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The Enemy Below

Posted by martinteller on June 5, 2012

An American cruiser (battleship? I dunno) chases a German U-Boat around, while the two captains (Robert Mitchum, Curd Jurgens) try to suss each other out.  I tend toward the opinion that you’ve seen one naval battle film, you’ve pretty much seen ’em all.  I’m sure a war movie aficionado can appreciate the subtle differences more than I.  But there’s something comfortable about them nonetheless, it’s an easy rhythm to get sucked into.  The cat-and-mouse games between Mitchum and Jurgens were sufficiently engaging to hold my interest, with lots of hurried technical jargon being thrown around (it must be murder to memorize these lines) and tense situations.

The two leads are both pleasant to observe as crafty leaders who are both keen tactictians and encouraging to their men.  It seems like the de facto method of getting an audience to like a German soldier/officer is to have them somberly denounce the war, but I guess it’s a reasonable shortcut to take.  The film is helmed by Dick Powell of all people, perhaps making it the only instance of one “Philip Marlowe” directing another.  Powell does a perfectly acceptable job, though.  Some of the interior scenes feel a little stagey, but topside it looks splendid and all the naval action is bang on.  The score is appropriate but forgettable.  Few of the secondary characters stand out, and really the leads aren’t that amazingly well-drawn either, but it all manages to be entertaining anyway.  Both sides are presented fairly.  The more war movies from the classic Hollywood era I see, the more I realize they weren’t all gung-ho patriotic, but I always appreciate it when they aren’t.  Rating: Good


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