The Enemy Below (1957)

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    Information from IMDb

    Plot Summary
    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

    Full Cast
    Robert Mitchum ... Capt. Murrell
    Curd Jürgens ... Von Stolberg (as Curt Jurgens)
    David Hedison ... Lt. Ware (as Al Hedison)
    Theodore Bikel ... 'Heinie' Schwaffer
    Russell Collins ... Doctor
    Kurt Kreuger ... Von Holem
    Frank Albertson ... Lt. Crain
    Biff Elliot ... Quartermaster
    David Bair ... Ellis (uncredited)
    Jimmy Bates ... QM1 Quiroga (uncredited)
    Thomas Beyl ... FMB Operator (uncredited)
    Robert Boon ... Chief Engineer (uncredited)
    Joe Brooks ... German Soldier (uncredited)
    Roger Cornwell ... German Sailor (uncredited)
    Dale Cummings ... German Sailor (uncredited)
    Jeff Daley ... BMSN Corky (uncredited)
    Peter Dane ... Radarman Andrews (uncredited)
    Vince Deadrick Sr. ... American Sailor (uncredited)
    Alan Dexter ... Lt. Mackeson (uncredited)
    Joe Di Reda ... BMSN Robbins (uncredited)
    Maurice Doner ... Cook (uncredited)
    Clint Eastwood ... Seaman (uncredited)
    Louie Elias ... Sailor (uncredited)
    Richard Elmore ... American Sailor (uncredited)
    Sasha Harden ... German Sailor (uncredited)
    Jack N. Kramer ... Albert - German Sailor (uncredited)
    Arthur La Ral ... Kunz (uncredited)
    Marco López ... Soldier (uncredited)
    Ralph Manza ... Lt. Bonelli (uncredited)
    Doug McClure ... Ens. Merry (uncredited)
    Michael McHale ... German Soldier (uncredited)
    Gordon Mitchell ... German Sailor (uncredited)
    Frank Oberschall ... Braun (uncredited)
    Ted Perritt ... Messenger (uncredited)
    David Post ... Sonarman Lewis (uncredited)
    Ralph Reed ... Fireman (uncredited)
    Werner Reichow ... Mueller (uncredited)
    Ronnie Rondell Jr. ... American Sailor (uncredited)
    Dan Tana ... German Sailor (uncredited)
    Robert Whiteside ... Torpedo Petty Officer (uncredited)
    Lee J. Winters ... Striker (uncredited)
    Darryl F. Zanuck ... Chief (uncredited)

    Writing Credits
    Wendell Mayes (screenplay)
    D.A. Rayner (novel) (as Commander D.A. Rayner)

    Original Music
    Leigh Harline

    Harold Rosson

    The television episode Star Trek: Balance of Terror was based almost entirely on this film whilst another TV episode Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Killers of the Deep was also based on this movie. The latter also used footage from this movie and also starred one of this movie's main cast, David Hedison.

    Two endings were shot: In one, both commanders die; in the other, a third vessel rescues them. The final ending was determined by preview results. The 'USS Haynes' was portrayed by the 'USS Whitehurst', captained by Walter R. Smith, who received a "technical advisor" credit and can be seen portraying the ship's chief engineer. Eva Novak can be seen in a photo as the wife of Von Stolberg.

    The tune sung by the U-Boat crew on the ocean floor between depth charge attacks is from an 18th century march called "Der Dessauer Marsch". As a more popular song, it's also known by the first line of lyrics: "So leben wir" (translation: "That's how we live").

    The slogan in the U-boat (Führer befiehl wir folgen) translates as "Fuehrer lead, we follow you."

    The American ship used in this movie was a Destroyer Escort by the name 'USS Whitehurst' (DE 634). My father was in the Navy at that time, and he helped paint over the 634 so the new number could be added. FYI, the 'USS Whitehurst' was sunk as a target for a new torpedo on 28 April 1971.

    Average Shot Length = ~8.7 seconds. Median Shot Length = ~6.3 seconds.

    To add further confusion to the ship's identity, although called the Haynes in the movie, the ship's hull number is shown as DE-181, which was the USS Straub, a Cannon class destroyer escort.

    The destroyer escort 'USS Haynes' in this movie was played by the real 'USS Whitehurst' (DE-634). The cast spent about a month filming on board this vessel. Many of the crew of the 'USS Whitehurst' appeared in this movie. 20th Century-Fox production notes for this movie from the AMPAS Library declare that the 'USS Whitehurst' was a battle-hardened veteran from the Second World War which had during World War II been stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

    In real life, the destroyer USS Borie (DD-215) rammed U-boat U-405 and was sunk. The Borie was severely damaged, could not be salvaged and sank the next day.

    The U-Boat seen in this movie is far roomier and spacious, clean and tidy than the real German U-boats of World War II (which were more realistically depicted in the later movie, Das Boot). During the Second World War, these u-boats did not have passageways and private rooms and were dirty and cramped.

    This movie represents one of a select group of a few World War II submarine movies which have won the one single Academy Award in a technical category, that's just only the one Oscar in either special effects or sound editing. These movies include Crash Dive; The Enemy Below; Torpedo Run and U-571. The non-WW II sub-movie, The Hunt for Red October also won just the one Oscar as did the WW 2 part sub-movie 49th Parallel, but for Best Original Story.

    This movie's closing epilogue states: "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."

    American movie debut for German actor Curd Jürgens.

    This picture marks the feature film movie debuts for David Hedison (as Al Hedison); Dan Tana and Ted Perritt, the latter of whom was a former messenger boy at the 20th century-Fox studio, playing a messenger.

    In an interview in July 1977 with 'The New York Times', German actor Curd Jürgens who played the German submarine commander Captain Von Stolberg in this movie said: "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 finale rescue was shot on location in the sea at Long Beach, California and on the ship the 'USS Alfred E. Cunningham' (DD-752), an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer. Other location filming sites included the Pacific Ocean near Oahu, Hawaii for scenes on the 'USS Whitehurst' portraying the 'USS Haynes'.

    One of the technical consultants working on this movie was Albert Beck, a former German U-Boat submarine sailor, who advised on the submarine scenes.

    The vessel the 'USS Whitehurst' was used in this movie and its captain, Lieutenant Commander Walter R. Smith USN acted as a technical advisor to the film production. Twentieth Century-Fox studio publicity stated that Smith played a role as this ship's Chief Engineer in the movie. Smith is not credited as such nor for any role and CBCS Credits state that Robert Boon portrayed a Chief Engineer in this movie. Apparently, Smith is the character who can be seen in the movie reading the comic 'Little Orphan Annie'.

    Though set in the South Atlantic Ocean of World War II, this movie's ocean scenes were filmed in the Pacific Ocean.

    This movie as based on the novel by D.A. Rayner and the book and it's dust-jacket can be seen at the beginning of one of this movie's trailers.

    The name of the British vessel the 'HMS Hecate' from this movie's source novel 'The Enemy Below' by D.A. Rayner was changed for this film to the name the 'USS Haynes'.

    One of the two lead characters in this movie, the American captain John Murrell played by Robert Mitchum was an English captain in the D.A. Rayner novel 'The Enemy Below' that this film is based on.

    Some of D.A. Rayner's wartime submarine adventures and experiences which appeared in his 'The Enemy Below' source novel to this movie and were adapted into this picture's story as well can be researched in Rayner's other book, 'Escort: the Battle of the Atlantic', particularly the 11 November 1944 Southern Ireland encounter between U-1200 and Allied corvettes (See pp. 224-228).

    One of the final theatrically released movies of director Dick Powell who soon after worked exclusively in television.

    Eva Novak: As the wife of the German submarine commander, Von Stolberg (Curd Jürgens). Though Novak neither appears in the live-action of the movie itself nor is listed in this movie's cast credits, Novak is seen in a photograph appearing as Mrs Stolberg.

    The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
    According to the Australian DVD sleeve notes, "Producer-Director Dick Powell let the public decide the ending for The Enemy Below. He filmed the movie with two endings, then let a preview audience vote for the ending they liked best. The ending he used won by unanimous vote." The ending which wasn't used had both submarine commanders, Captain Murrell (Robert Mitchum) and Von Stolberg (Curd Jürgens) die by drowning at the end of this picture when Murrell dives into the sea to rescue Von Stolberg. The used ending was the happy ending which had both of them rescued by a ship. Details of the two endings were reported in a July 1957 edition of 'The Hollywood Reporter' which stated that Powell filmed the two endings because he thought that the original ending (the unused one) was too bleak.

    Audio/visual unsynchronised
    As the U-boat's destruct charges set by her crew finally explode, the sound is less like bombs and more similar to gunshots, such as those aimed at the DE when she is about to ram the U-boat.

    Character error
    In the Bridge game dummy is placed on the table before the opening lead. The correct sequence is: opening lead and then the dummy hand is shown.

    During the heavy rainstorm there is a shot of the radar antenna against a partly cloudy sky.

    When Vol Stolberg goes to leave the control room, he sees the word "Furher" on a sign above the doorway. He covers with it with a towel, but in the next shot the position of the towel has changed.

    In the card game scene Lt. Ware's body position shifts wildly throughout the bidding dialog - at first sitting upright and slightly hunched over the card table, then slouching to his left with his left arm on the table, then sitting far back in the chair, and finally slouching to his left with chin in hand.

    Factual errors
    World War 2 destroyer escorts had two main engines and two propellers. Underwater shots of the model used in the movie show only one propeller.

    When the U-boat is first sighted the captain says; "We might get close enough to get a shot at him before he pops under." At the reported range of 6,000 yards the U-boat was already an easy shot for the 3"/50 guns of a destroyer escort (14,600 yards max range, about 10,000 yards effective range).

    After the u-boat's first torpedo attack on the DE the captain orders 18 knots and turns to attack. No anti-submarine vessel would have increased to this speed, since anything over about 15 knots was too fast for the sonar to work effectively, and the sonar was required for the coming attack.

    Early in the movie the u-boat fires two torpedoes from its stern tubes at the DE. However, the model is clearly a Type VII u-boat, which would have had only a single stern tube.

    Right after the burial at sea sequence on board the rescue destroyer, you can see a watertight deck hatch rigged in the open position, with its escape scuttle also open. During wartime cruising, (Condition III) Navy Regulations require all watertight doors, hatches and scuttles on the weather decks to be closed while the ship is underway. Note: any deck exposed to the outside is classified as a "Weather deck".

    The DE has doctor onboard. A doctor was not part of the standard compliment of destroyer escorts.

    During the initial torpedo attack it is stated that the range is 1,000 yards. The speed of the torpedoes is set at 30 knots. The U-boat captain is told the running time for the torpedoes will be 1 minute 40 seconds. At 30 knots it requires only 1 minute to move 1,000 yards. Therefore, even allowing for some additional spread in the range, the run time could not be anywhere near the stated time.

    In the bridge game the final card dealt is to the the dealer's right, not to the dealer's hand as it should be. Also, the bid "pass and double" is not a proper bid; one can pass, or double, but not both.

    On board the U-boat we hear the sea depth given as "310 meters"; that's equivalent to 170 fathoms or 1,020 feet. We then hear the same depth given on board the destroyer as "150 fathoms". Murrell converts it in his head first to meters, then to feet, even though as an experienced American seaman he would certainly know that 1 fathom is exactly 6 feet. Furthermore, although the fathom depth was wrong, he converts to the right value: "310 meters - that's over 1,000 feet".

    In the U-boat, the 24-hour clock has the name "Timex" on it.

    Revealing mistakes
    When the switches on the submarine's "attack computer" are turned prior to firing the first salvo of torpedoes, one switch knob flops around, but it is quickly corrected by the actor.

    Factual errors
    When the destroyer escort turns after the U-boat following the first torpedo attack, the DE lowers its sonar dome. As that dome carries both the sonar transmitter and receiver, it would have had to be in the lower / operating position to be used in all the preceding scenes.

    Plot holes
    Finishing a target on the surface was something a U-Boat did to a merchant ship. No U-Boat would dare surface in the presence of even a heavily damaged destroyer escort as shown in the final battle. Even damaged as shown, most of the escort's weapons would still be operational (no electricity was required) and extremely deadly to a U-Boat. All of the situations in which U-Boats fought significant warships while surfaced during the war were when caught on the surface and unable to safely dive, or when too damaged to remain under water. In the original book, with a smaller British escort, the tactic could have made sense.

    During the chase, Capt. Murrell (US) is worried about being drawn into a trap with Raider M. It is unlikely that a US DE would have a problem with this, since its radar would allow it to detect the raider well in advance, and its speed would be greater than that of any raider, allowing it to evade an attack. The situation would have been a problem in the original book, where the warship was an early war British escort, which would have neither the radar nor the speed of the destroyer escort.

    The U-boat is supposedly intent on making a rendezvous with a surface raider. There are two problems with this. 1) The premise makes sense in the original book when the warship was a British escort earlier in the war, and German surface raiders were active. By the time of the movie, with a US escort later in the war, German surface raiders had all been captured, destroyed, or driven off the seas. 2) A German submarine commander would have referenced a surface raider by its actual name, not by a British style code name such as "Raider M".

    Memorable Quotes

    Filming Locations
    Hawaii, USA

    Watch the trailer



    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited once, last by ethanedwards ().

  • The Enemy Below is a 1957 war film which tells the story
    of the battle between the captain of an American destroyer escort
    and the commander of a German U-boat during World War II.
    It stars Robert Mitchum, Curt Jürgens, David Hedison and Theodore Bikel.
    The movie was directed and produced by Dick Powell.
    The film was based on a novel by Denys Rayner, a British naval officer involved
    in anti-submarine warfare throughout the Battle of the Atlantic.

    Walter Rossi received the 1958 Academy Award for best special effects.

    Look out for a young Clint Eastwood

    User Review

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited once, last by ethanedwards ().

  • As big of a Duke fan as I am, I have to admit that "The Enemy Below" is probably still my favorite World War II movie. It's amazing!

    I couldn't resist doing it as my first World War film review.

    I tried so hard to put into words all the deep themes interwoven into the plot line, but I'm not sure I succeeded. It's a pretty awesome movie.

    Note: Any material listed underneath the “Content” headings (spiritual content, sexual content, etc.) is not a list of stuff that I think shouldn’t be in the movie. It is a resource for parents who are trying to make decisions as to what age they want their children to see certain things.