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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Underwater!" is a routine treasure-search adventure with Jane Russell
(Theresa) in love with Richard Egan (Johnny) diving with him and with
Dominic (Gilbert Roland), his best friend, in the deep blue water of
the Caribbean looking for bars of gold lost in the wreck of a Spanish
The essential point of the film is not the legendary treasure shared in part with an unscrupulous 'bandido' named Rico (Joseph Calleia) but a nice shot worth to be remembered: Jane Russell in her distinctive particular one-piece red bathing-suit moving underwater in front Sturges' camera...
With a great Latin music score, and the blessing of Father Cannon (Robert Keith) for winning his gold cross, and with Lori Nelson (Gloria), the owner of the beautiful boat in love with Dominic, the film photographed in SuperScope and Technicolor, imparts a special Latin flavor, serving one and only purpose, the figure and the natural wonders of Jane Russell in her last film for Howard Hughes...
Ironically another pin-up girl, and another 'Jane' was about to be born, the screen goddess Jayne Mansfield.
I enjoy this movie very much and try to watch it periodically. As someone who took up SCUBA diving the year before this movie was made, I'd like to call attention to the fact that it is the first full length feature movie in which SCUBA was used. In fact, it was so early in the development of equipment that the tanks that they were using were smaller than the 72 cubic foot tanks that became standard for steel tanks.(There were other sizes.) Also, note the two hose regulators that are all but obsolete, the early flipper designs, and the primitive back packs. To some, the story may seem a little corny, but so were early aviation pictures and early submarine pictures. This considered, I think that the movie deserves look.
Howard Hughes was a producer that had a lot of talent for discovering
beautiful women that went on to have better careers with other vehicles
than the ones he decided to create for them. That seems to be the case
of this John Sturges' 1955 film "Underwater!" in which the curvaceous
Jane Russell starred for the last time for Howard Hughes.
The film is a curious one. We are introduced to Johnny and Dominic, two underwater divers who are searching for those sunken ships in the Caribbean, especially this one, not too far from Cuba. As they stumble into the old Spanish galleon, they find a man that appears to be a sort of pirate awaiting for them because it's obvious they are after those treasures.
As Johnny and Dominic go back to Cuba, we are introduced to Theresa, Johnny's wife, who is dead set against spending money chasing his dreams. But when Dominic meets Gloria, by chance, she tells him about the yacht she has been left with by a departing old flame. So the four friends, and a priest who knows about those sunk ships, go in search of the riches trapped underwater.
The film doesn't bring anything new to this film genre. In fact, it's pretty tame stuff we see in a predictable story we know how it will end. The best reward for the viewers of "Underwater" is the beautiful Jane Russell at her best. She was one of the sultriest women working in films during those days. The problem is the male stars who give by the numbers performances. Joseph Calleia is the only one that shows any spunk as the man who wants the riches from under the sea.
...about 10 minutes before the end of this fun movie, the lead actors
are struggling underwater, when all of a sudden Richard Egan (..or his
stunt double) reaches across the front of Jane Russell (..or HER stunt
double) to free her from some impeding disaster, and as he pulls away
his hand he pulls down her bathing suit ever so briefly and exposes the
THIS is what HDTV wide screen technology can do..stuff that got by the editors years ago is now there for detailed and easy to see review.....DVDs make it even easier, but you have to catch UNDERWATER on cable..(..of course you can Tivo it and freeze frame whatever...)
This was the last picture that Howard Hughes, Executive Producer, would produce with Jane Russell. Howard produced "The Outlaw" with Russell years ago and it was a big success because it was baned by many Christian churches, because too much cleveage was exposed by Jane R. In this film, Jane Russell,(Theresa Gray),"Young Widow",'46, appears mostly in a bathing suit and shows off her body in all the right places and was the wife of Richard Egan,(Johnny Gray),"Untamed",'55, who had a great addiction to trying to find treasure and was down on his luck and just got married; so he was looking for a big find. Gilbert Roland, (Dominic),"Sonora",69 was also a skilled diver who also desired to find sunken riches from the deep coral reefs. Lori Nelson,(Gloria),"The Naked Monster",'05, was a cute petite blond friend of Dominic and played a rather dumb role. In 1955, scuba diving was a new feature and underwater films were of great interest to the public. There even was a priest who went along on the boat, who had great interest in religious relics that had sunken into the sea. There is some exciting scenes which captured the audiences of the 50's; it is truly a great Classic Film.
Screened recently in national television in Australia, and on a Saturday afternoon so all 19 million of us could goggle at it in the daytime, the press release for the TV week magazine exclaimed: No Sunken treasure for Gilbert Roland, but oh boy, check Jane's sea Chest!.....now how could anyone miss that. Not ever seen in 3D here we have had to make do with that. Snazzy cossies and bubbling romance, this sensational lung stretcher cost as much as A STAR IS BORN but hasn't endured like Judy did. Jane is as gorgeous as ever and the film is fish tank pretty. Watch it and love it. No wonder poor RKO went bust too.
Underwater was allegedly set in Cuba, but actually photographed on the
Kona Coast of Hawaii, was the last time that Jane Russell worked for
Howard Hughes. The mysterious industrialist would shortly be getting
rid of RKO Studios and RKO itself would shortly go Underwater after
The site of Jane Russell even in a conservative one piece bathing suit was enough to delight the male members of the audience with those twin weapons of mass destruction Jane sported. But if you got around to listening to Jane she drifted in and out of an atrocious Spanish accent. There was no reason to cast her as Hispanic so why she was will remain a mystery.
Like his aerial films Howard Hughes took some really good care with the lavish Underwater photography and it remains the best feature of Underwater, even though the stuff photographed on Kona was supplemented by scenes done in a large tank.
All that though just to tell a rather routine tale of four treasure hunters, Jane Russell, Richard Egan, Gilbert Roland, and Lori Nelson who hunt for and discover an ancient Spanish Galleon loaded with gold bars. But also on board is a solid gold larger than life size statue of Jesus also adorned in jewels that was lost at sea to the Roman Catholic Church. Along for the ride is Jesuit scholar Robert Keith.
The four and Keith also run afoul of shark hunters/smugglers/pirates led by Joseph Calleia. How the plot resolves itself frankly borders on the ridiculous.
But the Underwater photography and the Jane photography make Underwater worthwhile viewing.
**MINOR SPOILERS** Midly entertaining sunken treasure adventure movie
that's only kept afloat by it's star Jane Russell, Theresa Gray, who's
constantly competing in the movie with the breath-taking Caribbean
scenery off the coast of Cuba. Finding some underwater artifacts that
suggest their from a Spanish Man of War it's decided by the sunken-ship
treasure hunters Johnny & Dom, Richard Egan & Gilbert Roland, to get a
bigger boat to go back out at sea to recover the hundreds of gold bars
and box-loads of priceless gems submerged there.
It takes a while for Johnny to first get his wife Thereas to go along with his, what seemed to her, water logged plan. It's then that Lady Luck struck him and Dom when looking to rent a 50 foot boat from this guy Robinson they finds that he checked out of town and left his boat over to his totally land-locked minded young secretary Gloria, Lori Nelson, who's more then willing to let the two treasure hunters use it.
There's a number of unexpected event happen to the quintet with a local padre Father Cannon ,Robert Keith, coming on board who's only interested in recovering a life size solid gold Virgin Mary statue studded with diamonds to be returned to her rightful owners in the little church in Panama where she originally came from. Later there's this boat-load of shark hunters headed by the scuzzy-looking Rico, Joseph Caileia,looking for garbage from John's boat to use as bait to attract the underwater predators. Rico smells a rat, or a gold bar, when John tells him he and Dom are only looking for underwater rocks to be studied by the professors and students at Havana University.
The movie "Underwater" comes to it's very predictable conclusion when after reaching the underwater sunken treasure site Johnny is left by himself with Dom suffering from the bends. It's then when we finally get to see Theresa or actress Jane Russell, who we earlier briefly saw in a swimsuit, put on her bathing suit and dive underwater to help and possible save her husband, Johnny, from either drowning or getting eaten up by sharks. Theresa for all her efforts gets stuck in the sunken ships wreckage where we then have Johnny making it back to the boat to get her an extra oxygen tank. You wonder why all this was really necessary when Theresa has those two giant natural air supply tanks that can easily keep Theresa breathing for at least a week!
With Johnny and Theresa as well as Dom who heroically came to both their aid, risking his life doing it, back on the boat their again confronted by the shark-hunters who were disarmed and left on shore by Johnny & Dom just a while earlier. We then have another boring battle between them and Johnny & Dom which ends with everybody shaking hands and becoming friends> This happens when one of the shark hunters got very religious, which quickly affected the rest of his crew-mates, over the the fact that all this violence was over a golden statue of the Virgin Mary the mother of the Prince of Peace!
Nothing that you wouldn't expect or want in a movie like "Underwater", except hoping to see a lot more of Jane Russell in a tight swimsuit, with a happy ending without anyone in the film getting killed. With the most seriously injury among the cast being that they got a bit wet under and between the ears and,in the case of Dom, a very bad case of the Caribbean cramps.
Full-figured Jane Russell (as Theresa), her skin-diving husband Richard
Egan (as Johnny), and his Cuban partner Gilbert Roland (as Dominic)
search for treasure in the Caribbean. They find a shipwreck, shark, and
others interested in the booty. Early in the running time, listen for
Perez Prado's mega-hit instrumental "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom
White". This Howard Hughes production unabashedly showcased the chests
and legs of its co-stars; other than the obvious, note how the Ms.
Russell's legs are made visible while under the ship's table and Mr.
Egan's shirt blows open in the breeze, for a loving camera. The
"Underwater!" climax (and Russell cleavage) is routine, but it does not
***** Underwater! (2/9/55) John Sturges ~ Jane Russell, Richard Egan, Gilbert Roland, Lori Nelson
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I taped this film one day recently when I came across it on TV. The
interesting thing is that the version I saw was b&w, and when I looked
at the intro credits it said 'color by Technicolor'! Then I looked it
up on this site, and I found that it was released in colour, but no
mention of a b&w version!
I enjoyed the film, but I was thinking all the time how much better it would be in colour. The underwater scenery would be even more fantastic! Love the music, it's really catchy with a great beat, and the storyline isn't bad. I always enjoy the films from this era, and this is no disappointment. Now I'm looking out for the colour version!
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