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In the Mediterranean in 1941 the Italians start using underwater chariots to mine the undersides of allied ships. Explosives expert Lionel Crabbe arrives in Gibralter to organise defences, but finds only two British divers available to help him. Even more worrying, it seems likely that the Italians are secretly using neutral Spain across the bay as their key base. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
The Silent Enemy is a tribute to controversial British war hero Lionel Crabb who later got to be known as Buster after the American swimming champion. It wasn't medals that Crabb did his swimming for, he swam for the very survival of king and country.
Laurence Harvey plays the sometimes irascible Crabb who gets assigned to Gibraltar, a key point on the lifeline of the British Empire in the Near and Far East. Holding the mouth of the Mediterranean as it does and still does, Gibraltar by its location has been a non-negotiable item since the British got it 1704.
Neutral Spain with its nest of spies on both sides of the rock was giving British shipping fits at the time. The Italians developed the technique of planting limpet stealth mines on British ships so they sink later on, when not in port. Crabb discovers this and applies that old maxim, if you can't beat them, join them. And above all make yourselves than the enemy.
Crabb's original assignment is simply to find and dispose of the mines, but he puts together a team of frogmen and they become better than the Italians. Crabb's war on Gibraltar is a personal one because he knows who the Italians are operating over in Spain, he can almost reach out and touch them. But Spanish neutrality was a vexing problem for both the USA and the UK during World War II. MI5 who you would think would be dealing with such matters isn't doing it. It gets to be a personal war with Harvey and Arnoldo Foa playing the Italian frogman team head.
Some of Harvey's crew are played by such British cinema veterans as Sid James, Nigel Stock, Alec McCowen, Ian Whittaker, and Michael Craig. John Clements is the Royal Navy Admiral in charge at Gibraltar and the beautiful Dawn Addams plays his efficient WREN secretary. I think she'd like to have gotten something going with Harvey, but in this case Harvey has his mind strictly on the business at hand.
Lionel Crabb mysteriously disappeared in Portsmouth harbor in 1956 and a headless, legless, armless trunk was later recovered that could have been him. His disappearance has led to speculation for years that even in the post Soviet Union world hasn't been answered. The only one who's disappearance has gotten more speculation in my lifetime was the Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt.
This film which made two years after Crabb's disappearance goes into none of that. It concludes with the landings of the Allied army in Morocco and with Crabb and his small team, literally frustrating the plans of several nations at war with their country. It's that Lionel Crabb that the British people prefer to remember and he's remembered well in this accurately told tale of his exploits.
One man in the right spot really can make a difference.
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