FF31 - The Enemy Below

Intro by Rob Schulte

Okay, your hosts are back in their sweet spot: A World War II submarine porkchop movie from 1957. This is the whole reason they started the show before they got waylaid by demoralizing films from Japan and Palestine and weird romantic dramedies about Genghis Khan. Thank goodness the random numeral generator brought us back to our favorite food! Yum! Get a load of this trope salad:

Robert Mitchum is the brand new captain of a Navy destroyer. His tight knit crew are just not sure about him. Maybe he's a coward or landlubber. The scuttlebutt is that maybe he's both? Curt Jurgens is a grizzled veteran U-boat captain sympathetically portrayed as an anti-Nazi, war-fighting intellectual of the old school. Maybe he's unstable or drunk or a traitor? Probably all three! It's a game of cat and mouse that the cat is dumping an astonishingly unrealistic number of depth charges on the mouse while he fights like hell despite deep misgivings with the goal of the war because: He's old school!

The one trope-buster is that on the sub the captain and the XO are friends when they should be locked in some tussle for command or sleeping with one another's wives or something. But that doesn't slow us down. Yes, we are wading waist deep in submarine cliches through most of the film, but it was pioneering in its day and features some of the best naval combat imagery we've ever seen! Certainly better than run Silent Run Deep which came out a year later.

What do you see when you try and picture the German Navy in World War II? Chances are you don't picture much of anything and if you do, it's 100% U-boat based content. Why is that? Like most of World War II, the story starts with World War I. At the end of that war the Imperial German Navy was forced to surrender, and 70 warships were impounded in the Scapa Flow of Northern Scotland.

First and foremost: England controlled the high seas! 3500 merchant ships and 175 warships were sunk by U-boats between 1939 and 1945. In our film today we spend as much time on the U-boat as we do on the USS Haynes, Mitchum's destroyer escort. Essentially, the two ships encounter each other and the film follows the protracted battle between the capable commanders of two very different kinds of vessel.

The action climaxes with the two ships sucker-punching each other in a mutual knockout, followed by an exciting set piece where Mitchum rescues Jurgens as the destroyer sinks and scuttling charges tick away on the U-boat. It's a pretty amazing moment after these men have struggled against each other, trying to imagine each other's mind, having only there observed tactics to go off of. The Miami yacht races were never like this! Today on Friendly Fire. The Enemy Below.

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