During World War II, the USS Haynes, an American destroyer escort discovers a German U-boat in the South Atlantic. A deadly duel between the two ships ensues, and Captain Murrell must draw upon all his experience to defeat the equally experienced German commander.Written by
Linda Adams <Garridon@aol.com>
The crew of the German U-boat was unusually clean shaven. Although some men have stubble, there is not a single full beard among the crew. This would be very unusual unless the crew was fresh from port. This is a fact attested to in the dialogue of 1981's Das Boot which was a much more concerned about historical accuracy. See more »
[listening on hydrophone]
Now American, turn the right way and I'll give you a pretty present.
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Opening credits prologue: WORLD WAR II THE SOUTH ATLANTIC See more »
So leben wir alle Tage
(Drinking Song) (uncredited)
Traditional German folksong sung to the tune of the "Dessauer Marsch"
English lyrics by Charles Henderson
Sung by Curd Jürgens and the crew of the U-Boat See more »
The hunter and the hunted. A wartime exercise in mind reading.
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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