tide, The Enemy Below was the model for Star Trek's "Balance of Terror" episode, and presages such realistic submarine films as Das Boot.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/25/2004
  • UPC: 024543115519
  • Original Release: 1957
  • Rating:

  • Source: 20th Century Fox
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Wide Screen
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:37:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 299

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Mitchum Capt. Murrell
Curd Jurgens Von Stolberg
Theodore Bikel Schwaffer
Russell Collins Doctor
Kurt Kreuger Von Holem
Frank Albertson C.P.O. Crain
Biff Elliot Quartermaster
Alan Dexter Mackeson
Doug McClure Ensign Merry
Jeff Daley Corky
Joe di Reda Robbins
Ralph Manza Lt. Bonelli
Robert Boon Chief Engineer
Joe Brooks
Dale Cummings
Peter Dane Andrews, Radio Operator
Vince Deadrick Jr.
David Hedison Lieutenant Ware
Ralph Reed Fireman
Ronnie Rondell American Sailor
Maurice Doner Cook
Robert Whiteside Torpedo Officer
Sasha Harden
Michael McHale
Richard Elmore
David Bair Ellis
Technical Credits
Dick Powell Director, Producer
L.B. Abbott Special Effects
Stuart Gilmore Editor
Leigh Harline Score Composer
Albert Hogsett Art Director
Arthur L. Kirbach Sound/Sound Designer
Charles LeMaire Costumes/Costume Designer
Wendell Mayes Screenwriter
Lionel Newman Musical Direction/Supervision
Ben Nye Sr. Makeup
Walter Rossi Special Effects
Harold Hal Rosson Cinematographer
Walter Scott Set Decoration/Design
Lyle Wheeler Art Director
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Titles
2. The South Atlantic
3. A Spook
4. The U-Boat
5. A Bad War
6. The Feather Merchant
7. Battle Stations
8. A Free Shot
9. Torpedoes
10. Underwater Search
11. Depth Charges
12. Evasive Maneuvers
13. The Watchmaker
14. Emergency Dive
15. To the Bottom
16. Waiting and Listening
17. On the Move
18. A Delaying Action
19. Trouble Below
20. A Song of Defiance
21. Oil Leaks
22. Von Stolberg's Plan
23. A Pretty Present
24. Murrell's Gambit
25. Collision Course
26. An Enemy's Help
27. Running Out of Time
28. Another Reason for Hope
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play
   Language Selection
      English 4.0 Surround
      French Mono
      Spanish Mono
      Subtitles: English
      Subtitles: Spanish
      Subtitles: None
   Scene Selection
   Special Features
      Theatrical Trailer
      Fox War Classics
         13 Rue Madeleine
         The Blue Max
         The Desert Fox
         Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
         Sink the Bismarck!
      MovieTone News
         The War Situation
         U-Boat Capture by Biplane
         Inside the German U-Boat Base at Lorient, France
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

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(4)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    War Drama at it's Best

    Curt Jurgens and Robert Mitchum are top drawer in this well-directed character study of naval commanders persevering under the tension of sea warfare. Mitchum plays a U.S. destroyer captain who, while previously serving in the Merchant Marine, saw his wife killed when his freighter was torpedoed by the Germans. Jurgens is the experienced, professional German sub commander who displays little patience with the Nazi faithful on his crew. The two protagonists play a chess-like game of cat and mouse, leading up to the inevitable final confrontation that is both entertaining and satisfying. Theodore Bikel and David Hedison (later to be seen, ironically, as a submarine commander in the TV version of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) portray the executive officers for the two vessels and turn in very good performances, especially Bikel's. The direction by Dick Powell is excellent, focusing on character but mixing in just the right amount of action to move the film along to its exciting conclusion. The action sequences and military protocol are extremely realistic, adding to the depth and quality of the film. If you like your WWII movies presented in an intelligent and entertaining fashion, this one is right up your alley.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Great Film

    This is a great film for any war buff.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2000

    Superb view of a Destroyer Escort in battle.

    The excellent film gives the best view of a Destroyer Escort in action to be found anywhere. The film is in color, with clear and vivid photography, coherent plot line and realistic portrayals of the functions of the crew. The movie was shot on an actual Buckley Class Destroyer Escort in open sea, and gives a better sense of warfare in the Atlantic than any other film I know. The film is free of the typical Hollywood distortions seen in too many WW2 movies. Don't miss it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews