Director Dick Powell first made his name as a happy-go-lucky tenor singing his way through a number of ’30s musicals before making the unusual but successful transfer to the film noir genre. Towards the end of his cinematic career, he turned to producing and directing films, of which his fourth, The Enemy Below, was the most successful.
Robert Mitchum takes the lead as the captain of an American destroyer in the North Atlantic who is hunting down a German U-boat captained by a world-weary Curt Jurgens (in his US film debut). From the film’s start, Powell builds the suspense as Mitchum’s ship picks up Jurgen’s signature on its sonar and starts a relentless hunt for the enemy submarine. Pursued into the South Atlantic, Jurgens and his second-in-command and friend Theodore Bikel make a desperate attempt to escape Mitchum as the sub heads for its rendezvous with a wolf-pack of other German U-boats. However, Mitchum’s pursuit is relentless as he depth charges Jurgen’s vessel and then tracks the wounded animal that it becomes.
An unusual film at the time, The Enemy Below prefers to concentrate on the motivations of the two protagonists, looking at the way in which each man approaches the art of warfare psychologically as much as the mechanics of destruction.
The Enemy Below won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects (actually won by Walter Rossi who designed the best effects audible).
Robert Mitchum as Capt. Murrell
Curt Jürgens as Von Stolberg
David Hedison as Lt. Ware
Theodore Bikel as ‘Heinie’ Schwaffer
Russell Collins as Doctor
Kurt Kreuger as Von Holem
Frank Albertson as Lt. Crain
Biff Elliot as Quartermaster
Director: Dick Powell
Screenplay: Wendell Mayes
Novel: DA Rayner
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Year of Release: 1958
Duration: 98 minutes