Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Enemy Below (1957)–part 4

All dialog in brown text is taken from the movie script at

The film The Enemy Below was, and still is, a rarity. It’s one of the very few war films that doesn’t glorify war. The people in it don’t go out of their way to denigrate their opponent. They don’t glorify their way of life. It is, if there such a thing, an intelligent film about war.

The characters in it aren’t trying to get anyone to enlist, like so many of the films of the forties did. Instead of making you root for one side or the other, it make you think about the futility of war. Yes, sometimes people have no choice but to fight for what they believe in. But in most cases intelligent, honest, discourse can stop fighting before it breaks out. This film does something few films with war as the primary theme does – it makes you think.

The characters ask questions of themselves and about their opponent. Only a handful of characters ask questions. Doc, a character you would never find on Destroyer Escort vessel, seems to act as the soul of the American ship. He asks questions which snowball and cause others to question what they’re doing. When he asks “Beats me how they get men to do it”. Robert Mitchum playing Captain Murrell isn’t quite sure what Doc is referring to, and responds “Do what?”. Doc clarifies what he is talking about and points down to the ocean indicating the German submarine. “Go and sit in that coffin down there”. Doc is played by Russell Collins.

Apart from making you think it teaches you as well. Most, if not all tactics, that would be used by an American Destroyer Escort are either shown or discussed. Most of the facets of life aboard a German type seven U-boat are pretty accurate – however life aboard a U-boat regardless of type was unpleasant,smelly, dirty, and greasy. Even though a survivor of the German U-boats was employed as a technical advisor not all details were right.

The part of the film made me really notice it was the color. Most World War II films (the really good ones) were in black and white. Even the film In Harms Way, released in 1965, was filmed in black and white. Some World War II films have tried to make use of color, but a great many have failed and used it to make up for what ever the film was lacking. But color was used to show what life was like. Blood was red, and not simply a dark liquid. It was used to bring the viewer closer to reality.

At the beginning of the film some the crew members of the USS Haynes are openly grousing about their new captain. They call him a “feather Merchant”, a comment about the captains experience in the Merchant Marine. To make matters worse the new captain is sea sick ! He apparently spent three weeks on a raft after the ship he was on was torpedoed. 2. Hey, Corky. What do you think of the captain

Seasick feather merchants takin' the place of regular navy

In the ward room things aren’t much better, only the topic is not about the captain, but about a game of bridge. The captain is mentioned but the main topic is bridge. When someone asks why Lt. Ware (Al Hedison making his first film) wasn’t made captain Lt Ware explains the situation.

3. The navy was desperate enough to take me

Mackeson, the only craft I ever commanded was a yawl in the Miami yacht races. The nearest I ever came to winning was 29th. The navy was desperate enough to take me, but not foolish enough to let me sail away by myself. Beats me how I ever got this far”. Doc then chimes in with his assessment of the new captain.

4. Picture for the blog

Captain Murrell oughtn't to be here at all. He's as weak as a kitten. A man who gets his ship torpedoed oughtn't to have to hit the ball again with only a few weeks in the hospital”. Ensign Merry (Doug McClure making his very first film) turns to look at Doc while Lt. Ware tries valiantly to look stoic while Ensign Merry makes mistakes galore. Lt. Ware is not looking forward to his watch –it’s supposed to rain.

5. I guess there aren't enough  commanding officers to go around7. Me.. Well, uh... Negative zigzag, sir

Me? Well, uh... Negative zigzag, sir

That night sonar discovers an unknown “a spook”. Lt. Ware, whose enjoying the rain as much as a cat informs Captain Murrell (Robert Mitchum). Lt. makes the mistake of asking Captain Murrell if the ship should be put on a zigzag course. Captain Murrell asks Lt. Ware for his opinion. Lt. Ware is more than taken aback, then suggests that the prudent course of action is not to zigzag.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Enemy Below (1957)–part 3

All dialog in brown text is taken from the movie script at

When I watch a film, good or bad, I’m always on the lookout for stars I didn’t know were in the film. Sometimes the have dialog, and sometimes they’re don’t. When that happens they're usually in the background of a scene or sequence. But sometimes when an actor makes his or her cinematic debut it’s truly something to behold. In The Enemy Below there are two actors making their film debut. Al “David” Hedison is so good it’s hard to think he hasn’t done this before. When he delivers dialog it sounds so natural, so relaxed, so damn good that you actually forget he’s acting. He’s playing opposite Robert Mitchum, but Al has really good lines. When we first see him he is playing bridge with another actor making his film debut – Doug McClure.                                                                                              

5. I guess there aren't enough  commanding officers to go around

Doug McClure (Left)                Al Hedison (Center)

The trouble with Doug is that he’s so blasted young the viewer is constantly reminded that they are not as young as they once were. And the fact that his youth has been immortalized on film doesn’t help matters. Doug delivers dialog in a stilted manner, terrified that he’s going to make a mistake that's going to anger his immediate superior Lieutenant Ware (Al Hedison). Doug plays a fellow called Ensign Merry. The sequence when Lt. Ware and Ensign Merry are introduced is pretty funny, and if you really want to know I found it hilarious. Lt. Ware is playing bridge against Ensign Merry and his older (and much more experienced) partner. Lt. Ware is trying valiantly to keep his composure as Ensign Merry makes mistake after mistake, successfully angering his bridge partner.

Albert David Hedison, Jr. was born to Armenian parents. His stage name is a bastardization of his original family name Heditisian. He decided he wanted to become a actor after seeing Tyrone Power in the film Blood And Sand.

He started acting with the Sock and Buskin Players at Brown University. He soon moved to New York City, worked at The Neighbourhood Playhouse, and studied with Lee Strasberg at The Actors Studio. About this time Hedison enlisted the navy, but the war ended before he could complete his training. After eighteen months he was released from naval service.

His stage work included a role in A Month In The Country for which he won a Theater World award. Hollywood soon took notice of him. A month after the play he signed with 20th Century-Fox. In 1957 he made his screen debut in the widely acclaimed film The Enemy Below. Robert Mitchum was one of the stars, and no doubt a mentor to the new kid on the set. Hedison followed that up with the lead role in the 1958 horror classic The Fly. Roles in The Son Of Robin Hood and The Lost World  cemented his name in the minds of movie goers. In 1959 Hedison did a short lived television series for NBC. They insisted the star should have a more dignified name. Since the series, Five Fingers, was produced at 20th Century Fox Hedison was powerless to stop the change. Suggestions were made, some horrid and some ridiculous. When Hedison could get a word in he suggested the name should be his middle name – David. After some thought the studio decided they liked the name. Al Hedison was out and David Hedison was created. In an interview with the Class Film And TV Cafe ( Hedison called the entire name change episode “stupid”.

2187                                  902. Al Hedison

900. Doug McClure  Doug McClure lived to be only fifty-nine years of age, but of all the roles he played he is probably is best known for his role in the hit TV series The Virginian.

His mother was English when she immigrated to the United States. She became a citizen in 1918, and married Donald Reed McClure in 1929. Doug’s older brother, Donald Jr. was born in 1931. Douglas Osborne McClure was born shortly afterwards in 1935.

His film career started in 1957 with the film The Enemy Below. He followed up that success with the film Gidget in 1959. He gave TV a try in 1957 when he played an army officer in the episode “California Gold Rush in Reverse” on the TV series Death Valley Days. Films such as The Unforgiven and Because They’re Young followed in 1960, but he landed his signature role as Trampas on the television western The Virginian. He made a memorable appearance on the third episode of The Twilight Zone where he played a hot shot gun slinger who needed a drink of a little magical courage.

During his career he starred in four television series other than The Virginian. In 1960 he portrayed Frank “Flip” Flippen on the NBC western Overland Trail. He starred opposite William Bendix. Also in 1960 he was cast as Jed Sills in the CBS detective series Checkmate. In 1972 he was cast as C.R. Grover (Christopher Robin)in the sci-fi/detective series Search. In 1987 he was cast as Mayor Kyle Applegate in the series Out Of This World.

His professional life mirrored his personal life. It was all over the place. He was known to be a heavy drinker, and when he wasn’t drinking he was smoking just as heavily. He was divorced four times, and was married to his fifth wife when he passed away from lung cancer. Two of his divorces occurred while The Virginian was still being shot.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Enemy Below (1957)–part 2

All dialog in brown text is taken from the movie script at


Curt Jurgens was born Curd Gustav Andreas Gottlieb Franz Jurgens, and was an accomplished German-Austrian stage and film actor. When appeared in English speaking roles his name was Americanized to Curt.

He was born on December 13th 1915 to Kurt and Marine-Albertine Jurgens. Like many other German speaking actors of his day Jurgens played German officers in countless war-oriented films. Although he made a number of very memorable films in Europe there is one he will be remembered for. In 1955, he appeared in Des Teufels General (English: The Devil's General) which made him a household name in Germany. A year later in 1956 he teamed up with director Roger Vadim to star in Et Dieu... créa la femme (And God created Woman). Roger Vadim directed, and Brigitte Bardot starred. He was now garnering the interest of Hollywood. In 1957 he did his first Hollywood film, the classic submarine film The Enemy Below in which he played a German U-boat commanded bedevilled by the captain of an American destroyer escort. 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." The film, and his attitude towards the role gained him international star status. This particular film went on to spawn several popular episodes for a number of television series.

During the seventies he appeared as German chancellor Otto von Bismarck in the BBC series Fall Of Eagles. He gained the role of the villain in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.  Roger Moore, who played James Bond at the time, said it was his favourite James Bond film because he he got to work with Curd.

Because of heart problems Curd had to cut his schedule back. His final film appearance was in the 1981 film Teheran 43. Even though he did over a hundred films he thought of himself as an actor of the stage. His final stage appearance was on March 9 1981. He was performing the role of Bassa Selim in Mozart’s opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail. His last televised performance was in the BBC mini-series called Smileys People that made its debut in 1982. Curd passed away on June 18 1982 of a heart attack.


The role of 'Heinie' Schwaffer was played by Theodore Meir Bikel. Theodore is a man of many hats. He is an Austrian-American actor, folk singer, musician, composer, and recording artist.

Theodore Bikel was born in Vienna, Austria. He was named after Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern day Zionism. Following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938 Bikel and family fled to Palestine. He started acting in his teens. He worked with the Habimah Theater and helped found the Cameri Theater which soon became one of Israel’s most prominent theater companies.

In 1945 Theodore Bikel moved to London where his acting ability was soon noticed. In 1948 Michael Redgrave suggested Bikel be the understudy for the roles of Stanley Kowalski and Mitch in the West End premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire. Bikel soon graduated from understudy to star and worked with Vivien Leigh.

Hollywood soon took notice, and in 1951 he made his film debut in the film The African Queen. A role in Moulin Rouge soon followed. He did at least one film each year during the fifties. In 1957 he played the first officer of a U-boat captained by Curd Jurgens. But Bikel had not forgotten his stage roots. In 1959 he originated the role of Captain Von Trapp in the stage version of The Sound Of Music. He didn’t care for the role because it limited his ability to sing, plus he didn’t like preforming any role exactly the same way day after day. When it was discovered that Bikel was an experienced folk singer, and the Captain didn’t have a song of his own “Edelweiss” was written. Audience members would later claim that “Edelweiss” was a traditional folk song. In 1964 he played the role of Zoltan Kaparthy in the film My Fair Lady. While the cast of the James Bond film “Goldfinger” was still being decided Bikel screen-tested for the role of Auric Goldfinger. He didn’t make it, but his screen test can be seen in the “Ultimate Edition” DVD which was released in 2006.   Bikel finally got to captain his own submarine in the 1966 comedy “The Russians Are coming, The Russians Are Coming”.  Bikel is probably best known for the role of Tevye in the musical Fiddler On The Roof. Of all the actors who have taken on the role Bikel has played it the most. When fellow thespian Chiam Topol was injured and forced to withdraw from a 2009 North American tour of the musical Bikel substituted for him.

Bikel has been quite busy on musical front. During the fifties he recorded a number of albums of Jewish Folk Songs. He one of the co-founders of the Newport Folk Festival in 1959, and was the first person to perform the Bob Dylan classic “Blowin’ In The Wind” – besides Bob Dylan himself. Bikel opened the first folk music coffee house in Los Angeles, which was called  The Unicorn. He opened a second called Cosmo Alley which featured folk music, and poets like Maya Angelou and comics such as Lenny Bruce.

Bikel was frequently seen on television. He appeared on an almost every television show there was from the late fifties to the late nineties. He’s an active entertainer at 91 years of age.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Enemy Below (1957)–Part 1

All dialog in brown text is taken from the movie script at

1. blog title


901. Robert Mitchum Robert Mitchum as Captain Murrell

images5WBF78YO Curt Jurgens as Kapitan von Strolberg

Russell Collins Russell Collins as “Doc”


debuting in their first feature film…

900. Doug McClure Doug McClure as Ensign Merry


902. Al Hedison Al Hedison as Lieutenant Ware

These are the major players in the film. Other members of each drew get a few lines of dialog, but the majority of dialog is said by these actors.

When I first saw this film, which was long ago, it was after I saw an interview with Robert H. Justman, co-producer of Star Trek, who said this film had a great deal of influence on an episode of Star Trek called “Balance Of Terror”. This film would again influence the second Star Trek film “The Wrath Of Khan”, but to a much lesser degree. The Enemy Below would also influence sixties culture by way of another popular television series called Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea.  Allan Balter and William Read Woodfield were so taken with the film they wrote an episode called “Killers Of The Deep” which aired in the second season, and used liberal amounts of film from The Enemy Below. After seeing the interview I really want to see The Enemy Below. I got that chance just few years later in my teens, but I’m sad to say the film was in black and white. You have to see the film in color to get the full effect. Plus it was panned and scanned to death. The film only runs 97 minutes but it was sliced to accommodate commercials so it could fit into a two hour time slot. It would be until I was almost sixty that I could see the film in the correct ratio (2.35:1) , in color, and from beginning to end without interruptions. It worth the wait.