Maritime Monday for October 14th, 2013; Why We Love Movies About Submarines

Maritime Monday for October 14th, 2013; Why We Love Movies About Submarines

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October 13, 2013

movies about submarines part 1

“I saw the submariners, the way they stood aloof and silent, watching their pigboat with loving eyes. They are alone in the Navy. I admired the PT boys. And I often wondered how the aviators had the courage to go out day after day and I forgave their boasting. But the submariners! In the entire fleet they stand apart!”
 James Michener
 Tales of The South Pacific

Since their invention  and first use in warfare, submarines and their crews have attracted the attention of artists, writers, and filmmakers. The submarine is a closed, claustrophobic world. A space where men are protected from a dark and alien world outside, as much at threat from the elements as from their often unseen and barely audible elements. The perfect setting for even the low budget wannabe auteur or shlock jockey with a script about men under pressure, the perils they face and the death they bring from a tin can under the waves. The woosh of torpedoes and the ping of sonar are movie staples from Das Boot to Red October. They are indeed not like other ships… and their crews; not like other sailors.
Run silent, run deep…

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Buena Vista, 1954)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Buena Vista, 1954)

In the year 1868, rumors of a sea monster attacking ships in the Pacific Ocean have created apprehension and fear among sailors, disrupting shipping lanes. The United States government invites Professor Pierre M. Aronnax and his assistant, Conseil, onto an expedition to prove or disprove the monster’s existence…

Shooting for 20,000 Leagues began in spring of 1954 at various locations in Bahamas and Jamaica, with the cave scenes filmed beneath what is now the Xtabi Resort on the cliffs of Negril. The famous giant squid attack sequence had to be shot taking place at night and during a huge gale, both to increase the drama and to better hide the cables and other mechanical workings of the animatronic monster.

Highly praised for the performances of the leading actors, James Mason especially was singled out for his performance of Captain Nemo. It was the second highest grossing film of the year and has become the best-known adaptation of the book of the same name by Jules Verne. It has been cited as an early example of the genre now called steampunk.

more on wikipedia

Above Us the Waves (Rank, 1956)

Above Us the Waves (Rank, 1956)

Most of the film is set in a British midget submarine whose mission is to sink the German battleship Tirpitz by sneaking into Norwegian waters, floating beneath the Tirpitz, then planting explosives. Based on a true-life 1943 incident; Operation Source; using X-class midget submarines. Some of the original equipment was used in the production.

The screenplay was based on the book Above Us the Waves by C.E.T Warren and James Benson. Commander Donald Cameron VC, who commanded X-6 as a lieutenant and won the Victoria Cross during the operation, was an adviser to the film.  (wikipedia)

The film takes an empathetic approach by showing the German officers and seamen to be human beings rather than faceless minions of Hitler. (allmovie)

John Mills grabbing sea mine Above Us The Waves

John Mills grabbing sea mine in Above Us The Waves

Around the World, Under the Sea (MGM, 1966)

Around the World, Under the Sea (MGM, 1966)

Poster by Frank McCarthy — The adventures of a crew of the deep-diving nuclear-powered civilian research submarine Hydronaut making a submerged circumnavigation of the world to plant monitoring sensors on the ocean floor that will help scientists to better predict impending earthquakes. Although Jules Verne isn’t credited by the film makers, his influence can be seen throughout the film.

David McCallum in Around the World, Under the Sea

David McCallum in Around the World, Under the Sea

The official stars include Lloyd Bridges, Shirley Eaton, Brian Kelly, David McCallum, Keenan Wynn, Marshall Thompson, and Gary Merrill. The real stars are underwater photographer Lamar Bowen, diving-sequence director Ricou Browning, and the folks in the special effects department. (allmovie)

Around the World Under the Sea (Preview Clip) on You Tube

Movie props used in Around the World Under the Sea

L: Movie props used in Around the World Under the Sea – Wakulla Springs, Florida
R: the Submarine Hydronaut

The Atomic Submarine (Allied Artists, 1959)

The Atomic Submarine (Allied Artists, 1959)

Atomic Submarine Lobby CardA one-eyed, octopoidal space alien is wreaking havoc on cargo carrying subs traversing the North Pole. The monster is determined to take over the world, but seems ill equipped for the task.

The loss of submarines and several ships alarms the world. Governments temporarily close the pole to traffic and convene an emergency meeting at the Pentagon.

Heroes Arthur Franz, Dick Foran, and Brett Halsey head underwater aboard the Tigershark to neutralize the alien’s submerged flying saucer. (allmoviert: Atomic Submarine Lobby Cards

The Atomic Submarine on YouTube (free, complete in 8 parts)

Atragon (American International, 1964)

Atragon (American International, 1964)

Released in Japan as Undersea Warship and is based on a series of juvenile adventure novels under the banner Kaitei Gunkan by Shunrō Oshikawa (heavily influenced by Jules Verne). While the special effects are generally praised, minor stock footage of buildings collapsing from Mothra (1961) were used as inserts. American International Pictures afforded the film a successful U.S. theatrical release in 1965 with minimal changes and quality dubbing.

In some of the scenes were the Atragon is flying, the strings holding the model are visible. (imdb)

plot synopsis on wikipedia lobby card set with scene views

Battle of the Coral Sea (Columbia, 1959)

Battle of the Coral Sea (Columbia, 1959)

Preparation for the Battle of the Coral Sea is the basis of this wartime drama. A submarine captained by Jeff Conway (Cliff Robertson) successfully scouts the location of enemy installations, ships, and subs and then starts to head back to friendly waters. The submarine is spotted. scuttled, and the crew are captured by the Japanese.

While chaffing under a ticking clock as the day of the final confrontation draws near, an island woman is secretly enlisted to help smuggle out three of the prisoners. If they can make it off the island to their own base, then the all-important information on the Japanese positions will tip the scales in favor of the U.S. Navy. (allmovie)

Battle of the Coral Sea Lobby Card Set

Battle of the Coral Sea Lobby Card Set

Bear Island (Columbia, 1979).

Bear Island (Taft International, 1980)

Up on barren arctic Bear Island, between Svalbard and northern Norway, a UN meteorological expedition discovers long lost German submarines packed with gold. The plot is difficult to follow, though it does involve murder and a certain amount of intrigue. Many feel that this movie version of the excellent novel Bear Island by Alistair MacLean, left most of the intrigue on the cutting room floor. (allmovie)

Interiors were shot in Pinewood Studios outside London. Outdoor scenes were shot at Stewart, British Columbia and at Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, and depict a much more dramatic landscape than the real Bear Island offers. (wikipedia)

The Blue Eagle (Fox, 1926)

One of John Ford‘s lesser-known silent films, The Blue Eagle is based an age-old premise: two rivals battle for the affection of the same woman. In this case, it’s a working-class man from a waterfront town and his longtime neighborhood nemesis. They call a truce while serving on the same ship in World War I, but once they’re back home, the old rivalry is revived. (allmovie)

The two brawlin’ boys take on a bigtime drug dealer who has a James Bond-like lair complete with submarine. (imdb)

John Ford

100 Essential Directors – John Ford

Bull Feeney'sFord was born John Martin “Jack” Feeney in Cape Elizabeth, Maine on February 1, 1894. He attended Portland High School, Portland, Maine. He he was a successful full back and defensive tackle, and earned the nickname “Bull”.

Bull Feeney’s Pub at 375 Fore Street in Portland, Maine is named in honor of John Ford.

In 1943, the site was home to the Seamen’s Club, formed to attend to the needs of the thousands of sailors in town during World War II. It remained the Seamen’s Club until the early 1960s when it became vacant and remained so for many years. +  (Bull Feeney’s on Facebook)

During World War II, Commander John Ford, USNR, served in the United States Navy and as head of the photographic unit for the Office of Strategic Services, made documentaries for the Navy Department. He won two Academy Awards during this time, one for the semi-documentary The Battle of Midway (1942), and a second for the propaganda film December 7th (1943). Commander Ford was a veteran of the Battle of Midway, where he was wounded in the arm by shrapnel while filming the Japanese attack from the power plant at Sand Island on Midway.

Ford was also present on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He crossed the English Channel on the USS Plunkett (DD-431), anchored off Omaha Beach at 0600 where he observed the first wave land on the beach from the ship, landing on the beach himself later with a team of US Coast Guard cameramen who filmed the battle from behind the beach obstacles, with Ford directing operations.

John Ford in 1973The film was edited in London, but very little was released to the public. Ford explained in a 1964 interview that the US Government was “afraid to show so many American casualties on the screen“, adding that all of the D-Day film “still exists in color in storage in Anacostia near Washington, D.C.

rt: John Ford in 1973

His last wartime film was They Were Expendable (MGM, 1945), an account of America’s disastrous defeat in The Philippines, told from the viewpoint of a PT boat squadron and its commander. After the war, Ford remained an officer in the United States Navy Reserve. He returned to active service during the Korean War, and was promoted to Rear Admiral. (wikipedia)

Das Boot (Columbia, 1981) German language poster

Das Boot (Columbia, 1981) German language poster

Das Boot is one of the most gripping and authentic war movies ever made. Based on an autobiographical novel by German World War II photographer Lothar-Guenther Buchheim, the film follows the lives of a fearless U-Boat captain (Jurgen Prochnow) and his inexperienced crew as they patrol the Atlantic and Mediterranean in search of Allied vessels, taking turns as hunter and prey.

With the exception of one staunch Hitler Youth lieutenant, none of the crew is particularly loyal to the Nazis, and some are openly hostile toward their Fuhrer; this allows viewer sympathy with the men as they perform their laborious, monotonous duties in cramped, filthy quarters, or await death as depth charges explode all around the sub. Prochnow is excellent as the nerves-of-steel commander.

Jurgen Prochnow

Jürgen Prochnow as Kapitänleutnant (abbr. “Kaleun”)

The real star, however, is cinematographer Jost Vacano, who makes the sub’s grimy, claustrophobic interior come to vivid life, as his camera follows the crew through hatches, up ladders, into bunks, and under pipes, creating a palpable sense of claustrophobia. (allmovie)

During the film’s production, Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, the captain of the real U-96 and one of Germany’s top U-boat “tonnage aces” during the war, and Hans-Joachim Krug, former first officer on U-219, served as consultants. One of Petersen’s goals was to guide the audience through “a journey to the edge of the mind” (the film’s German tagline Eine Reise ans Ende des Verstandes), showing “what war is all about”.  (wikipedia)

Das Boot salut

Das Boot; The Director’s Cut (article)

Production of Das Boot took two years (1979–1981). Most of the filming was done in one year; to make the appearance of the actors as realistic as possible, scenes were filmed in sequence over the course of the year. This ensured natural growth of beards and hair, increasing skin pallor, and signs of strain on the actors, who had, just like real U-boat men, spent many months in a cramped, unhealthy atmosphere.

Throughout the filming, the actors were forbidden to go out in sunlight, to create the pallor of men who seldom saw the sun during their missions. The actors went through intensive training to learn how to move quickly through the narrow confines of the vessel.

Several different sets were used. Two full-size mock-ups of a Type VIIC boat were built, one representing the portion above water for use in outdoor scenes, and the other a cylindrical tube on a motion mount for the interior scenes. The mock-ups were built according to U-boat plans from Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

Film set of Das Boot

Film sets for Das Boot at the Bavaria Film Studios
full resolution ‎(3,694 × 2,462 pixels)

The interior U-boat mock-up was mounted five metres off the floor and was shaken, rocked, and tilted up to 45 degrees by means of a hydraulic apparatus, and vigorously shaken to simulate depth charge attacks. Director Wolfgang Petersen was admittedly obsessive about the structural detail of the U-boat set, remarking that “every screw” in the set was an authentic facsimile of the kind used in a World War II era U-boat.

During the filming there was a scene where actor Jan Fedder (Pilgrim) fell off the bridge while the U-boat was surfaced. Fedder broke several ribs. This scene was not scripted and during the take one of the actors exclaims “Mann über Bord!” in order to draw attention to Fedder. Petersen, who at first did not realise this was an accident said “Good idea, Jan. We’ll do that one more time!” However, since Fedder was genuinely injured and had to be hospitalised, this was the only take available and eventually Petersen kept this scene in the film.

For its unsurpassed authenticity in tension and realism, it is regarded internationally as pre-eminent among all submarine films. (more on wikipedia)

more:  Das Boot on

Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (MGM, 1969)

Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (MGM, 1969)

The film drew heavily on the supposed charm of the Victorian era, following agreement between director and scriptwriters to produce a popular escapist atmosphere, more the essence of Michael Todd’s Around the World in Eighty Days than of Disney‘s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The film opens with a mid nineteenth century cargo liner sinking in a storm at sea. As the vessel founders, the crew muster the passengers to the lifeboats, one of which capsizes as it is launched, its passenger thrown out into the overwhelming seas. Swept below the waves and on the point of drowning, they are rescued by a group of divers who swim up to give them air and lead them to the submarine Nautilus.

Once safely aboard, they are carried to a magnificent underwater domed city, TempleMer (pronounced Temple-Meer) controlled by Nemo, (Robert Ryan) there to remain ‘for the rest of their natural lives…

more on wikipedia

Captain Nemo and the Underwater City

Captain Nemo and the Underwater City; lobby card set

Captain Nemo did not die at the end of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as viewers were led to believe. Instead, he has created a fantastic underwater city, and is using this subterranean metropolis as a base of operations for his war against mankind! (allmovie)

Corvette K-225 (Universal, 1943)

Corvette K-225 (Universal, 1943)

Released in the UK as The Nelson Touch, and  featured a fictional ship in the Royal Canadian Navy, HMCS Donnacona, which was portrayed by HMCS Kitchener (K225). During the hurried preparations for war in the late 1930s, Winston Churchill reactivated the corvette class, needing a name for smaller ships used in an escort capacity, in this case based on a whaling ship design. (more about HMCS Kitchener K225 on wikipedia)

Corvette K-225 collection of vintage stills from the personal archive of Howard Hawks

Corvette K-225 collection of vintage stills from the personal archive of Howard Hawks

Royal Navy corvettes were designed as open sea escorts, while Canadian corvettes were developed for coastal auxiliary roles which was exemplified by their minesweeping gear. Eventually the Canadian corvettes would be modified to allow them to perform better on the open seas.

This film is a tribute to the World War II corvette escorts which guided Allied convoys through treacherous Atlantic waters. Scott plays the officer in charge of a Royal Canadian corvette cruiser, dedicated to keeping the troops safe from enemy submarine attack. The focus of the film is a danger-ridden journey from Halifax to Britain, the tension quotient heightened by the use of actual combat footage. (allmovie)

Corvette K-225 collection of vintage stills from the personal archive of Howard Hawks; sub

collection of vintage stills from the personal archive of Howard Hawks; sub

While much of the film was made on a sound stage, parts of it, notably an outdoor scene at Dalhousie University, were filmed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, (referred to as “Hannington Harbour” in the film) where many of the corvettes were stationed and from which many trans-Atlantic convoys were assembled. Scenes of the shipyard were filmed at Saint John, NB. (wikipedia)

Corvette K-225 (1943) excerpt on You Tube; 7 mins 31

Crash Dive (20th Century Fox, 1946) Belgian release poster

Crash Dive (20th Century Fox, 1946) Belgian release poster

Crash DiveTyrone Power in his last screen appearance before a three-year stretch in the Marines in this World War II drama.

rt:Crash Dive one sheet

Lt. Ward Stewart (Tyrone Power) served with distinction as the commander of a PT boat, so his uncle, (the Admiral) gives him a new and more challenging assignment aboard a submarine; the USS Corsair, (portrayed by the experimental USS Marlin (SS-205).

Before shipping out, Ward enjoys a night on the town, where he meets and romances a pretty schoolteacher, Jean Hewlett (Anne Baxter).

When Ward reports for duty, he discovers he’ll be serving under Lt. Cmdr. Dewey Connors (Dana Andrews), who happens to be Jean’s boyfriend. On leave and on land, Ward and Dewey are soon caught up in a romantic rivalry, while on duty and under the waves they must work together to ferret out Nazi U-boats.

Crash Dive received an Academy Award nomination for the special effects work in the film’s battle sequences. (allmovie)

Crimson Tide (Buena Vista, 1995)

Crimson Tide (Buena Vista, 1995)

Capt. Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) is the commanding officer of a nuclear submarine, the USS Alabama (SSBN-731). Ramsey is a distinguished combat veteran nearing the end of his career, and leads his crew with an iron hand. As he puts it, “We’re here to preserve democracy, not to practice it.

Ramsey is assigned a new second-in-command, Lt. Cmmdr. Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington). Hunter is much younger than Ramsey, Harvard educated, and believes the goal of the military in the nuclear age is to prevent war, not fight it. (allmovie)

Crimson Tide

Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide

The U.S. Navy objected to many of the elements in the script—particularly the aspect of mutiny on board a U.S. naval vessel—and as such, the film was produced without their assistance.

To be continued…

SYNW DasBoot

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