The Submarine Mission Storyline - Titles A-Z Page
|Storyline: A submarine undertakes a long-distance special mission.|
purpose of the A-Z listing is to index a range of examples, but coverage is not meant to be comprehensive
(=impractical), with titles added as info becomes available, and the final total being capped at
100 entries. Indexing is by the initial letter of the film title, as per the left-hand column in
the table below, ignoring definite or indefinite articles like 'The' or 'A'. (The '#' indicates
titles starting with a digit eg 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.) The info-setup for entries is as
Title / (Nationality if not US; US release title if different / Year)
Identifying Credit (usually a writer or writers)
Illustration [still or screenshot]
Note that this listing does not include works where the mission is abandoned as the sub is hijacked or otherwise taken over (by aliens, snakes etc) or is immobilised on the seafloor after an accident. (Such plots belong to a different storyline, being variants on the castaway story setup.)
|20,000 Leagues Under The
Scripted by Stuart Paton from Jules Verne's 1870 novel and his semi-sequel The Mysterious Island
Billed in the opening credits as "The First Submarine Photoplay Ever Filmed, this is the first feature version, recently restored. 'Submarine photoplay' also meant difficult, expensive, underwater filming. It was shot by the Williamson brothers from Liverpool, who developed a periscope-type apparatus for filming underwater scenes, with footage shot in the Bahamas in the same location Disney would use in 1953.
Comment: This is more of a version of Verne's Mysterious Island, couched as a Victorian social drama of revenge for a wronged woman and the reuniting of a long-lost family member. Nemo's peripatetic revenge mission is downplayed here.
|20,000 Leagues Under The
Scripted by Earl Felton from the Jules Verne novel
A trio of protagonists helping the USN hunt a 'sea monster' sinking warships in the 1860s find themselves prisoners aboard what turns out to be an early submarine driven by atomic power. The Nautilus was created to ram and sink warships by a bitter, misanthropic scientist whose life was destroyed by a European colonial power who wanted the secret of his power source.
Comment: Disney's first CinemaScope venture, this was the Verne novel's major adaptation. It took the submarine story back its science fiction roots, with a contemporary resonance for the new atomic age. See our Ten Titles For Further Study page for further info, here.
|20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1997)
Teleplay by Joe Wiesenfeld from the Jules Verne novel
A tv-movie version produced by Hallmark Entertainment, a family-oriented version of the story, in which Ben Cross plays Nemo.
Comment: This should not be confused with the Michael Caine version (see below) produced the same year.
|20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1997)
Teleplay by Brian Nelson from the Jules Verne novel
A 3-part drama for US cable tv, with Michael Caine as the embittered tyrant Nemo.
Comment - There are a number of story changes, such as Nemo building an underwater domed city but it's mainly interior dialogue scenes - it was obviously made on a low production budget.
|20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (2004)
Writer: Christy Marx, from the Jules Verne novel
An animated TV movie version for young children.
Comment: This seems just an exercise in formalism, and unike other versions is not grounded in any particular reality.
|30,000 Leagues Under The Sea (2007)
Scripted by Eric Forsberg, loosely based on the Jules Verne novel
A sunken nuclear-sub rescue mission discovers insane Captain Nemo is behind the sinking, out to steal the nuclear warheads in order to destroy Earth.
Comment: From the synopsis (the online trailer is incomprehensible), this seems a modern-day spinoff version of the Verne story-setup.
|Above Us The Waves / Operation Tirpitz (UK
Scripted by Robin Estridge based on a nonfiction book by Captain CET Warren and James D. Benson
A dramatisation of the RN's attempts to cripple Germany's biggest battleship Tirpitz in its Norwegian-fjord berth using the then-new midget subs. After an abortive mission, the unit switch from 2-man ‘chariot’ style ‘human torpedoes’ to 53ft-long X-craft midget subs with a 4-man crew. These are towed 1200 miles by regular subs from Scotland to Norway. Then the 3 midget subs creep 50 miles up a fjord through minefields and anti-submarine nets, to drop delayed-action charges alongside Tirpitz. The last hour of the film covers this final mission, which proves successful but costly for the crews.
Comment: A British stiff-upper-lip style re-enactment typical of the immediate postwar era, factually based but with names altered for legal reasons, with one of the original mission officers as tech advisor.
|Alfa Tau! (Italy 1942)
Written by Francesco De Robertis (dir)
This Italian wartime propaganda film about a sub crew is mainly shore-based, but later on has the protagonists' sub attacked at sea by Allied aircraft and then a British sub.
Comment: Briskly edited action scenes, obviously shot with official cooperation without using any model work or special effects.
|Am Ende die Hoffnung / U-864, l'arme secrète
d'Hitler / Fateful Love - The Hunt for U 864 (2011)
Writers: Annette Hess, Thorsten Näter
In 1945 Germany, a female anti-Nazi resistance agent is ordered by her English handler to begin an affair with an officer aboard U864, about to sail for Japan with a top-secret cargo of materiels for a new secret weapon, in order to learn its route.
Comment: This German tv movie is largely a fictional war-torn romance overlaid on a factual background, with the sub mission only part of the last act. The real U864 was indeed headed for Japan with war materiels (mercury, not uranium) but was sunk off Norway by a British sub sent to intercept it, with the wreck only discovered in 2003.
| The Amazing Captain Nemo / The Return Of
Captain Nemo (1978)
Produced by Irwin Allen (different writers per episode)
In the 1970s, Nemo is revived from suspended animation aboard an intact but trapped Nautilus by USN divers. He agrees to tackle a blackmailing mad-scientist inventor threatening to fire his “delta ray” at Washington from his own submersible craft, if the US will refit Nautilus so Nemo can search for Atlantis.
Comment: The Amazing Captain Nemo was a feature spinoff from a short-lived 'kidult' tv series, The Return Of Captain Nemo. That was meant to be Irwin Allen's followup to Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, but ratings were so poor it was cancelled, the 3 episodes shot recut as a feature for overseas distribution.
|Assault On A Queen (1966)
Scripted by Rod Serling from a 1959 novel by Jack Finney
A gang use a salvaged U-boat to rob the ocean liner Queen Mary, carrying gold bullion. The U-boat is disguised as a British sub claiming to be on a secret mission, but has to fight it out with a US Coast Guard cutter which appears on the scene.
Comment: Basically one of Sinatra's 60s 'heist' movies.
| Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Written by Tab Murphy, David Reynolds, Gary Trousdale, Joss Whedon, Kirk Wise, Bryce Zabel, Jackie Zabel
In this animated Disney feature set in 1914, a group set out to discover sunken Atlantis in the massive ahead-of-its-time submarine "Ulysses," using an ancient book in the possession of an American teenager.
Comment: The submarine voyage is not the main part of the film. A planned followup tv series was abandoned, the 3 episodes filmed packaged up as a 2003 direct-to-video sequel called Atlantis: Milo's Return.
| The Atomic Submarine (1959)
Scripted by producer Orville H. Hampton from a short story by Irving Block and Jack Rabin
Set in a 'foreseeable' future where subs transit under the Arctic ice cap as merchant vessels, the USS Tiger Shark is sent up the West Coast to 'investigate the disappearance of a number of atomic submarines up there, whose cause proves to be an alien monster in a submersible flying saucer. The sub criss-crosses the Arctic Sea to waylay the alien vehicle, using a DSRV type of detachable minisub for a closer look.
Comment: Despite being a very low-budget b&w production with underwater footage looking like it was shot in a pet-shop fish tank with a toy plastic sub, its scifi crossover approach is said to have inspired the 60s tv series Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea.
| Atragon / Kaitei Gunkan / Undersea Warship
(Japan 1963 / US version 1965)
Screenplay by Shinichi Sekizawa from the 'Kaitei Gunkan' juvenile-adventure novel series by Shunro Oshikawa
The ahead-of-its-time super submarine the 'Kaitei Gunkan' (in the US version named 'Atragon' - short for “Atomic dragon") is resurrected to save Japan from the undersea Mu Empire. They also have subs, but the super-sub is amphibious, can bore through walls and even fly.
Comment: The story setup seems loaded with symbolism about overreaching political power being self-destructive. The same novel sequence would also become the basis of a 1995 anime version, Shin Kaitei Gunkan or Super Atragon.
|Battle Of The Coral Sea (1959)
Written by Stephen Kandel, Daniel B. Ullman
A US sub on a recon mission to document enemy shore installations via its periscope camera is wrecked and forced to surrender. The officers eventually escape to take back information which helps win the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Comment: Only the first part is a sub mission story, the rest being a POW story. The mission is similar to that of Submarine Seahawk [qv] and some of the same WW2 documentary footage is seen.
|Battle Under Orion / Manatsu no Orion / Last
Operations Under The Orion (Japan 2009)
Based on the novel Manatsu no Orion by Tsukasa Ikegami
A Japanese sub battles a US destroyer during the US campaign to take Okinawa in 1945.
Comment: Film not available for viewing. The wartime sub scenes are intercut with a present-day framework.
|Beta Som / Défi à Gibraltar
/ Torpedo Bay (Italy/France 1963)
Written by Adriano Belli, Pino Belli
'Beta Som' was the radio codename for the WW2 Italian Atlantic Submarine Squadron base at Bordeaux. This fact-based Italian-French drama features a duel of wits between an Italian sub from Bordeaux and a British minesweeper from Gibraltar, whose captains and crew declare a de facto truce while in port at neutral Tangiers.
Comment: Film sadly not available for viewing at present.
|Black Sea (UK 2014)
Written by Dennis Kelly
A locate-the-lost-Nazi-bullion setup provides the basis for a modern-day undersea salvage mission. A Soviet Cold War era diesel sub rusting away in Sevastapol is purchased and manned by a Russian and British crew. Double-crossed by the bosses topsides, they quarrel violently in the murky depths, with disastrous results when they try to make a run south for a Turkish port.
Comment: Like the characters in The Wages Of Fear, the crew take on the mission out of economic desperation, in this case after being left high and dry by their ruthless bosses in the economic crunch. The film's title seems a metaphor for its bleak existentialist depiction. Here, the visual gloom, inside the sub as well as outside, and the naturalistic dialogue, make it difficult to follow developments.
|Das Boot (Germany 1981)
Scripted by director Wolfgang Petersen from the 1973 novel by Lothar-Günther Buchheim
This tv serial, based on a novel by a war correspondent aboard the real U96, dramatises its fateful final mission to attack enemy convoys in late 1941, when (the crew belatedly realise) the tide of war has turned against them due to Britain's new ship-borne and airborne radar.
Comment: This set a new standard for gritty realism. It was Germany's most expensive screen drama to date, and exists in several versions, being also released as a feature cutdown in cinemas, and later in 2 DVD versions. See our Ten Titles For Further Study page for further info, here.
|Das Boot (Germany 2018)
Created by Johannes W. Betz and Tony Saint using elements from the 1973 novel by Lothar-Günther Buchheim that was the basis of the 1981 production, and his 1995 follow-up Die Festung.
Comment: Despite the name, this is not a remake or true sequel, but a new 8-part tv serial financed by Sky TV, following another U-boat crew, U-612, as they prepare to set sail in 1942. There are more scenes set ashore this time at their home port of La Rochelle, where the French Resistance is active. With 8 episodes already released, a 2nd series has been announced.
|Casabianca / Pirate Submarine (France 1951)
Writers: Jean L'Herminier (captain of the "Casabianca"), Jane-Edith Saintenoy and Georges Péclet (director)
Despite an international release title that made it sound like a juvenile serial, this is a fact-based story, filmed in Algiers and Toulon in 1949, recounting the wartime missions of the French submarine "Casabianca". It escaped German-held Toulon to join the Free French forces at Algiers. It was used to run liaison and supply missions to the maquis on Corsica in the runup to the island's liberation.
Comment: Another film overdue for issue on DVD.
|Chinmoku no Kantai / The Silent Service (Japan
Written and illustrated by Kaiji Kawaguchi
In this 240-minute anime tv series from a 1988-96 manga serial, Japan's first nuclear sub goes rogue, with its captain declaring it an independent force, and is pursued by the US Navy.
Comment: Available in an English dubbed version.
|Close Quarters / Undersea Raider /A Odisseia
de um Submarino (UK 1943)
Crown Film Unit (no writer credits as officially a documentary)
The sub 'HMS Tyrant' (actually HMS Tribune) sails from its refuelling base on Holy Loch above the Clyde to Norway, sinks a U-boat with its deck gun, rescues some Norwegian sailors, and torpedoes an enemy warship.
Comment: This 75 minute docudrama may have been made back-to-back with We Dive At Dawn (qv) - it shows the same depot ship with subs berthed alongside. This however was not a commercial production but a quasi-documentary made by the government's Crown Film Unit for training purposes. It was released on DVD by the Imperial War Museum in 2005.
| Crash Dive (1943)
Script by Jo Swerling and W.R. Burnett
Two officers overcome their rivalry to work together to battle a Q ship and later to locate and destroy a secret Nazi fuel-supply base, somewhere in the North Atlantic (presumably Norway or Greenland, as icy mountains are seen). They mount a successful commando raid on the fuel depot.
Comment: Of interest as the sub genre's first Technicolor production, this is otherwise a routine wartime flagwaver, another romantic-triangle drama with the standard American two-officers-after-the-same-girl-subplot.
|Crimson Tide (1995)
Story by Michael Schiffer and Richard P. Henrick
When a hardline ex-Soviet general organises a post-Glasnost coup, a mutiny develops aboard a US nuclear sub when it tangles with a renegade Russian one and torpedo damage leaves them unable to communicate with base. The captain and XO take opposing positions regarding protocol procedure and the crew splits into two factions, each trying to gain physical control of the missile launch keys.
Comment: This was made without official cooperation as the USN regarded the scenario as unrealistic. As in 'The Caine Mutiny', the captain is neurotic (he carries a small dog around), and is relieved of command as mentally unfit by the new XO. This must be the only sub drama rated R for its dialogue, taking the skipper-versus-XO conflict of 50s films to the ultimate mano-a-mano degree.
|Danger Beneath The Sea (2001)
Writer: Lucian K. Truscott IV
TV movie about a Crimson Tide style mutiny aboard a US sub after it is left incommunicado at sea by the effects of a North Korean nuclear missile test. Here, the roles are reversed from Crimson Tide, with the XO seizing power to launch missiles, and the captain trying to stop the launch.
|Destination Tokyo (1943)
Written by Delmer Daves (dir) and Albert Maltz from a story by Steve Fisher
A US sub is despatched to Tokyo Bay to take weather readings for the imminent (April 1942) Doolittle Raid bombing mission designed to shatter Japanese confidence.
Comment: Though the film was officially backed war propaganda, some of Albert Maltz's dialogue about war aims ironically would get him subpoena'd by HUAC as un-American. While its implication the mission is based on a real one is unlikely, this was the first major US sub drama, introducing many now familiar scenes in its 135 minutes.
|Down Periscope (1996)
Screen story by Hugh Wilson
In a war gaming exercise, a WW2-era sub (portrayed by USS Pampanito, kept as a WW2 exhibit) with a misfit crew is designated the 'terrorist' boat, which must evade naval defences to creep into harbour and blow up a dummy battleship.
Comment: An Airplane-style genre-sendup combined with the underdog-misfits team-wins-out motif.
|E||Endless Descent (1989) see The Rift|
|The Enemy Below (1957)
Script by Wendell Mayes from 1956 novel by Lt-Cdr D.A. Rayner RNVR
In the South Atlantic, a U-boat is waiting to rendezvous with its supply ship Raider M to hand over a captured British code-book so it can return home when a US destroyer appears. An extended cat-and-mouse game ensues, in which our viewpoint alternates between sub and destroyer, ending with their mutual destruction.
Comment: The submarine captain and crew here are not the protagonists but the antagonists, albeit sympathetic ones. The U-boat Kapitan is disillusioned and despises the Nazi political officer. A few inherent improbabilities result from the fact the destroyer in the novel was British. The film is on our shortlist of ten titles for further study - more details here.
|Fantastic Voyage (1966)
Scripted by Harry Kleiner, from story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby
A new Pentagon 'black ops' outfit have the capability to temporarily miniaturize objects. A sub called the Proteus and its crew are to be miniaturised to microscopic size and injected into an injured atomic scientist's bloodstream in order to navigate to a particular blood vessel to repair some brain damage. The scientist is a Cold War defector, and the Russians inevitably have an agent aboard.
Comment: This must have the most far-out premise of any sub drama.
|The Fifth Missile / Operation Fire (1986)
Script by Eric Bercovici based on the Frank M. Robinson & Thomas N. Scortia novel The Gold Crew
A sub crew at sea on a training exercise is poisoned by toxic paint, which makes some of them susceptible to the delusion the drill is a genuine nuclear war.
Comment - A 150-minute MGM/UA tv drama relying on a somewhat arcane plot to dramatise the danger of an independent missile launch.
| The Flying Missile (1950)
Written by Harvey S. Haislip, N. Richard Nash, James Gunn, Richard English
Made with USN cooperation, a fictionalised version of how the USN came to create submarine-mounted missiles. A captain (Glenn Ford) suggests the idea, then suffers trauma after his stealing equipment for a prototype gets a secretary fired, and a test goes fatally wrong, crippling him. Eventually he sees the idea through, and the cruise missile is born.
|The Ghazi Attack (India 2017)
Written by Azad Alam, Gangaraju Gunnam, Sankalp Reddy, Gangaraju Gunnam, Niranjan Reddy
Speculative drama inspired by the sinking of the Pakistan submarine PNS Ghazi on the eve of the 1971 India-Pakistan War over Bangladesh. The Ghazi, formerly the USN sub Diablo, sailed towards eastern Pakistan to sink the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in the Bay of Bengal but is followed by the Indian Navy sub S21, the INS Karanj. The script turns the incident into a sub-v-sub duel.
Comment: The film starts with a lengthy disclaimer and must be considered entirely fictional, as one sub was sunk and the other had its reports suppressed due to political controversy, the war having not yet officially begun. (The Ghazi may even have been sunk by its own mine, rather than in an elaborate torpedo duel.) And for a 'true' story there are a surprising number of standard scenes. The release prints are not subtitled or dubbed but the dialogue slips between English and Hindi etc.
|Ghostboat (UK 2006)
Screenplay by Guy Burt from George E Simpson & Neal R Burger novel
An amnesiac sole survivor of British sub believed sunk in the Baltic in 1945 is co-opted into service when it mysteriously pops up intact and deserted in modern times. The attempt to develop it as a time-travelling super-weapon, by retracing the sub's route as per its logbook, leads the crew into a WW2-revisited twilight-zone and then to their nearly starting WW3.
Comment: The plot of this 2-part ITV drama is so nonsensical it is hard even to be sure of the above summary.
|Going Under (1990)
Writers: Darryl Zarubica, Randolph Davis
The latest prototype US sub is sent into Soviet waters on a doomed mission, in order to evade an inspection that would reveal it is a deathtrap. (Its name the USS Sub-standard is a clue.)
Comment: Another 'Airplane' style genre sendup (though the German release title U-Boat Academy suggested an institutional sendup like the Police Academy series).
| La grande speranza / The Great Hope / Submarine
Attack / Torpedo Zone (Italy 1955)
Written by Oreste Biancoli, [Adm] Marc-Antonio Bragadin, Duilio Coletti (dir), and Ennio De Concini
An WW2 Italian captain rescues some survivors shipwrecked by his sub, and when he has a full house, takes them all the way to the neutral Azores.
Comment: The story is based on an actual series of incidents and won a couple of awards, probably for its expression of humanist values triumphing over military ones. It was then released internationally in a dubbed version, ironically under the generic 'action' film titles Submarine Attack and Torpedo Zone. However it is anything but an action film, though shot aboad a real sub. The focus is on the bond that develops between the crew and the rescued, including the captain and a Canadian WAC officer [Lois Maxwell, pictured].
|Haie und kleine Fische / Sharks And Little
Scripted by Wolfgang Ott from his novel
Four teenage Kriegsmarine cadets graduate just in time to see Germany's first defeats, first on a small coastal vessel, then on a U-boat based in France. One cadet after another perishes. Their U-boat attacks a couple of convoys and is attacked in turn by aircraft, then depth-charged by a corvette (stock shot from The Cruel Sea) and is finally holed by a flying boat. Though the surviving crew use their escape gear, there is no rescue ship in sight.
Comment : The writer based his best-selling 1954 novel on his own experience in U-boats. The film is sometimes described as a forerunner of Das Boot, though most scenes are set on land, with growing disillusion amidst drunken despair, and there are no U boats for the first 55 mins.
|Hell And High Water (1954)
Scripted by director Samuel Fuller and Jesse Lasky Jr.
A former WW2 sub commander and a scratch group of veterans are hired by a cabal of concerned nuclear scientists to sail an old Japanese sub to the Aleutians, where Red China has a secret atomic base. En route, they have to fight an enemy sub, and they discover a Communist plot for a false-flag nuclear attack.
Comment: Evidently the first of the Cold War techno-thrillers involving subs, its Cold War gloss includes a prologue suggesting this is a true story, that the nuclear blast at the end really happened. This seems to have been just McCarthy-era scaremongering. Wikipedia says France banned the film over its crude political messaging.
|Hell Below (1933)
Screenplay by Laird Doyle, Raymond L. Schrock, John Lee Mahin, and John Meehan, from Commander Edward Ellsberg's 1931 novel Pigboats (UK edition titled Submerged)
Set late in WWI, when the USN had established a presence in the Adriatic, this is the tale of a US sub crew undergoing various military and personal crises during several war patrols.
Comment: Not currently available for viewing, but going by the synopsis, the onshore romance scenes seem ordinary, but the seagoing sequences sound authentic, some situations perhaps appearing in a US film for the first time.
|Hell Below (2016-)
Writers: Maija Leivo. Christopher Blow
A new Smithsonian Channel series using dramatic re-enactments to tell the stories of key submarine missions or tactics in WW2. Season One consists of 6 hour-long episodes: 1 The Wolfpack (massed U-boat attacks on 1940 Atlantic convoys); 2 Hitler's Revenge (Nazi saboteurs dropped by sub in US); 3 America Fights Back (US subs change tactics in Pacific); 4 Atlantic Showdown (the largest wolfpack ever assembled); 5 Destroyer Killer (USS Harder's sinking 5 Japanese destroyers); 6 Fatal Voyage (USS Tang, 'America's deadliest sub')
Comment: Online clips show it is narrated, with some interview segments, but mainly dramatic reconstructions.
|Hellcats Of The Navy (1957)
Scripted by David Lang, Raymond T. Marcus (Bernard Gordon), from book 'Hellcats Of The Sea' by Vice-Admiral Charles A. Lockwood Ret. and Col. Hans Christian Adamson USAF Ret.
Despite an opening endorsement by the head of the USN's submarine arm, Admiral Nimitz, as being inspired by a real WW2 mission, the plot has the usual hostilities between the tough captain and the more easygoing subordinate coming to a head during the mission.
Comment: This is a dated cornball B-movie which could have been made during the war as a flag-waver. There is the usual 'Two Sailors After The Same Girl' (here played by star Ronald Reagan's future wife Nancy Davis).
| Hostile Waters (US/UK 1997)
Script by Troy Kennedy-Martin
During the 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev Cold War summit at Reykjavik, Soviet sub K219 pulls a “Crazy Ivan” twisting turn while a US sub is shadowing it off Bermuda, and a scraping collision causes a radiation leak in K219's missile bays. This prompts US fears the sub will - inadvertently or deliberately - launch its missiles.
Comment: A realist drama by a top British tv dramatist based on a real incident. Produced by BBC and HBO as a tv movie, this is without Hollywood heroics, with the main character being the K219 captain played by Rutger Hauer, as he tries to deal with a thankless and near hopeless situation.
|The Hunley (1999)
Written by John Fasano and John Gray (dir)
A tv docudrama on the first sub to sink a ship using a torpedo, in this case in Charleston harbour, during the siege of 1864. It shows that these prototype subs were more a danger to their crews than anyone else.
| The Hunt For Red October
Screenplay by Larry Ferguson, Donald Stewart and John Milius, from the 1984 novel by Tom Clancy
In the 1980s, the defection of a Soviet sub commander with his advanced sub leads to a political crisis. A Russian-speaking CIA analyst gets himself put aboard the US sub tracking the Red Oktober as he believes the Soviet captain is not mad as the pursuing Soviets claim, but trying to defect.
Comment: This big-budget techno-thriller was not really fact-based as the prologue official disclaimer suggests, but revitalised the sub drama for the modern era. On our shortlist, more info here.
|Hunter Killer (2017)
Written by Jamie Moss, Arne Schmidt, from 2012 novel Firing Point by George Wallace & Don Keith
'A rogue Russian admiral has begun a plot to bring the planet to the brink of World War III, all so he can reunite the Soviet Union. Now, it is up to a U.S. Navy submarine, its untested captain, and a Navy SEAL team to rescue the president, avenge the deaths of American sub sailors and avert the conflagration.' Co-written by a professional thriller writer and a former sub commander as a sequel to their bestseller Final Bearing.
Comment: Just released.
|I Sette dell'orsa Maggiore / Hell Raiders
Of The Deep / Human Torpedoes (Italy | France 1953)
Writers: Giuseppe Berto, Cdr. Marc-Antonio Bragadin, Enzo Cossa, Ennio De Concini, Francesco De Robertis, Duilio Coletti [dir]
This dramatises a very successful 1941 raid on Alexandria harbour by Italian frogmen. A unit of three 2-man 'human torpedoes', initially mounted on the deck of a full-size sub, managed to affix limpet mines to two British battleships, HMS Valiant and Queen Elizabeth, seriously damaging both.
Comment - Straightforward reenactment made with military cooperation, almost like a training film. The raid was later the subject of the British drama The Valiant [qv].
|Ice Station Zebra (1968)
Scripted by Douglas Heyes and Harry Julian Fink, from the 1963 novel by Alastair Maclean
A US nuclear sub is sent up to the Arctic Sea north of Greenland, to investigate the circumstances of a mysterious fire at a British civilian weather station on the icecap. It also carries a pair of NATO agents and a platoon of Marines to help recover a satellite cone with vital photographic evidence.
Comment: Produced as a Cinerama spectacle, this is covered in more detail on our Ten Titles For Further Study page, here.
|In Enemy Hands / U-Boat (2004)
Written by John E. Deaver, Tony Giglio (director)
“An American sub crew, taken prisoner by a German U-boat after a sub-to-sub battle in the North Atlantic, has to help out when illness strikes down half the German crew and they have to outwit a US destroyer and another U-boat.”
Comment: Not so much an action thriller as a character drama about the common bond that develops between the American chief and his German counterpart as they work together to make port, knowing that one or the other will end up a POW.
|K19 - The Widowmaker (2002)
Scripted by Louis Nowra and Christopher Kyle
In 1961, the USSR's first ballistic-missile develops a radiation leak during its maiden voyage in northern waters and the strain of trying to contain it, to avoid a thermonuclear explosion, leads to a command breakdown.
Comment: This big-budget Hollywood production is another instance of an attempt to tell a 'true' story ending up with the surviving real-life participants unhappy with the dramatic license taken over their depiction.
|Kapitan Nemo / Captain Nemo (USSR 1975)
(no scriptwriter credit on IMDB) based on the Jules Verne novels
A three-part Russian tv drama on how the Indian Prince Dakkar became Nemo.
Comment: From a viewing on YT, this is not really a sub-mission story, being mainly backstory, with almost no shots of the Nautilus beyond a small model and some soundstage interiors. There are some surreal touches, as pictured right. Not to be confused with Canadian children's cartoon series The Undersea Adventures of Captain Nemo (1975) (qv).
Komandir schastlivoy 'Shchuki' / The Captain
Of The Lucky Pike (1973)
|Konvoy PQ-17 (USSR 2004)
Writer: Vladimir Vardunas
An 8-episode, 377-minute TV miniseries dramatising the experience of various participants in the disastrous Arctic Convoy, including crews of a German and a Soviet sub.
Comment - Not yet available for viewing in a subtitled version, but it appears the submarines play only a small role until the finale, when a surface engagement with a tug proves fatal for the U-boat.
|Lan jing jing ji chu dong / Emergency Mission
No writer credit - possibly Di Fu (story), Jin Wang (screenplay)
Based on a true story, a Red Chinese sub is sent out to watch for “unauthorized foreign observers of a Chinese missile launch,” and intercepts Soviet ships trying to recover the ballistic test missile payload from the seabed.
Comment - Not yet available for viewing. The title translates literally as “Blue whale urgently dispatched” - presumably a codephrase.
|The Land That Time Forgot (1975)
Scripted by Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorn from a 1924 serial/novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs
A WWI U-boat is taken over by some plucky survivors of a torpedoing, but unable to communicate their situtation, they are fired on by British warships. They flee the war zone into the South Atlantic, where they discover an uncharted harbour-less volcanic island only accessible via an undersea passage. It proves to be a prehistoric lost world, and the mixed crew of English survivors and German personnel must work together to fend off dinosaurs and cavemen alike.
Comment: A juvenile adventure drama in which the novel's British hero is Americanised (played by Doug McClure). Co-writer Moorcock said his script was otherwise faithful to the book until the final act, when the producers insisted on a conventional action climax.
Last Resort (2012)
|Das letzte U-Boot / U234 Hitlers letztes U-Boot
/ The Last U-Boat (Germany 1992)
Writer: Knut Boeser
In April 1945, a U-boat sets off from Norway carrying uranium bound for Japan, so that Germany's ally can carry on the Axis war effort to develop an A bomb, only for its mission to be overtaken by world events.
Comment: A German telefilm inspired by an actual ill-fated mission, that of U234, coincidentally the atomic number of an isotope of uranium.
|Lorelei: The Witch Of The Pacific Ocean (Japan
Written by Harutoshi Fukui based on his best-selling novel
Alternative-history style feature of 1945 experimental super-sub, gifted to Japan by Germany, saving Tokyo from a third atomic bomb. The I-507's mission is to intercept a US convoy bringing the 3rd bomb to Tinian Island B-29 base.
| Les Maudits / The Damned
Written by director René Clément, Jacques Rémy and Henri Jeanson (dialogue) from a story by Victor Alexandrov and Jacques Companéez
At war's end, a U-boat sails on a long-distance mission to South America to establish a Nazi colony there, with a kidnapped French doctor aboard.
Comment: A realist postwar drama on our shortlist (See here for further details)
|Moby Dick 2010 / 2010: Moby Dick / Moby Dick
Screenplay by Paul Bales loosely based on the novel by Herman Melville
An enormous white whale 500 feet long, with its lair in the Arctic, wrecks a US nuclear sub in 1969, biting it in two and depositing half on the ice. Young sonar operator John Ahab survives with one leg, becomes captain of his own sub the Pequod, and pursues MD in revenge, being declared renegade and pursued by another US sub.
Comment: An unintentionally [?] funny, updated free adaptation with a whale able to leap out of the water sharknado-style and eat helicopters etc.
|Morgenrot / Dawn (Germany 1933)
Written by Gerhard Menzel from an idea by (U-boat cdr) Edgar von Spiegel von und zu Peckelsheim
During WWI, a U-boat captain returns to sea after a shore-leave interlude, on a war patrol which sinks a British cruiser before the sub is fatally damaged in action against a decoy Q-ship and a destroyer, which rams them. On the sea bed, the survivors all refuse to use the escape suits as there are not enough for everybody.
Comment: This was the first WWI-set sub drama, and was reportedly popular in a Germany where the Nazis had just come to power.
|Mystery Submarine / Phantom Submarine (1950)
Written by George W. George, George F. Slavin, Ralph Dietrich
After war's end, several civilians are kidnapped or killed by the crew of a U-Boat operating from a hidden base somewhere along the northern coast of South America. The doctor and female passenger being held aboard are both likely to be killed and try to sabotage the sub.
Comment: The setup is reminiscent of Les Maudits (qv). Again, after they reach their rendezvous at sea with a ship, the sub is intercepted and blown up by the USN. The director had fled Nazi Germany in 1937 for LA (changing his name from Detlef Sierck to Douglas Sirk), and the Nazis here are no stock villains.
|Mystery Submarine (UK 1963)
Adapted by Hugh Woodhouse, Bertram Ostrer and Jon Manchip White, based on a play by White
A captured U-boat is taken over by the British for a 'Trojan Horse' mission to mislead a wolf pack. They discover the ruse and the fleeing sub ends up being shot at by both sides.
Comment: A little-seen 1963 British war drama, with a 'Trojan Horse' false-flag setup which anticipates that of U571. Jon Manchip White was a Welsh-American scriptwriter who had served in WW2.
|Ningen Gyorai Shutsugeki Su / The Human Torpedoes
Writer: Takumi Furukawa (dir)
The title Ningen Gyorai Shutsugeki Su means The Human Torpedo's Sortie. Drama based on one of Japan's final desperate 'Kamikaze' suicide missions in 1945, which utilised human torpedoes as well as planes to try to sink US ships. These one-man torpedoes were delivered to near the target via a regular sub, which carried them bolted to its deck. This has the sub “encountering an enemy battleship in the Guam Theater” (DVD synopsis)
Comment: Sounds interesting, but print not available for viewing.
|On The Beach (1959)
Scripted by John Paxton from Neville Shute's 1957 novel
A US sub, lone survivor of a brief but devastating nuclear war just past, docks in Australia to await one final mission to sail north, to monitor radiation levels, as well as to check out a mysterious Morse signal from San Diego. Most of the 134 minutes is shoreside scenes with the characters awaiting inevitable death from radiation poisoning. The project was one of producer-director Stanley Kramer's 'message' pictures, in this case ending with deserted streets and the banner message There Is Still Time.
Comment: Looking at it here in terms of 'sub mission' scenes, it has the opening entering-harbour scene, a shore-leave party; a long-distance mission (about an hour in, and lasting onscreen a half-hour) to land a man ashore, and a final setting-out scene. The rest of it could be compared to 'wartime shore leave' scenes, with a grim difference, the knowledge this war is unwinnable and unsurvivable. (On our shortlist - more details here.)
| On The Beach (Australia 2000)
Teleplay by David Williamson and Bill Kerby from Neville Shute's novel and John Paxton's 1959 screenplay (see above)
Updated and with more background on how the nuclear war happened, this US/Australian co-production is a 2-part adaptation of a national classic. The central mission has different terms of reference and gets more screen time - over an hour out of 195 minutes. (The French release is titled 'USS Charleston, dernière chance pour l'humanité'.)
Comment: This ought to be more interesting in every way than the previous adaptation, having a longer running time, and both an American and an Australian co-writer to ensure authentic dialogue from both US and Oz characters. Sadly, the story has been 'improved', perhaps by the director, whose background was in music videos. The scenes aboard the sub are especially ludicrous. Even the grim finale to which the title refers is changed into a surprise romantic reunion.
|Operation Pacific (1951)
Scripted by George Waggner (director)
In the WW2 Pacific, a new sub captain has to deal with the guilt of having to leave his predecessor topsides when the boat comes under fire, dud torpedoes, and rivalry from an Air Force officer regarding his interest in a nurse back at base. He solves all three issues on a final inter-services mission where the sub provides 'lifeguard' cover for an air operation. He personally dives in to save his romantic rival (who is also, happily, the dead captain's younger brother).
Comment: Apart from the early-WW2 factual issue of misfiring torpedoes, which was kept quiet at the time but solved here by the crew, the script could have been written ten years earlier, as a wartime flagwaver. Despite the pretensions of its historical prologue, it's full of standard scenes such as the Two-Officers-And-A-Nurse-Romantic-Triangle, the captain having to bail out his jailed crew after they wreck a bar and tangle with the military police, a party of nuns and kids being evacuated etc.
| Operation Petticoat (1959)
Story by Paul King / Joseph Stone and screenplay by Stanley Shapiro / Maurice Richlin
After WW2, a captain recalls his sub mission to transport some stranded Army nurses to safety in Australia aboard a war-damaged sub (repainted pink) now about to be scrapped. The crew suffer various indignities including having their own fleet fire on them due to their unorthodox paint scheme. Again, putting materiels into the torpedo tube resolves the crisis (this time it isn't bodies but lingerie).
Comment: This was a very popular example of the postwar 'service comedy'. A 1977 feature-length ABC-TV pilot remake was followed by a 32-episode spinoff series 1977-79, as a half-hour service-comedy-sitcom akin to MASH.
| Orzel / The Eagle (Poland 1959)
Written by Leonard Buczkowski (dir), Janusz Meissner
Fact-based realist drama of an incident that occurred at the outbreak on WWII, when the Polish sub Orzel escaped internment in Tallinn Estonia, to rejoin the Allied navy, taking part in Britain's attempted invasion of Norway.
Comment: The Orzel's sister ship was used for filming as the Orzel was sunk later in the war.
|Out Of The Depths (1945)
Written by Martin Berkeley, Ted Thomas, Aubrey Wisberg
At war's end, a US sub gets in a race to stop the Japanese surrender ceremony aboard USS Missouri being wrecked by diehard militarists who have hijacked a Japanese aircraft carrier ship to bomb it using kamikaze planes.
Comment: Setup sounds interesting, but film not available for viewing.
|Papanikolis / Ypovryhion: Papanikolis / SS
Papanikolis (Greece 1971)
Writer: Dimitris Zannidis
Fact-based realist drama of a Greek sub which distinguished itself early in WW2, operating against the Italian navy.
Comment: Apparently the film is not available in English.
| Phantom (2013)
Scripted by Todd Robinson (dir)
During the Cold War, a Soviet sub is sent out to test a new noise suppression system, named Phantom. A conflict develops between the approaching-retirement captain and the scientific officer, who wants to use the test to start a nuclear war: mutiny inevitably ensues to gain control of the submarine.
Comment: Said to be inspired by the Soviet 1968 loss of K-129 near Hawaii, which the CIA paid Howard Hughes to help retrieve via his salvage vessel Glomar Explorer. However the plot here seems to be fictional.
|Phantom Below / USS Poseidon: Phantom Below
/ Tides of War (2005)
Scripted by Mark Sanderson from a Stephen P. Jarchow story
The disgraced captain of a Hawaii-based sub is sent into North Korean waters to tap into an underwater telecoms cable during a time of international tension. The title refers to an enemy sub that has no sonar signature, which the captain encountered before when it attacked his sub, but was disbelieved by higher ups.
Comment: The film seems to have used footage from other productions, and itself to exist in several versions: one for the US DVD market, one for the Japanese TV-DVD market, and one with 'adult' scenes added for an LGBT tv channel.
|Phantom: The Submarine (Korea 1999) See under Yuryeong|
|Podvodnaya lodka T-9 / T-9 Submarine (USSR
Writers: Aleksandr Shtein, Iogann Zeltser
The podvodnaya lodka ('underwater boat') T9 sinks a German troop transport and lands a frogman commando party to blow up a railway viaduct as a troop train approaches. They are trapped on the seabed by hovering warships till they are nearly out of air, but surface to find a Soviet flotilla has arrived.
Comment - A quaint Soviet wartime propaganda film showing the crew as patriotic to the point of singing as they go about their heroic work. A published synopsis says T9 infiltrates an enemy harbour to create havoc, but this is not clear in the print available. Some (model) ships do get blown up, but they are not at anchor. The viaduct and train are also obvious models. The setting is presumably the southern Baltic.
|Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)
Adapted by John Gay from the 1955 novel by Cdr Edward L. Beach
A desk-bound USN captain gets a chance to return to the danger area (Japan's Bungo Strait) where his sub was sunk the previous year. His taking over command from the sub's 2nd officer and then his deviating from his patrol orders nearly cause a mutiny.
Comment: Some consider this the best US sub drama. It's on our shortlist (See here for further details).
|SeaQuest DSV (1993-5) / SeaQuest 2032 (1996)
Created by Rockne S. O'Bannon
This 57-episode NBC tv series was named after a futuristic submarine, SeaQuest Deep Submergence Vehicle 4600, which embarks on missions to protect the oceans from human and other threats.
Comment: It seems to have met the same fate as its predecessor Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, becoming more fantastic and gimmicky, with a monster-of-the-week story. Star Roy Scheider walked off, saying its shift away from ecological issues towards pulp-magazine SF-horror had turned it into “Saturday afternoon 4 o'clock junk for children.”
| Sensuikan I-57 kofuku sezu / Submarine I-57
Will Not Surrender (Japan 1959)
Written by Takeshi Kimura
A war's-end drama about a Japanese sub carrying a pair of Western diplomats to the Canary Isles to arrange an armistice, unaware hostilities have already ended.
Comment: Sounds interesting, but no print available for viewing.
|Silent Service (1995) see Chinmoku no Kantai|
| The Silent Service (1957-59)
Created by Admiral Thomas M. Dykers, Retired
This US TV docudrama anthology series, running 78 episodes, covered many little-known but true stories of US submarines in action in the Pacific in WW2 (a few in the Korean War). Each episode is intro'd and narrated by retired admiral Thomas M. Dykers, who also co-wrote and co-produced some eps.
Comment: The writing and production are nothing special dramatically - the surviving tv prints are photographically not sharp. But in terms of running time its 78 half-hours dwarf all other screen output for its era, to tell many authentic stories that would be otherwise neglected. This is why it is on our shortlist of titles for further study, here.
|The Sinking Of The Laconia
(UK/ Germany 2011)
Written by Alan Bleasdale
In 1942 off Africa, a U-boat captain abandoned his standing orders to rescue survivors of a liner he torpedoed, raising various moral and practical issues, which led Admiral Doenitz to impose the 'Laconia Order' forbidding further rescues.
Comment - This fact-based British-German co-production tells the story from both viewpoints in two 90-minute episodes. (The version shown on German tv is reportedly quite different from the BBC release.)
|Sinking Of The Lusitania: Terror At Sea /
Der Untergang der Lusitania: Tragödie eines Luxusliners / Lusitania: Murder On The Atlantic
(UK / Germany 2007)
Script by Sarah Williams from the book by Diana Preston
The U-boat U-20 only plays a minor role in this BBC 90-minute English-German TV docudrama version of the 1917 tragedy, a diplomatic disaster for Germany, showing it to be the result of machinations by Churchill and the Admiralty allowing the ship to carry munitions and sail in harm's way, to be torpedoed as a way of undermining US isolationism.
Comment: The drama crosscuts between U-boat and liner viewpoints, with the sets and props built for Das Boot used to film the scenes aboard U-20.
|The Spy In Black / U-Boat 29 (UK 1939)
Scripted by Roland Pertwee, Emeric Pressburger from 1917 novel by J. Storer Clouston
In 1917, a U-boat mission to attack the British fleet in its northern anchorage at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys requires coordination with German spies in the Orkneys to penetrate the harbour.
Comment - A mainly land-based spy story, originally written as contemporary to 1917 by an Orkney-based historian and novelist, with the U-boat scenes at the start and finish. It was filmed in 1938 but not in general release till WW2 had begun - in fact ironically around the time there was a successful U-boat attack on Scapa Flow, in October 1939. (See under U47.)
|Stingray (UK 1964)
Creator: Gerry Anderson
Anderson's follow-up to his hit ITV Thunderbirds marionette series featured deep-sea super-sub Stingray, crewed by the World Aquanaut Security Patrol. This ventures out from its Californian base into the Pacific to neutralise threats such as the "aquaphibians," an undersea mutant warrior race controlled by King Titan, ruler of undersea city Titanica, with whose slave girl Marina Stingray's captain, Troy Tempest, becomes infatuated.
Comment: With its slightly campy kidult appeal, the series has lived on (in slightly re-edited form) in tv syndication markets, where it can still be found.
|Subconscious / Sea Wolf / Seawolf (2013?)
Scripted by Georgia Hilton (director)
A history professor at the US Naval War College helps explore a WWII sub mysteriously kept sealed at pierside. Aboard, his team is caught in a time warp that could change history as the rusty old boat somehow takes them to sea to refight a battle with a U-boat and a US destroyer.
Comment: This seems not to have had a general release. Produced with the help of Kickstarter donors, it is apparently the same film issued on DVD in the UK in 2015 as Sea Wolf or Seawolf and on PlayStation in France as USS Lionfish.
|Submarine Command / The Submarine Story (1951)
Scripted by Jonathan Latimer
This mainly shoreside drama set 1945-50 opens and closes with sub missions. The second opens in the last days of WW2, proceeds to a 5-year period where the protagonist cannot settle down after an unsatisfactory war experience and only resolves his problems when called back into service for the Korean conflict, but dramatically the final episode is minor compared to the 1945 sequence, where he left his wounded commander topsides when forced to crash dive during an enemy attack.
Comment: The final half hour mission-sequence is nothing special to see, taking place at night. The production claims to have been largely shot aboard real subs with official cooperation, and the ending confirms it as a flagwaver.
|Submarine Raider (1942)
Writer: Aubrey Wisberg
A wartime flagwaver obviously made just after Pearl Harbor, this has a US sub attacked by a Zero from a Japanese carrier, which it then pursues. The Zero has just machinegunned a lifeboat from another vessel; predictably only the female passenger survives, to go along on the revenge mission.
Comment: At 64 minutes, this is obviously a B movie (the sub and planes are models) but seems to hold the distinction of being the first film to deal with the US naval war against Japan.
|Submarine Seahawk / Submarine X-2 (1958)
Writers: Lou Rusoff, Owen Harris (Orville H. Hampton)
“For his first command in the Pacific war a by-the-book officer is ordered to take his submarine on a reconnaissance mission to locate a fleet of Japanese fighting ships the Allies have lost track of. At first, the rest of the crew resent his distant manner and the way he keeps avoiding taking on the Japs.” (IMDB)
Comment: A supporting feature for AIP double bills, made in the wake of Run Silent Run Deep, whose story setup it echoes. Some stock shots are the same as in Battle Of The Coral Sea [qv]. The only original moment comes at the end when warships sunk by the USAF raid which the sub has helped coordinate crash to the harbour bottom around them and nearly crush the sub.
|Submarine X-1 (1968)
Written by John C. Champion, Guy Elmes, Edmund North, Donald S. Sanford
An unpopular Canadian RN commander is assigned to a secret base on a Highland sea loch, to prepare an attack on the pocket battleship 'Lindendorf' in a Norwegian fiord using the new X-class midget-subs.
Comment: This was plainly inspired by the 1943 raid on Tirpitz, dramatised in Above Us The Waves, 1955 (qv). However the story is so heavily fictionalised that the battleship itself is given a made-up name. The actual mission only occupies the last half-hour.
|Thundersub / Uchu Kubo Buru Noa / Space Carrier
Blue Noah / Nave Anti-Espacial (Anti-Space Ship) (Japan 1979-1980)
Script: Hideaki Yamamoto, Seiji Matsuoka, Takashi Yamada
Known as Thundersub in its English-dubbed export version, this 24-episode anime tv series features a Super Submarine Aircraft Carrier, which itself can fly into space, fighting off an alien invasion in the mid-21st century.
Comment: This is another sf/fantasy riff on the storyline, where the sub turns into a spaceship.
|Torpedo Alley / Down Periscope (1952)
Script by Warren Douglas, Samuel Roeca
A guilt-stricken carrier-plane pilot crashes in the sea and is rescued by a sub; when the Korean War breaks out, he signs up to train for a dangerous sub mission to redeem himself.
Comment: As in Submarine Command (qv), this has the Korean War giving the protagonist a second chance, with the sub mission the last act after a lengthy 1945-50 section ashore. (NY Times: “although the climax, a Korean scouting mission, shapes up as a reasonably perky episode, "Torpedo Alley" remains a harmless but threadbare tribute to a far worthier subject.”)
|Torpedo Bay (Italy 1963) See Beta Som|
|Torpedo Run (1958)
Script by William Wister Haines and Richard Sale
This involves a voyage by the US sub into Tokyo Bay and then up to Alaska, all part of an obsessive quest by its captain to sink the Japanese carrier Shinaru, after his previous attempt sank the POW transport ship, being used as a screen, which was carrying his wife and child.
Comment: This must be the closest the genre comes to soap opera (we get flashbacks, complete with those optical ripple-effect transitions, to a family birthday party etc). The story is similar to Run Silent Run Deep, but it never becomes as confrontational re the skipper/XO conflict. The sub model looks ok in the minefield scene, but the drama is undermined by the use of tacky model surface ships not suitable for CinemaScope and Metrocolor.
|U 9 Weddigen / U 9 Weddigen, Ein Heldenschicksal
aus Vergangenen Tagen (Germany, 1926)
Writer: Willy Rath
The film itself now seems lost, but this was a biographical drama glorifying WWI U-boat 'ace' Otto Weddigen. His most famous exploit was in Sep 1914 sinking 3 British light cruisers inside an hour, killing over 1400 sailors; he died in another attack in 1915 when his sub was cut in half by HMS Dreadnought. A synopsis suggests a fictional episode was added where Weddigen's mother's passenger vessel is torpedoed by his U-boat.
Comment - Its long German title Ein Heldenschicksal aus Vergangenen Tagen translates as A Heroic Fate of Past Days.
|U-47: Kapitänleutnant Prien / U-47: Lieutenant
Commander Prien (Germany 1958)
Story by Udo Wolter
This drama commemorates a historic U-boat "ace" and his famous exploit of sinking the battleship Royal Oak in British Home Fleet's northerly anchorage, Scapa Flow in the first weeks of WW2. The middle act is set in Germany, where personal problems and disillusion with the Party leave the captain glad to be returning to sea for his final mission and a hero's death.
Comment: After the first act, the drama is apparently all fiction; Prien was reportedly an ardent Nazi, whose loss at sea in March 1941 was not announced by Germany until Churchill's public taunt "Where is Prien?" forced them to admit it. In the film version, the ending piles irony on irony.
Screenplay by David Ayer
An American sub crew captures the German Navy's Enigma coder/decoder and in the process hijacks a U boat, aboard which they are stranded, and face being shot at by both sides.
Comment - Notorious hijacking of history by Hollywood, which led to complaints in Parliament. The scriptwriter admitted the depiction was “a mercenary decision,” and the film was given a corrective disclaimer about the actual Royal Navy exploit it was based on. The film is othwrwise a showcase of standard scenes, like the captain ordering the boat to dive when he is wounded topsides. It reuses a plot device from We Dive At Dawn in regard to some captured Germans, and recycles German-crew dialogue from Das Boot.
|U-900 (Germany 2008)
Writers: Michael Gantenberg, Oliver Ziegenbalg
In 1944 Germany sends its last available sub on a secret mission from its Mediterranean base to the Baltic, but the new captain may be an imposter.
Comment - Not available for viewing in English but clips suggest a spoof of Das Boot, with a captain who looks like a Gaddafi impersonator.
|U-Boote westwärts! / U-Boat, Course West!
Writer: Georg Zoch
At the start of WW2, a U boat goes on several war patrols into the North Sea and has encounters with merchant ships carrying 'contraband' and British warships.
Comment - The title was taken from a 1931 memoir of a WWI U-boats which translates as 'U-boats Westward! My Travels To England, 1914-1918'. A Nazi wartime propaganda film obviously made with official backing.
|Undersea Raider 1943, see Close Quarters|
|Up Periscope (1959)
Scripted by Richard H. Landau, based on 1956 novel by 'David Masters' (=Robb White)
In 1942, a lieutenant is transported by sub to the Gilbert & Marshall islands, where he is to swim ashore underwater using new scuba gear, to infiltrate a Japanese base and photograph a code book unnoticed (!)
Comment - Made with USN cooperation, this studio programmer to promote Warners' rising new 'Maverick' star James Garner, is lifted out of B-picture league by widescreen colour filming. The proto-SEAL 'frogman' aspects are somewhat anachronistic and unconvincing, and the film is a showcase of standard scenes, though this time without any of the patriotic wartime dialogue.
|USS Seaviper (2012)
Scripted by Lynanne Rockhill
A US sub is sent to rescue some aircrew who were sent out to obtain aerial recon photos of a U-boat, U-235, delivering a uranium cargo to a Pacific island, to help Japan develop an A bomb. The sub delivers the uranium in the end to America's Los Alamos A-bomb facility.
Comment - This was evidently inspired by the same real events as the more realistic 1992 German film Das letzte U-Boot (qv). However no such U boats reached the Pacific. The plot here concentrates on the lone-sub-whose-mission-can-change-History, facing a chain-of-command conflict after being damaged, escaping a hovering Japanese destroyer, in order to get word about the uranium back to Pearl.
|The Valiant (1962)
Screenplay by Robert Mallet, Giorgio Capitani, Franca Caprino, Willis Hall, Keith Waterhouse from the Robert Mallet play
This dramatises the 1941 raid on Alexandria harbour by Italian frogmen, mounted on manned torpedoes [transported there by full-size sub], to attach limpet mines to the British battleship HMS Valiant, due to explode when it sails at dawn. Two divers are captured and interrogated aboard all night as to where the limpets are affixed.
Comment: This is from a stage play and most of the scenes are set aboard the battleship after the frogmen are captured. The 1953 I Sette Dell'orsa Maggiore aka Human Torpedoes [qv] dramatised the same raid.
|Virus (Japan 1980)
Written by Kinji Fukasaku [dir], Koji Takada, Gregory Knapp from 1964 Sakyo Komatsu novel
A post-apocalyptic survival story in which a sub mission plays a role when a germ-warfare plan gets out of hand. In 1982, a British sub makes atmospheric tests in the North Pacific, where the virus has wiped out everyone. The scene shifts to an Antarctic outpost of surviving scientists etc for over an hour. When the sub arrives, it sinks a Soviet sub with an infected crew, and is invited to land at the base, last outpost of the human race. Around 2 hrs in, it sails for Washington to try to defuse an automated nuclear response system before an anticipated earthquake triggers it and thereby its Soviet counterpart.
Comment: With an international cast, this is said to be the most expensive Japanese film made up till then. It is not a thriller but a gloomy On The Beach type drama. Instead of filming in Australia, there is Antarctic and Alaskan location work, the latter representing southern America, where the last few survivors of humanity huddle. The 'British' sub seen on location is actually Chilean but the interiors were shot aboard a Canadian sub. The pace is slow and there is a shorter 108 minute version, cut down from the original 156 mins, which did not find a market.
|Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (1961)
Written by producer-director Irwin Allen and Charles Bennett
A widescreen colour feature about a sub's mission to save the planet after the Van Allen Belt is set aflame by a meteor shower (!). The atomic submarine Seaview, privately built as a scientific reconnaissance vessel (it has giant viewing windows like those of Verne's Nautilus), travels from the Arctic to New York and on to the North Pacific to fire a missile that will burn the Van Allen Belt out 'harmlessly'. The flaming Belt is burning the earth up, so the plan is to saturate the sky with radiation (!) which will explode it into space.
Comment: With a plot based on a so-dumb-it's-scary notion of science, the captain must also deal with a minefield, pursuing UN subs trying to stop them saving the world, giant octopus and a mutinous crew, and a religious nut they found on an ice-floe, who tries to sabotage the mission.
|Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea [1964-8] TV
Written by: over 30 writers
Producer Irwin Allen’s followup to his hit 1961 feature [above], this would be the 1960s’s most successful sf-crossover ‘kidult’ series, at 110 hour-long episodes broadcast over four seasons. This equates to 110 successful missions by the Seaview saving the planet from sea monsters, Russian agents, mad scientists, dinosaurs, Nazis, mermaids, aliens, time travellers, werewolves and ….. well, you name it.
|We Dive At Dawn (UK 1943)
Script by Val Valentine, J. B. Williams
A British sub is sent on a mission to intercept and sink a new German battlecruiser as it leaves the Kiel Canal.
Comment: The first major British sub drama, on our shortlist (See here for further details)
|Yellow Submarine (UK 1968)
Script by Lee Minoff [story], Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn, Erich Segal, and [uncredited] Roger McGough
In this animated feature inspired by the Beatles song, the Fab Four are magically transported in the title vehicle from Liverpool to Pepperland by the sea in order to rid it of the invading Blue Meanies.
Comment: This is a one-of-a-kind work, a psychedelic fantasia of visual effects built around various Beatles songs.
|Yuryeong / Phantom: The Submarine (Korea 1999)
Writers: Joon Ho Bong, Joon-Hwan Jang
Korea's first nuclear submarine, ROKS Yuryeong, manned by a crew who have had their identities erased, heads into the Pacific on a 'do-or-die' secret mission.
Comment - Available on YouTube but hard to follow without subtitles. The film is classed as an action thriller and seems to be nearly all close interiors shot in a kinetic style with flash and blackout frames.
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