The Enemy Below (1957) Poster

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Two men, caught in the conflict of WWII, engage in a hunt-and-seek situation that has only one final outcome.
Mickey-228 December 2004
"The Enemy Below" released in 1957, was one of those films directed by Dick Powell, and starring Robert Mitchum, that sparked with genuine realism and utmost attention to detail. This film also showed the harsh realities in war, and the dedication that men on both sides of the conflict can give to the task appointed. Mitchum plays the commander of a US Naval vessel that has the task of seeking out and destroying enemy submarines; having just recently lost one command, he is going to make sure such doesn't happen twice. The renowned German actor, Curt Jurgens, portrays the submarine commander whose presence has been detected by Mitchum's destroyer, and the chase is on.

Both commanders, Mitchum and Jurgens, in their characters, reveal that each was firm in their beliefs toward their respective countries. While Jurgens is not a gung-ho Nazi, he does have a firm dedication to his fatherland, and what it was before the war. Mitchum has the same firm devotion to his country, and what he is doing is the right course to bring a successful ending to the war, ultimately. There is a lot of verbal discussion during the course of the film, who is right, why are we engaged in this action, etc., but both commanders are desperately trying to out think and outmaneuver the other.

There were several good movies made during the 50s, this film, "The Enemy Below",and "Run Silent, Run Deep" come to mind, and are certainly worth a view. This film does give a look at both sides involved in the type of chase done here. An 8/10
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Respect for One's Enemies
bkoganbing6 February 2006
Robert Mitchum is the new Captain of a destroyer on patrol in an area of the South Atlantic where there will be little chance for any action, or so the crew thinks. This is a new command for him, he lost his last vessel and was 21 days on life raft. Mitchum though he was in the merchant marine before World War II is as new to the navy as most of his crew.

Lurking beneath is Curt Jurgens in command of a U-Boat. Jurgens is a career navy man who's already given much for the fatherland, two sons lost. His submarine is on courier duty, not looking in fact for any combat.

But they find each other and The Enemy Below is about the cat and mouse game each of them play in trying to destroy the other.

With twelve years in between the end of World War II and the present it was now possible to portray Germans as three dimensional people, something rarely done during the war years. Jurgens at this time was a very big star on the European continent and was now getting roles that would introduce him to American audiences. He's very good as the professional, but tired U-Boat captain who just wants to get home.

He's matched all the way by Mitchum who's got a lot of doubts now having lost one ship already. The crew has some doubts too, but Mitchum proves worthy of the command he's been given.

The Enemy Below won the Academy Award that year for special effects. No ships in a tank, these are real vessels being used for this film.

Look for good performances by supporting players Theodore Bikel as the Executive Officer of the submarine, David Hedison as the Executive Officer of the destroyer and Russell Collins as the ship's doctor on the destroyer. You might note a small role for Doug McClure at the beginning of his career.
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A classic!
kalex8 September 2004
Have to agree with "bob the moo" on this one. I've seen it probably two dozen times, and will see it many more, I'm sure. One of my favorite "war" movies (w/Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens as destroyer and submarine captains, respectively). My other faves are "Platoon," "Full Metal Jacket," "Decision Before Dawn," (w/Oskar Werner and Richard Basehart--most excellent!), and of course, Kubrick's "Paths of Glory," w/Kirk Douglas, Adoph Menjou and George MacReady.

More than a blood-and-guts war movie (though it has plenty of terrific action scenes), it's more of a man-vs-man "cat and mouse" story. Absolutely excellent direction (by Dick Powell) and some terrific cinematography. Terrific scene between Jurgens and Theodore Bikel (who plays his Exec. Officer), that is nothing but facial gestures and eyebrows.

A very "moral" tale, it shows that even sworn enemies serving their countries in wartime can show respect and compassion toward each other, especially since they're all men-of-the-sea: sailors. Conversations between Mitchum and his ship's doctor and between Jurgens and his exec officer mirror each other. Note the scene of the American sailors pulling the German sailors aboard their lifeboats near the end; Mitchum helping rescue the U-boat captain and his exec after ramming them.

Great tale, well-scripted, acted, directed and shot. An model of how to make a terrific story into a movie.
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U.S.Destroyer hunting German U-boat
RIO-154 May 1999
A test of cunning and courage between the commander of an American destroyer (Robert Mitchum) and the captain of a german U-boat (Curt Jurgens).

The movie was one of the first to portray the enemy of WWII sympathetic.Jurgens made his American film debut after being a star in European films.Director Dick Powell (who had crooned in Warner musicals in the early 30s,and became a considerable actor in the part of Philip Marlowe during the War) injects the film with exciting pace and a clinical observation of men at war.There are no unnecessary heroics in this movie.
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Entertaining and educational.
lloyd720200321 October 2004
What's really impressive about this movie is the photography. When you see Robert Mitchum actually standing on the deck of a destroyer with depth charges going off behind it, you know somebody went to a lot of trouble to get all this on film. That destroyer is no movie set. You'll find very few backdrops and special effects here except for underwater shots of the enemy U-boat, and even those are above average. It all seems ahead of its time somehow, the brilliant color footage, the musical score, and the attention to detail.

The Enemy Below is a fascinating study of WW2 anti-submarine warfare. Although the ending is a little corny, the anti-war message is timeless and quite appropriate. Especially now (Oct. 2004) as America is being dragged into another real conflict. It's certainly worth a look.
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A pleasant surprise.
KEVMC27 July 2003
A US Destroyer plays a deadly game of cat and mouse with a German U-Boat in the South Atlantic during World War Two.

Despite this film getting fairly regular screenings on UK TV over the years, I saw it for the first time in its entirity over the weekend. Considering the era in which it was made, I was pleasantly surprised by its straightforward story and solid production. Rather than have some superfluous romantic sub-plot dragging it down, it instead concentrates on the professionalism of those involved on both sides. Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens portray the opposing Captains impressively as men who take no pleasure in the prospect of killing, but carry out their jobs to the best of their considerable abilities. The supporting cast include Theodore Bikel, David Hedison and a very young looking Doug McClure.

A combination of good technical credits, sure handed direction, good acting and a sympathetic depiction of the German crew ensure that the film holds up very well today. It may not be 'Das Boot' but its certainly entertaining.
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The hunter and the hunted. A wartime exercise in mind reading.
smiley-3920 April 2004
USS HAYNES, real name, WHITEHURST DE-634, in the opening scene as the credits roll has weighed anchor and stood out from Trinidad that morning and is well out to sea. Which means she's operating in the Caribbean Sea Frontier Area.

A sailor heaves two buckets of garbage over the stern. If it was a "real" war situation let's just hope that there's nothing amongst the potato peelings, bottles, cans, etc, with USA stamped all over them. A U-boat captain on surface patrol would love nothing better than to scoop up garbage intelligence. A tip-off that allied ships maybe not far ahead? It's surprising what information can be gleaned from garbage.

There's curiosity among some crew members about the new captain, Murrell (Robert Mitchum). In the officer's wardroom someone stated that the XO, Lt Ware (David Hedison) should have been promoted to CO of HAYNES. Ware's only experience was sailing a yawl in the Miami yacht races in peacetime. Similar peacetime experience as Sub Lt Lockhart aboard COMPASS ROSE in "The Cruel Sea".

A possible U-boat contact appears on the radar screen. Murrel orders the bridge watch to get on the sub's tail and watch every course change he makes, and follow at the same speed. Camera shots now cutting between the pursuer and the pursued become interesting.

The U-boat captain, Von Stolberg (Curt Jergens), reminisces with Heinie Schaffer (Theodore Bikel), his second in command and old friend. "...but now it's, be a good warrior and never think, Heinie." They may be fighting for the New Germany; the Master Race. But there is a feeling of unease in Von Stolberg's heart and mind about the system. "Nothing good will come out of this war, win or lose. There's no honour in it. Memories will be ugly. We will die without God." Only Heinie is within earshot of the captain's opinions. He would probably not voice these opinions in front of Lt. Kunz, the officer aboard who struts and responds to orders, Nazi fashion. Von Stolberg shows silent contempt for the Master Race when on leaving the control room he drapes an oil-soaked towel over the Fuhrer's name which is stencilled on the overhead air conditioning trunk suspended over the chart table.

Captain Murrel again shows he's no slouch when he correctly calculates the time it will take for the submarine to dive, level to periscope depth, launch torpedoes, and running time to target. There are tense looking expressions on some of the crew's faces as Murrell presents HAYNES broadside on to the submarine at reduced speed. The tempting target suddenly turns hard to port; and shocked amazement is on the destroyer men's faces, all heads swivelling from left to right and eyes glued on the two torpedoes as they gurgle along the destroyer's starboard side and close aboard. Murrell proves his ability. He's as capable as the submerged opponent he's trying to destroy.

The U-boat goes deep after the depth charge attack and rests quietly on the sea bed. HAYNES heaves too right above her. Silence all round. A chess game is in progress in the sub's control room and Von Stolberg looks on with faintly amused contempt as Kunz buries his nose in a copy of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf". Aboard HAYNES a studious naval rating, probably a bookworm, is reading Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". Heavier reading than "Mein Kampf", and about an empire that lasted a lot longer. The camera pans right to show a smiling commissioned officer reading a, "Little Orphan Annie" comic. It speaks volumes about the background mixture of men thrown together in times of conflict.

The U-boat gets his licks in at the Destroyer Escort with one torpedo out of a full spread. That one strike amidships at the ships's very vitals, its forward fire room, is all that is needed to finish her. With enough power remaining Murrell manages to close the distance with his surfaced opponent and strike the submarine forward of the conning tower.

Respectful courtesy is immediately apparent between the two captains as they sight each other for the first time. They salute, they have fought the good fight. In conflict courtesy between warriors like days of old comes to the fore. Men of both sides are mariners and, war or no war, the brotherhood of the sea rises to the surface. There are souls to be saved from this cruel sea, and hostilities take second place as deadly opponents become survivors and are hauled aboard the whaleboat.

Von Stolberg reading the burial lesson in German over the remains of Heinie Schaffer before committing him to the deep seems very appropriate. German dialogue throughout the film with English subtitles would have been distracting; spoiling the concentration.

The German side was given fair treatment. Something that has often been lacking over many years. The image of strutting bone-headed Nazi automatons often bordered on the ridiculous. Thankfully there was Only Kunz aboard the submarine who seemed to symbolise the Master Race.

Robert Mitchum turned in one of his best performances, as did Curt Jurgens, who incidentally, was interned in Germany in World War Two for not "embracing" the Nazi system. Dick Powell, a crooner in the thirties, an accomplished actor in the forties, proved himself as an accomplished director with this production.

On ramming U-boats? RN destroyer HESPERUS sliced U-357 in 1942. VISCOUNT, closing at 26 knots, finished off U-661, 1942. Lend Lease BUCKLEY class DE, HMS AYLMER dispatched U-1051. Other DE's CALDER, BENTNICK, and MANNERS, were in on the kill, January 1945. All ships survived. Ramming was officially discouraged in the Royal Navy because of damage incurred. Captains balled out in a gentle manner by higher authority. "Don't dare do it again!....Until next time. There's a good chap. And good hunting! And if that wasn't open-ended encouragement to do it again I don't know what was!
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Landlubbers will get a mild education on destroyer vs. sub warfare in this one.
Deusvolt4 August 2006
Since WWI, most people thought of the submarine as the hunter. Hitler called them his "wolves." But towards the middle of WWII, with the use of sonars, air reconnaissance and fast destroyers, the U-boat's mastery of sea warfare came to an end. For comments and statistics on the survival chances of German U-boat crews, watch Das Boot and The Eagle Has Landed.

I always thought Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster), was the older movie because it was in black and white while this was in color. Aside from the color, Enemy was also better technically crafted overall. But for me what puts Enemy well over Run Silent is the very effective characterization of the enemy U-boat Commander (portrayed by Curd Jurgens). In Run Silent, the captain and the crew of the Japanese destroyer hunting the American sub were practically faceless unknowns.

I notice that the U-boat commander has a "von" in his name indicating a noble lineage. Same as George Ritter von Trapp (of the famous singing family)a baron who commanded a U-boat in WWI. I understand the Kriegsmarine attracted a better class of educated and highly cultured people which is why the infamous Heydrich was cashiered from the German navy under the Weimar Republic. Incidentally, the US Navy was led to victory in the Pacific by another descendant of the Prussian junkers class, the petty nobility whose members usually made a career of the military. That would be Chester von Nimitz although his immediate ancestors gave up the "von" when they settled in the New World.

Dick Powell, singer and light comedy actor did a fantastic job writing the screenplay and directing this movie.
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portfrmt22 January 2004
This was a Great WWII DE versus Sub movie. One of the few movies that actually used proper Navy voice procedure and a radar with no sound.

I liked it better than "Run Silent, Run Deep" and "Dos Boot", though I liked both.

An almost perfect Navy movie with the one exception of always returning to course 140. If one as ever navigated or plotted via radar, you know that if you've vectored off course , e.g. zigzagged for any length of time, to get back on your original course, it would not be the same exact 140 as it started.

I can't wait for this movie to be released on DVD and in Wide Screen.
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Tense and intriguing WWII submarine drama about an implacable sea chase
ma-cortes3 September 2013
Inexorable duel of great stars into a submarine and a destroyer . During World War II, an American destroyer escort 'USS Haynes' (it was played by the real 'USS Whitehurst') captained by a tough skipper (Robert Mitchum) meets a German U-Boat commanded by an intelligent captain (Curt Jurgens) . Both captains are good ones, and the engagement lasts for a considerable time . Both of them pursuit one another and square off in the South Atlantic . This movie's closing epilogue states: "Twentieth Century-Fox wishes to thank the Department of Defense and the United States Navy for their assistance in the production of this motion picture."

Thrilling as well as exciting battle of wits between two skippers who gradually come to respect each other . Both of whom are a compellingly balanced match as two clever as well astute captains . This nail-biter is a tightly-knit drama centered on the relentless sea maneuvers of a destroyer going after a submarine and vice versa . The film is famous as one of the best WWII submarine movies, though some scenes at sea, however, suffer from the utilization of obvious models in a just as obvious studio tank . Interesting screenplay , being based on the novel by D.A. Rayner and the book and it's dust-jacket can be seen at the beginning of one of this movie's trailers . German player Curt Jurgens made his major mark on the international scene and it was American movie debut for German actor . The cast spent about a month filming on board this vessel. Many of the crew of the 'USS Whitehurst' appeared in this movie. Secondary cast is frankly good such as Theodor Bikel , Frank Albertson , Russell Collins , and this picture marks the feature film movie debuts for David Hedison -as Al Hedison- and Doug McClure . 20th Century-Fox production notes for this movie from the AMPAS Library declare that the 'USS Whitehurst' was a battle-hardened veteran from the Second World War which had during World War II been stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Harold Rosson's colorful and vivid cinematography , including spectacular maritime scenes , though set in the South Atlantic Ocean of World War II, this movie's ocean scenes were filmed in the Pacific Ocean. . The motion picture was stunningly directed by former movie star Dick Powell who efficiently captures the claustrophobic up and undersea tension ,; this was one of the final theatrically released movies of director Dick Powell who soon after worked exclusively in television.

This suspenseful sea epic represents one of a select group of a few World War II submarine movies which have won the one single Academy Award in a technical category, that's just only the one Oscar in either special effects or sound editing. These movies include ¨Crash Dive¨ ; ¨Torpedo Run¨ and ¨U-571¨. The non-WW II sub-movie, ¨The Hunt for Red October¨ also won just the one Oscar as did the WW 2 part sub-movie 49th Parallel , but for Best Original Story . Furthermore , other important films about submarine are ¨Run Silent Run Deep¨, ¨Crimson tide¨ by Tony Scott with Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman; ¨K19¨ with Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson and the best ¨Das Boot¨ (1982) by Wolfgang Petersen with Jurgen Prochnow .
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Realistic and outstanding
caa8218 February 2007
Although a number of years after this picture was released, I served for 2-1/2 years as an officer on a U. S. Navy ship, so I gained an extra enjoyment and appreciation for this movie. This was especially true with regard to the realistic shipboard filming. On many other "Navy" flicks," even where well-done, you can't help but imagine the actors walking away from their "ships" at the end of the day's scenes - and proceeding about a hundred paces out the door and into the Hollywood parking lot. Not so here.

In all the history of "talking pictures," from 80 or so years ago, there probably haven't been any two famous, leading actors more reserved, low-key, and phlegmatic than Mitchum and Jergens. They might even be 1-2 (in either order) on such a list.

However, and especially together, as the American and German adversaries, this style works perfectly - and an already-excellent production is all the better for it. Again, in other naval films, the captain spends much of the time shouting frantic directives, and you still know he's doing this only a few hundred feet from his car in the lot outside the sound stage. Bob and Curt bring a calm, deliberate, realistic and intelligent perspective to their characters.

In addition, the American and German captains were not the extremely-opposite caricatures so often portrayed in war films.

This picture has shown frequently recently, and I've enjoyed it every time I was able to catch it.
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I gave this a 10. This is not just a guy movie.
lallen227 July 2002
It appeals to me as a woman. This movie is one of my personal favorites. It has a plausible plot. Robert Mitchum, Curt Jurgens and other cast members give strength to their roles.
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Ranks High Among Submarine Films
dglink27 November 2016
"Das Boot," "Run Silent, Run Deep," "The Hunt for Red October," submarine movies are a favorite sub-genre of war movies, and, among these undersea films, "The Enemy Below" ranks with the best. Tautly directed by actor-director Dick Powell, the film depicts a strategic cat-and-mouse maneuver between the captain of a German U-boat and the captain of an American destroyer escort in the South Atlantic during World War II. The two captains engage in a war of strategy, which leads to growing mutual respect, although neither has ever laid eyes on the other. Torpedoes, depth charges, and zig-zag evasion are deployed in a deadly game of marine warfare, and the film's special effects won an Oscar, although they are unimpressive by contemporary standards. The fine screenplay by Wendell Mayes, adapted from a novel by D. A. Rayner, the crisp editing by Stuart Gilmore, and Curt Jurgens's sensitive performance as the German captain all merited Academy attention, but were overlooked.

The two captains engaged in a battle of wits to the death are seasoned veterans and carry baggage from their pasts. The American captain, well played by Robert Mitchum, helmed a freighter that was torpedoed and sank with his new bride aboard; he spent days adrift on a raft and only recently returned to active duty aboard the escort ship, which has largely avoided action until now. Curt Jurgens displays considerable depth as the war weary German captain, who disillusioned by the new German order. Both captains have sounding boards nearby to verbally express their inner thoughts. Mitchum talks with the ship's doctor, played by Russell Collins, while Jurgens bares his soul to his shipboard friend, Theodore Bikel.

The drama moves back and forth between the surface ship and the submarine below as each captain tracks the movements of his foe, attempts to anticipate his next move, and out maneuver him; they play a high risk game of chess with the loss of their ships and the lives of their crew if checkmated. "The Enemy Below" is engrossing throughout its relatively short running time; the tension builds both above and below the surface; suspense mounts, and viewers will be drawn into the drama until the end. For fans of submarine films and of Robert Mitchum, "The Enemy Below" is essential viewing, and all viewers will likely come away with a new appreciation of the talents of Curt Jurgens.
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I think you will
campbell-russell-a24 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Enough has been said about this film in the other reviews but I would like to draw attention to two scenes that have remained with me since I saw "The Enemy Below" as a boy. When some of his crew show the signs of stress when under constant bombardment from above, the sub captain, Von Stolberg,has a Germanic drinking song played as loudly as possible through the sub's PA. He then encourages the crew to sing along. It will give the sub's position away but the captain defiantly stares upwards and hopes that his overt and seemingly reckless response will have a psychological effect on his enemy above. On hearing the music, the destroyer's green first mate tells captain Murrell, played by Robert Mitchum,that they are "having a ball down there" and that his psychological warfare was not working. Murrell smiles and shakes his head in admiration of the sub's commander and wryly remarks: "Oh, it's working all right. I almost wish it wasn't." One human being empathized with another - two enemies implicitly understood each other. The scene is worthy of the famous scene in "All Quiet on the Western Front" in which the German soldier first stabs the French soldier and, after recognizing his humanity, tries to save him from dying. After being saved by his enemy from being blown up by the sub's detonator,a despondent Von Stolberg says to Murrell that it was his "fault" that he survived by throwing him a rope. Murrell apologizes and replies that next time he won't throw him the rope. Von Stolberg sternly retorts:"I think you will." These men know each other beyond what they do in war. Each man has done his duty - his job - but they have not let the war rob them of their humanity. Even though they have tried to destroy each other, they admire each other's skill and character. There is a message of hope but it delivered by two hard-nosed actors, Mitchum and Jurgens, who don't play it for sentiment.It is a moving depiction of humanity and it lifts the film up to a higher level of thought.
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An Excellent WWII Movie
nabor715 December 2005
Excellent plot, cast,and action make this one of the best WWII naval movies made. Not made for promoting the war effort as "Destination Tokyo" and "Torpedo Run" were, this movie is the story of two veteran Captains and their ships. Having served on submarines, I appreciated the realism of the U-boat, the crew, and the captains tactics. All were very realistic. Robert Mitchums tactics as the Destroyer captain were very realistic. I enjoyed the respect each captain shared for the ability of the other, and I especially enjoyed the realism of the hunt and final attack. To conserve torpedoes it was customary to finish a struggling target with the deck guns only if the target was a cargo or freighter with little weaponry. This tactic was not usually used on a heavily armed destroyer unless a safe position could be taken to prevent becoming the target. The tactic of ramming was also commonly used by all ships in WWII. I enjoyed the ending because in war (not terrorism), when the outcome of a battle is certain, the foes become people once again and the human spirit overcomes the ideological differences, and the victor and the vanquished come to each others aid. There are countless stories of this happening during WWII and if the U-Boat would have been the victor, I would have left with the same feeling.
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Old DD sailor nit picks
seahooks5 October 2005
Don't get me wrong,this one of the best Navy/Destroyer movies made but there are some problems I would like to point out. 1. "we will trail him until dawn and attack". the idea that a DE commander with a radar advantage would waste it by waiting until day light when it would be almost impossible to surprise a surfaced sub.He would go right after the sub and if could get close enough switch on his searchlight or fire a star shell,then open fire with every thing that could brought to bare. 2.In the opening credits that shows the full ship clearly shows the ship is equipped with Headgehogs as were all the Buckly's, there is no mention of these in the movie. 3.The Radar/Sonar operator,s giving course changes of the sub. These folks can only give a range and bearing to the target. It would be up to guy on the DRT (Dead Reconing Tracer), that was the guy making doodles on a board. Anyway I still think it was a good movie.
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" If he makes the same mistake, . . . . he will be vulnerable "
thinker169125 September 2007
In the middle of the Atlantic ocean, during the Second World War, two experienced sea veterans confront each other. The first is America naval Captain Murrell (Robert Mitchum) who has already seen his share of misery and tragedy. Lt. Ware (David Hedison) is his able second-in-command. Captain Murrells' wife was lost at sea when a German U-Boat sank the ship she was on. Now returning to duty, Murrell hides what feelings of revenge he has and attends to the task at hand. The second is an experienced German naval Officer named Von Stolberg (Curt Jurgens) who learned his considerable skills as an undersea commander in the First World War. His best friend and second in command is Heinie Schwaffer (Theodore Bikel). Both have good crews. This film called "The Enemy Below" is an honest portrayal of men at war, depicting the conflict from both prospectives. Neither side is given a 'Hollywood edge' and thus allows both sides to exemplify exceptional skill and steadfast fortitude. When Murrell and his Destroyer, confronts Von Stolberg and his Submarine, both discover they are up against an exceptional commander. As such, they display considerable expertise in trying to destroy one another. The consequence? The first to make a mistake will sink the other. The audience realizes this is what war is all about. ****
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Excellent story of anti-submarine warfare cat and mouse tactics, and a plausible story.
memcaptbob11 August 2002
I am a retired navy captain with extensive experience in anti-submarine warfare (in ASW aircraft). This is certainly a realistic and plausible story and a classic navy war movie. The performances by Robert Mitchum and Kurt Jurgens, as the opposing captains, are excellent. The basic story is so strong that an episode of the original Star Trek series, updated as starship vs. invisible starship, was based on this movie.
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Classic Submarine WW 2 Film
kenandraf2 September 2002
Very good WW 2 drama thriller movie about Submarine warfare and tactics.Very good all around production and acting performances.Has an anti-war flow to it and manages to maintain believability despite unusual enemy mutual empathy from the combatants.Very entertaining and a great example of a well paced film.Could have been a masterpiece with a slightly deeper and more complicated story.Only for fans of Submarine warfare films and big fans of the lead actors........
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Which Enemy?
Robert J. Maxwell25 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I take the title to be the kind of pun that Richard Matthieson was fond of using. In one sense, the enemy is of course the submarine commanded by the clever Curt Jurgens. In another sense, the enemy is more obliquely identified in a "philosophical" conversation that Robert Mitchum, commander of a Buckley-class destroyer escort, has with the ship's doctor. Mitchum goes on for several minutes about how men seem to have an unconquerable evil part of them, so that "if you cut off the head of a snake it just grows another one." Let's say that Enemy Number One is the submarine that lies beneath the surface of the sea. Enemy Number Two is the reptilian brain that lies beneath the cerebral cortex.

Mitchum plays his role straight: competent and all business. Jurgens on the other hand has been exhausted by the war and disillusioned by the political ideology he and his crew are risking their lives for. He drinks too much brandy at one point and maunders on about how, during the first war, it was all a kind of game in which the KaEl would say, "Torpedos -- loss," and sometimes they'd go and sometimes not. The American crew are all clean cut and good humored. The Germans are sloppily dressed and sweaty. Jurgens is clever enough to elude the DE but betrays himself by continually coming back to the same course, the one which leads straight to home, and Mitchum outwits him.

Good points? I can't offhand think of a film about the US Navy that has such realistic seagoing atmosphere. The color photography is superb. The wind blows on weather decks and makes everyone's hair and clothing flap, as it does on a ship at high speed. The twists and turns of the game being played by the two skippers generates a good deal of suspense.

Weaknesses. All the German sailors are ordinary human beings except the one Nazi aboard, whom Jurgens finds disgusting. And because of his background as a folk singer it's difficult to forget the ethnicity that Theodore Bikel brings to his role as executive officer. And we see a lot of depth charge attacks from the submariners' point of view, with bolts springing loose, a panicky crewman, chronometer crystals cracking, water squirting forth, all of which are already familiar from earlier movies, including "Destination Tokyo."

Then a scene that I've never figured out. Mitchum has been charging in to drop a few depth charges on a regular basis, then turning away after the attack. After one such incident, Jurgens says to Bikel, "Now I'll tell you something. Each time he comes in to attack he turns away. He doesn't always turn the same way, but twice he did." This allows the sub to prepare to launch torpedoes if the DE turns the same way again. What does that all mean? If you only have two ways to turn after an attack, right or left, how can you not turn the same way once in a while? If you turn the other way every time you finish an attack, you make yourself predictable and therefore vulnerable. The explanation makes no sense, but I suppose is offered just as an excuse for permitting the fish, or "eels" as the Germans called them, to be launched.

After the torpedoes wound the DE mortally, Jurgens surfaces to finish the ship off with his guns. Mitchum, who has planned for this, says, "He's coming up. That's the first foolish thing he's done. It makes us even." I don't get that either. It was routine for U-boats to sink defenseless ships with deck guns in order to conserve their torpedoes. It happened every day (and night).

The last thing I consider a weakness is the final scene. True, both the DE and the U-boat are destroyed, but the outcome is hardly a tie. The image of the American ship perched atop the smashed submarine is unforgettable and too powerful to represent an even loss. And on top of that, so to speak, the movie ends with the two skippers face to face aboard the American destroyer that has rescued them. It's a cliché of antiwar movies that have humanized the enemy, as this one has done. We respect one another and we're all alike under the skin and in war there are no winners -- except that we win. The Americans will be free to go on fighting; the Germans are all prisoners of war, those that have survived. "Torpedo Bay" has an Italian submarine and a British destroyer pitted against one another. The crews meet on shore and develop a mutual respect. In the end, it is only with the greatest reluctance that the submarine blows up the destroyer, saluting the ship as it sinks. It's an Italian movie. In "Zulu," the bravery and stamina and self sacrifice of the African warriors leave the British soldiers in awe, and it is only out of desperation that the Tommies mow them down like wheat. It's a British movie. In "Die Brucke," a handful of German schoolkids are put into uniform and told mistakenly to hold a bridge against an attack by an enormous force of well-armed Americans who are by no means brutal savages. The kids suffer terrible losses and in the end the bridge ironically is blown by German troops, although the Americans have been driven off and the bridge held. It's a German movie. "The Bridge on the River Kwai" has Japanese troops that are as human and sympathetic as the British prisoners. But the bridge is destroyed. It's a British movie. I don't need to go on about this. "The Enemy Below," like the others, has a latent feel-good quality for an American audience. How would they have felt if the two opposing crews had been sailing away on another German sub?
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Great Movie
dennisauborn7 June 2005
I first saw this film on TV in black and white and loved it at the time. Recently watching in color was a whole new experience, the colors seem so fresh. This is a great movie about a terrible time in human history but show that humanity can still exist in times of insanity. Would highly recommend this film to all.

Also I thought it was interesting that the officer is seen reading a comic while the enlisted man is reading about the Roman Empire. This shows that the country, unlike today was fought by all classes. Today only the poor and middle class go to war, while the rich, who benifit the most do not send their sons.
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"I should have died many times, Captain, but I continue to survive somehow. This time it was your fault."
elvircorhodzic27 January 2017
THE ENEMY BELOW is a war movie, which is based on the novel by British writer Denys Rayner. The protagonists of the film, the captains of a US destroyer and a German submarine, trying to destroy each other in the South Atlantic. Both captains are beginning to show mutual respect for their skills in combat...

Relationships and hostilities of the Second World War were significantly alleviated in this film. The action is reflected in the combination between the knightly competition and long-term game of chess. The story is, when it comes to the relationship between enemies, objective and balanced. Scenery is very impressive and visual effects were rewarded with a good reason. Mr. Powell has made a good balance in the story, so the audience empathize and sympathize with both sides.

The focus is on an exciting and uncertain battle to the final destruction. The story has retained, despite the visible rivalry, a high degree of humanity.

Robert Mitchum as Captain Murrell is seemingly cold, but quite calm captain of the US destroyer. He dominated in crucial moments and gradually acquire the confidence from his crew, which was shaken at the beginning of the film.

Curd Jürgens as Kapitän von Stolberg is emotional and he reviewed the objectives of war and human relations during the war. He is faced with the fear and mistrust in some members of his crew. However, he will keep his ideas and principles to the very end.

This is a very exciting movie, in which a person is more important than the ultimate war goal.
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A story of human nature in war.
james higgins22 March 2010
79/100. I feel Robert Mitchum is the most under appreciated actor of his time. For some reason at that time he wasn't considered a skilled actor, all the attention went to Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, William Holden and Marlon Brando. His performances in Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, The Night of the Hunter and Cape Fear are three of the best performances of all time. He is excellent in The Enemy Below as well. He is very believable and has a very natural style. Great story with a fascinating plot and characters that evolve beautifully. It's a good study of human nature and respect. Good cinematography, very well produced. Suspenseful and intriguing, with a rousing score.
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The good Nazi.
Warning: Spoilers
I tend to enjoy war movies with submarines, especially in (Techni)colour, so I was willing to overlook the politically correct, patronizing inclusion of Kurt Juergens as the "good Nazi". I was half-expecting him and Mitchum to have beer together by the time the movie ends, getting drunk, and then becoming best chums - and I wasn't too far off! Mitchum predictably saves his life, but not before Juergens tries to save the life of his best Nazi pal. So very touching! "Nazis love their children, too."

Nevertheless, the naive "all-we-are-saying-is-give-peace-a-chance" anti-war message cannot take away from the interesting action, the solid photography, and the great scenery.

The trick Mitchum uses, setting fire to his ship to lure the German U-Boot, is ripped off from "Action In The North Atlantic", a Bogey war movie from 1943.

In spite of its "fair", positive depiction of Germans - so very unwilling to fight for Hitler's Germany (ha ha) - I'd still recommend this, as any other WWII American war movie, to German movie fans. Why are there so few reviews by Germans on movies of this genre? Hmm...
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