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Hellcats of the Navy (1957)
If Ed Wood ever made a war movie!
I've seen this film a few times and it makes me cringe......And believe me I know my sub films!
Ronny is as stiff as a board throughout the film....In fact, he conveys the claustrophobic feeling of being cooped up in a fleet boat during WWII better than any other film does...He's grim and wooden...It's nigh unto impossible to build up any feelings or emotions for anyone in the cast.
Arthur Franz shines - as always, as the exec.......He's the one guy that manages to rise above the banal (make that abysmal) script and Nathan Juran's limp-wristed direction....It's kinda' like "Ed Wood does WWII".....Araggh!
You can see swipes from all over the place.....The scene with the guys swimming underwater with flaming fuel above was lifted from 1943's "Crash Dive" done by Fox!!!! Also the footage from the scene with the jap sub surfacing was actually Dana Andrew's sub from the same film! Neat huh?....Then you take the underwater scenes with the divers wearing 1950's scuba equipment(!) dealing with the japs....Looks like it too was influenced by Fox - this time from 1951's: "The Frogmen"....Ouch!
The few high points in this film stem from good location shots which appear to be off of Long Beach and Palos Verdes Penninsula aren't bad...No doubt shot on an old Gato class sub that was part of the active reserves....
Take note of the typical cheesy Columbia budget-that's all too obvious! Mischa Bakaleinikoff's (Columbia's in-house composer)hokey soundtrack sounds like sloppy seconds from Columbia's 1955 sub/sci-fi flick: "It came from Beneath the Sea".
This film might have been credible with a decent script, decent direction and decent acting.....But it isn't....
If this movie were a sub wreck, even Bob Ballard wouldn't touch it!
Try watching "Hell Below" if you want to see an outstanding sub film...They don't get much better!
Ori okeanis saidumloeba (1957)
Fascinating Russian "Fantastica"
This film done in 2 parts (1955/56) seems at first to be a very James Bondian espionage film with sci-fi elements thrown in.....Ultimately it winds up almost like a Gerry Anderson style live action flick...Which is not a bad thing.
It involves enemy agents (from an unknown nation but it may be assumed it was the US) that have secret automated facilities set up in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans for the purposes of sinking ships.
The super submarine "Pioneer" and it's intrepid crew is dispatched to find the source of these mysterious sinking's...Unknown to the captain, his chief engineer is working for the bad guys, intent on stopping their efforts, at any cost...It seems the real chief had a twin brother who was a circus acrobat who murdered and replaced him.
There's a lot of subplot here...
Ultimately the ruse is discovered thanks to an intrepid diver, a kid rescued from one of the shipwrecks and the sub's female doctor...Who almost winds up as fish food when the engineer pulls her into the airlock during his escape....This, after leaving a time bomb on board...Nice guy!
The chief swims (with the help of a marvelous diving suit) to an Island where the fully automated hi tech base is located..As he comes ashore there are strange Easter Island-like statues that bear a remarkable resemblance to Elvis!
The chief, using voice recognition tech gains entrance to the facility In a set that would make James Bond's set designer Ken Adam drool the chief launches a whole series of torpedoes aimed at the sub. They bear a remarkable similarity to Star Trek's photon models...
The hero, discovering that the airlock's been sabotaged rides a torpedo to the island and subdues the chief..and destroys the torpedoes.
The special effects which are usually first class in most Russian films, run from so-so to pathetic....Looking like Derek Meddings' earliest efforts in programs like SuperCar...One cannot fault the imagination packed into this film though....The design of the sub was very interesting and unique, and the gadgets and design within had an oddly deco look to them. Sadly, the sub suffers from the "bigger on the inside, smaller on the outside" syndrome, as there was an actual "full sized" floating set used for surface shots.
Interestingly enough I found several films that came later that used major elements of this Soviet cold war thriller...."Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea-1961" "Atomic Submarine-1959" "Atragon-1963" "Latitude Zero-1969" "Thunderball-1965"......ETC....ETC.
There are scenes that indicate the film makers had seen Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954) as well as Metro's "Mysterious Island"-(1929). The diving suits look like a cross between those seen in the two aforementioned films.
There are enough gadgets and goodies in this film to make even the most avid James Bond buff blush!....How about a grand piano that's a secret code transmitter or a device that looks like a retractable tape measure that will support a man's weight and allow him to scale the sides of buildings, that and a really spiffy car chase.
It's a very talky film - typically Russian in it's context,
but ultimately worth seeing - IF you're lucky enough to find a copy!