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Above Us The Waves (1955, John Mills, John Gregson)



Producer William MacQuitty spent several years in the Navy and his love of all things nautical -submarines in particular – inspired him to make the action-packed tense British thriller Above Us The Waves.

Based on an actual incident in the Second World War, Above Us the Waves is a dramatisation of the attempts to sink a German battleship occupying a vital sea area near Norway.

The film’s tagline described it as ‘a story of impudent gallantry’, and The Guardian agreed, noting that: ‘It tells a heroic story without any flowery effects at all.’

The film follows the efforts of three naval officers to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz, holding a seemingly impregnable position in a Norwegian fjord. When a first plan using ‘human torpedoes’ to attach explosives to the ship’s hull fails, an even more dangerous idea is suggested: three midget submarines carrying detachable charges should attempt to navigate their way through treacherous waters to reach and destroy their target.

The subs, known as X-1, X-2 and X-3, are skippered by Commander Frazer (John Mills), Sub-Lieut. Duffy (John Gregson) and Sub-Lieut. Corbett (Donald Sinden). After a period of intense training, the three men set out on their hazardous mission.

A salute to the wartime exploits of fearless Naval officers, Above Us the Waves is gripping entertainment in which the stiff upper lips never waver.

The film was Ralph Thomas’s second nautically-themed movie of 1955, the other being the comedy Doctor at Sea, an indication of the director’s versatility. His brother Gerald also worked on Above Us the Waves, as editor, although he would achieve greater fame in later years as director of the Carry On series.

production details
UK | 99 minutes | 1955

Director: Ralph Thomas
Writer: Robin Estridge, based on a story by CET Warren, James Benson

James Robertson Justice as Admiral Ryder
John Gregson as Lieutenant Alec Duffy
Michael Medwin as Smart
John Mills as Commandant Fraser
Theodore Bikel as German Officer
Donald Sinden as Lieutenant Tom Corbett
James Kenney as Abercrombie
William Russell as Ramsey