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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
U-BOAT PRISONER 1944
This one is a low budget war film put out by the B unit at Columbia Pictures. It stars Bruce Bennett, Erik Rolf, John Abbott, John Wengraf and Robert Williams.
This one starts out with a German U-Boat patrolling off the US coast. The U-Boat is there to pick up a spy who is travelling on board a cargo ship. The man jumps ship with a life raft and waits for the submarine to rescue him. The submarine sinks the cargo ship after the spy has left the ship.
One American sailor, Bruce Bennett, survives the sinking. He swims out to the raft where the Nazi type is waiting for the U-Boat. A quick round of flying fists etc soon has the raft changing ownership. Bennett rifles the dead man's pockets and finds an id card which he pockets. He slips the dead Nazi overboard before the sub shows.
The U-Boat surfaces and pulls Bennett out of the drink. He is greeted by Gestapo agent, John Wengraf. Bennett hands over the dead man's papers and is taken as the now deceased agent. The submarine is full of important scientists whom the Nazi's have lifted from various Allied ships. They are to be transported back to Germany to work for the Reich.
Bennett's not being able to speak German is explained away by him being a US born agent. (Easy plot fix) Bennett is put in with the scientists to see if they are up to any mischief. Bennett lets the scientist types in on who he really is. He tells the men to remain calm while he tries to figure a way off the U-Boat for all of them.
The U-Boat is being trailed by an American destroyer. Said warship races up and gives the Nazi swine a solid shaking with a brace of depth charges. One of the scientist types, John Abbott, loses his head and wants to rat out Bennett to the Gestapo man. Bennett quiets the rat with several knuckle sandwiches.
The American destroyer keeps peppering the area with depth charges, which causes damage to the submarine. The German Captain, Rolf, fire some debris out the torpedo tubes hoping to fool the Americans into believing the submarine has been sunk. When this fails to work, he adds one of his own men to the debris. More depth charges are soon raining down as the Americans are not duped by the ploy.
The U-Boat is now heavily damaged and settles on the bottom. Most of the ship's crew are drowned (including the contemptible swine of a Gestapo man) except for the prisoners and several Germans all in the torpedo room. The buoy with a phone cable is released. The buoy is spotted by the destroyer and answered.
Bennett tells the Americans the situation on board the submarine. The men are going to use the torpedo tubes to escape. The problem here is that one of the nine men will need to stay. Someone needs to fire off the air in the tubes. Lots are drawn and Bennett loses. Bennett of course manages a last minute bit of luck and makes it to the surface as well.
This one is loosely based on the book "U-Boat Prisoner" by American sailor, Archie Gibbs. The direction of this low end programmer was handled by B-film veteran, Lew Landers, with some unbilled help from Budd Boetticher. Landers was involved in the production of over 200 different films and television episodes. In 1944 alone, he helmed 9 different features.
The cinematographer was 2 time Oscar winner, Burnett Guffey. His work includes, BONNIE AND CLYDE, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, ALL THE KING'S MEN, NIGHTFALL, THE HARDER THEY FALL and SCANDAL SHEET.
If you take it for the low budget quickie that it is, it should pass the time well enough. The 66 minute run-time of course helps.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Those seeing U-Boat Prisoner's IMDb score of 8.1 may think it a little
known classic. They would be wrong. Based on six votes only, the
average is an outlier. (It is, for example, quite inferior to Operation
Pacific, a 1951 submarine story rated as 6.5.) After another ninety or
so responses, U-Boat's score should fall to about a 5.5--which is where
it should be.
As to what happens in the picture, seaman Archie Gibbs is torpedoed and thought to be a German agent by the crew of the sub that rescues him. He is confined--as an informer--with four previously captured scientists. But a day or so later, a destroyer sinks the sub. Gibbs then employs torpedo tubes to help the few survivors escape until, seemingly, only he and the sociopathic captain are left. And in order to fire the tube for one, the other has to stay behind.
As to what happened in real life, since the movie is based on Mr. Gibbs' similarly titled experiences, the answer is virtually nothing that the movie claimed happened, happened. To wit: In May of 1942, Mr. Gibbs' ship was torpedoed. He was picked-up almost immediately. Twenty-four hours later that ship was also torpedoed. That was when he was picked-up by the U-126 (no spy was involved). A destroyer did not sink the sub. He was released a few days later and reported most of his experiences were positive.
As to why the picture is substandard, there are several reasons. There's much bad dialog:
Gibbs (to enemy spy on raft): "You Nazi skunk!" Enemy agent: "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! The U-boat will pick us up. I'll save your life." Gibbs: "I'll take care of you first."
There's little character development (the sub's crew is virtually indistinguishable from one another). There's obviously a low budget (which shows in tons of stock footage, crypto-cheesy sets, and ultra-tight shipboard shots). There's an unrecognizable cast (except for Bennett). And, finally, there's bad acting--particularly by the so-called Germans--though Bennett, it has to be said, does acquit himself well.
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