The Enemy Below (1957)

97-98 mins | Drama | December 1957

Director:

Dick Powell

Writer:

Wendell Mayes

Producer:

Dick Powell

Cinematographer:

Harold Rosson

Editor:

Stuart Gilmore

Production Designers:

Lyle Wheeler, Albert Hogsett

Production Company:

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

The film closes with the following written acknowledgment: "Twentieth Century-Fox wishes to thank the Department of Defense and the United States Navy for their assistance in the production of this motion picture." According to studio production notes in the AMPAS Libary production file on the film, the destroyer escort U.S.S. Whitehurst , a battle-scarred veteran of World War II that was stationed in Pearl Harbor, HI, was the ship used for the film's fictional U.S.S. Haynes . Lt. Cmdr. Walter Smith, the skipper of the Whitehurst , served as a technical advisor on the film. According to studio publicity, Smith also played a bit part as the ship's chief engineer. However, the CBCS credits Robert Boon in that role. The actors spent a month aboard the Whitehurst during filming. Albert Beck, a former German submarine sailor, worked as technical advisor for the U-Boat sequences. The rescue sequence was filmed at Long Beach, CA aboard the U.S.S. Alfred E. Cunningham .
       According to a Jul 1957 HR news item, the ending originally shot called for "Captain Murrell" and "Von Stolberg" to drown after Murrell plunges into the ocean to save Von Stolberg. Believing that this ending was too bleak, producer-director Dick Powell decided to film the alternate ending in which both commanders survive. The two endings were then shown to preview audiences, who preferred the more upbeat one. The Enemy Below marked the film debuts of Doug McClure, former Fox messenger boy Ted Perritt and Al Hedison, who later changed his name to David Hedison. It also marked the American-film debut of Curt ... More Less

The film closes with the following written acknowledgment: "Twentieth Century-Fox wishes to thank the Department of Defense and the United States Navy for their assistance in the production of this motion picture." According to studio production notes in the AMPAS Libary production file on the film, the destroyer escort U.S.S. Whitehurst , a battle-scarred veteran of World War II that was stationed in Pearl Harbor, HI, was the ship used for the film's fictional U.S.S. Haynes . Lt. Cmdr. Walter Smith, the skipper of the Whitehurst , served as a technical advisor on the film. According to studio publicity, Smith also played a bit part as the ship's chief engineer. However, the CBCS credits Robert Boon in that role. The actors spent a month aboard the Whitehurst during filming. Albert Beck, a former German submarine sailor, worked as technical advisor for the U-Boat sequences. The rescue sequence was filmed at Long Beach, CA aboard the U.S.S. Alfred E. Cunningham .
       According to a Jul 1957 HR news item, the ending originally shot called for "Captain Murrell" and "Von Stolberg" to drown after Murrell plunges into the ocean to save Von Stolberg. Believing that this ending was too bleak, producer-director Dick Powell decided to film the alternate ending in which both commanders survive. The two endings were then shown to preview audiences, who preferred the more upbeat one. The Enemy Below marked the film debuts of Doug McClure, former Fox messenger boy Ted Perritt and Al Hedison, who later changed his name to David Hedison. It also marked the American-film debut of Curt Jurgens. Dan Tana, who later opened a famous eatery in Los Angeles, also made his screen debut in the picture. In a Jul 1977 NYT article, Jurgens stated that "this was an important picture for me because it was the first film after the war in which a German officer was not interpreted as a freak." Other reviews commented that the film was notable because the clash between the captains was not portrayed as black and white or good and evil. Walter Rossi won an Academy Award for Best Audible Special Effects for his work on the production. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Sep 57
p. 582.
Box Office
30 Nov 1957.
---
Box Office
7 Dec 1957.
---
Daily Variety
25 Nov 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
25 Nov 57
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
31 May 57
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 57
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 57
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 57
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Aug 57
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 57
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
30 Nov 57
p. 625.
New York Times
25 Dec 57
p. 37.
New York Times
26 Dec 57
p. 23.
New York Times
27 Jul 1977.
---
Variety
27 Nov 57
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Exec ward des
MUSIC
Cond by
Vocal supv
SOUND
Audible spec eff
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Unit mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Enemy Below by Comdr D. A. Rayner (New York, 1956).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
December 1957
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 25 December 1957
Production Date:
late May--mid August 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
17 December 1957
Copyright Number:
LP10794
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
lenses by Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
97-98
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the South Atlantic during World War II, Lt. Ware, the second-in-command of the U.S.S. Haynes , a U.S. Navy destroyer escort, speculates with several crew members about the competency of their new commander, Capt. Murrell. Murrel, who has sequestered himself in his cabin, finally emerges when the ship's radar displays a mysterious shadow on its screen. Sensing the enemy, Murrell steadies his nerves and authoritatively assumes command. Meanwhile, in a German submarine cruising the heavy seas nearby, Comdr. Von Stolberg voices to his second-in-command, Schwaffer, his abhorrence of the "new Germany" and its tyrannical leader. Although committed to his mission of securing a British code book, Von Stolberg finds no honor in this particular war. On the American boat, meanwhile, Murrell and "Doc," the ship's dispirited physician, discuss their lives before the war. Murrell, a freighter captain in his civilian life, relates that he prefers the struggle of man against sea to man against man, but adds that he opted for the "shooting end of the war" after watching his wife drown when their freighter was torpedoed by a German submarine. In the morning, the Americans assume their battle stations, and Von Stolberg orders his submarine to submerge when he sees the ship approaching. As Murrell baits the Germans into firing a torpedo, the crew, skeptical of his strategy, anxiously awaits the outcome. When the Germans release their torpedoes, Murrell turns his ship in time, thus avoiding the missiles and winning the respect of his crew. After the German boat dives deeper, the Americans fire their depth charges, rattling the submarine. By reversing course, Von Stolberg loses his pursuers, but ... +


In the South Atlantic during World War II, Lt. Ware, the second-in-command of the U.S.S. Haynes , a U.S. Navy destroyer escort, speculates with several crew members about the competency of their new commander, Capt. Murrell. Murrel, who has sequestered himself in his cabin, finally emerges when the ship's radar displays a mysterious shadow on its screen. Sensing the enemy, Murrell steadies his nerves and authoritatively assumes command. Meanwhile, in a German submarine cruising the heavy seas nearby, Comdr. Von Stolberg voices to his second-in-command, Schwaffer, his abhorrence of the "new Germany" and its tyrannical leader. Although committed to his mission of securing a British code book, Von Stolberg finds no honor in this particular war. On the American boat, meanwhile, Murrell and "Doc," the ship's dispirited physician, discuss their lives before the war. Murrell, a freighter captain in his civilian life, relates that he prefers the struggle of man against sea to man against man, but adds that he opted for the "shooting end of the war" after watching his wife drown when their freighter was torpedoed by a German submarine. In the morning, the Americans assume their battle stations, and Von Stolberg orders his submarine to submerge when he sees the ship approaching. As Murrell baits the Germans into firing a torpedo, the crew, skeptical of his strategy, anxiously awaits the outcome. When the Germans release their torpedoes, Murrell turns his ship in time, thus avoiding the missiles and winning the respect of his crew. After the German boat dives deeper, the Americans fire their depth charges, rattling the submarine. By reversing course, Von Stolberg loses his pursuers, but Murrell relocates the Germans and pummels them with depth charges. Von Stolberg responds by ordering his ship to dive to the ocean bottom, and the boat creaks and groans from the intense pressure. Deducing that the submarine is resting at the bottom of the sea, Murrell decides to wait in silence until it resurfaces. Sensing that the Americans are lying in wait, Von Stolberg feels that he is being tracked by the devil. Up above, meanwhile, Murrell awaits the arrival of approaching American ships and formulates a new tactic of attacking and then dropping back, hoping to force the submarine to surrender. At the bottom of the ocean, the Germans are beginning to crack under the strain and Von Stolberg rallies their morale by leading them in defiant song. When the American sonar picks up their static, Murrell feels sympathy for the trapped Germans but attacks anyway. Finally discerning the American's strategy, Von Stolberg pinpoints their ship's vulnerable spot and then orders a torpedo attack. Severely hit by the German torpedoes, the American ship starts to sink and Murrell orders the crew to torch some mattresses to make it seem as if the ship is on fire, hoping to entice the submarine to the surface. When the Germans emerge and signal that they will torpedo the American ship again in five minutes, Murrell feigns gratitude for the warning, plotting to lure the Germans close enough to attack. As the Germans approach, the Americans open fire with their artillery and then ram the submarine. While his crew abandons ship, Von Stolberg goes below deck to save the gravely injured Schwaffer. Back on deck, the opposing captains salute each other, and then Murrell throws Von Stolberg a rope so that he can construct a pulley to transport Schwaffer to the safety of the American boat. Manning the lifeboat, Ware spots Murrell and the two Germans aboard the destroyer. Aware that a detonator has been set on the submarine, Ware risks his life and the life of his crew to maneuver the lifeboat toward the destroyer. After the Americans convey the three to safety and clear the area, the detonator explodes, encompassing both ships in flames. Once they are rescued, the Americans and Germans hold a funeral at sea for Schwaffer, causing Doc to find new inspiration in their unification. Afterward, Murrell offers Von Stolberg a cigarette. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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