The Enemy Below (1957) -Dick Powell

Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens headline the next film on the What Else to Watch list following my screening of Das Boot while exploring the very enjoyable The Movie Book from DK Canada.

Mitchum, Murrell, is the captain of an American destroyer, the USS Haynes,  in the South Atlantic during World War II, who finds himself caught up in a cat and mouse game with an exceptional German U-boat commander, Von Stolberg (Jurgens).

We learn that Murrell is newly assigned to the Haynes, and is recovering from the disaster of his previous command. The crew is unsure of him, having rarely seen him while he stays in his quarters.

He’ll have the opportunity to prove himself to his crew in short order, when they encounter Stolberg’s u-boat. His first appearance shows he’s a competent commander, has a sense of humor, and he knows his job through and through.


Jurgens captain is smart, brilliant, but tired, and worn out from the war, he fights, but not sure he believes in his country’s cause any more, making for a fairly layered performance that contrasts nicely with Mitchum’s.

There’s a nice feeling of order and routine on both ships, and watching the two captains dance as they attempt to outfox the other is a fun treat. It’s a well-crafted sea adventure that went home with the Oscar for Best Special Effects.

Tensions run high on both crews, and the hunt practically covers the entire length of the film once the introductions are out of the way at the film’s beginning. It’s a well-executed and smart film, and despite the fact that there has to be a victor by the end of the film, it is a product of Hollywood after all, both captains live to see another day, and have more than a healthy respect for their ‘enemy.’

I was delighted to see David Hedison in a supporting role, he’ll always be Felix Leiter for me, but I do love when he pops up.

There is a nice authenticity to the procedures performed on both ships, that adds a reality to the film which in turn helps layer in the tension. Yes, you can tell that some of the film is shot on sets, there’s a flatness and lack of depth to some of them… they just don’t ‘feel’ real, but when paired with a solid story, and some actual footage shot on an American destroyer it’s enough to inspire the required suspension of disbelief that is so essential to film.

I’ll be curious to see what my next adventure is with The Movie Book. And you too can find something amazing to watch, if you pick up this fantastic tome, available now from DK Books.

Find a new classic to watch tonight!



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