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Fox Home Entertainment presents
The Enemy Below (1957)

"They've taken human error out of war, Heini. They've taken the human out of war."
- Kapitän Von Stolberg

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: May 27, 2004

Stars: Robert Mitchum, Curt Jurgens
Other Stars: Russell Collins, Theodore Bikel, David Hedison, Frank Albertson, Arthur La Ral
Director: Dick Powell

Manufacturer: IFPI L803
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Naval warfare)
Run Time: 01h:37m:31s
Release Date: May 25, 2004
UPC: 024543115519
Genre: war


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- C+BC D+

DVD Review

Submarine movies tend to either work well or fail miserably. There's no real way to explain this phenomenon; it just is one of those eternal truths about the movies. The Enemy Below is bizarre in this respect, because by today's standards it is a dismal and shallow portrait of men at war. However, in 1957 it probably would have passed as a good piece of summertime fun.

Robert Mitchum stars as Captain Murrall, a former civilian whose freighter ship was sunk by a German u-boat at the start of World War II. Murrall and his men sail in the South Atlantic on a destroyer, lacking battle experience but hungry for the opportunity. Any viewers awaiting an interesting depiction of naval life won't find it on this ship. The crew is so fresh-faced and one-dimensional it could only exist on a Hollywood soundstage. Juxtaposed against Murrall's destroyer is the story of Kapitän Von Stolberg (Curt Jurgens) and his German u-boat. Von Stolberg's mission is to intercept the British and capture their codes, but this changes when Murrall detects the German vessel on sonar. For about 80% of the movie, Murrall and Von Stolberg match wits at sea, each of them trying to do their duty with honor. The highlight of The Enemy Below is its portrayal of the Germans. Von Stolberg isn't a killer Nazi, but an old man fighting for his country—just like the Americans.

The problem isn't that The Enemy Below is a bad movie. It's actually a pretty entertaining yarn, despite some dated special effects. As opposed to today's blockbusters that take themselves too seriously, director Dick Powell doesn't take his story seriously enough. Was Powell's target audience interested in a preachy epic about the cost of war? No, but that doesn't mean he had to ignore the complexity of the men who fight wars. The movie clocks in at barely over an hour and a half, so what harm could have come from adding 20 minutes of character development? Instead of having a solid two-hour drama, we have a run-of-the-mill action movie with mostly nameless faces that we don't care about. We get occasional back stories about some of the characters that are itching for resolution, but they never come into play during the story.

The movie does have its moments. Some of the chase scenes are well staged and can grab even a modern viewer's attention. The endless horizons are well captured by the CinemaScope cameras, and there's nothing quite like a 1950s musical score. Mitchum looks the part of a hero and he talks the talk, but the real star is Curt Jurgens. Despite having primarily stilted dialogue, Jurgens makes Von Stolberg an intelligent antagonist that draws on our sympathy. However, his efforts are in vain. The Enemy Below serves as a nice distraction while you watch it, but the lack of character development makes it impossible for the movie to plunge into the deep.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Fox continues their standard of commendable transfers with The Enemy Below. By no means is this reference quality, but Harold Rosson's cinematography gets a solid 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. Fleshtones are accurate, depth is maintained, and images are film-like. None of the colors are especially vibrant, however. Grain is noticeable, particularly towards the beginning, but it's not distracting. A few print defects are present throughout, but that is to be expected considering the age of the movie.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoSpanish, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
4.0
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The major disappointment of this presentation comes from the audio. Fox has provided an English Dolby Digital 4.0 track, along with Spanish and French mono tracks. The Dolby Digital track gives a minimal exercise to a home theater system. The surround speakers occasionally play the score, but mostly are reserved for an irritating high-pitched sound effect that doesn't seem to have any purpose. Is it supposed to be the sound of the u-boat's engine? Perhaps, but the sound is so undistinguished that it's hard to tell why it's there. Dialogue is clear, however, and the left and right main speakers get sporadic workouts in crowd and torpedo scenes.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring 13 Rue Madeleine, The Blue Max, The Desert Fox, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Sink the Bismarck!
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:49m:16s

Extras Review: Like most of the titles in Fox War Classic series, The Enemy Below has little in terms of extras. The original theatrical trailer is presented in nonanamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen and 2.0 Dolby stereo. Accompanying it are trailers for 13 Rue Madeleine, The Blue Max, The Desert Fox, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, and Sink the Bismarck!.

Aside from the trailers, there are only three short Movietone news featurettes about German u-boats. First is The War Situation (02m:47s), which gives a brief description of the naval battles in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. Second is U-Boat Capture by Plane (:29s), an extremely brief news report about the capturing of a u-boat. The final featurette is Inside the German U-Boat Base at Lorient, France (01m:25s), which gives a brief explanation of the history surrounding the u-boat base, while providing some interesting shots of the structure.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

Think of The Enemy Below as 1957's prelude to U-571. While watching it, you can't help but be entertained, yet neither can you help thinking of better war films that take the time to develop interesting characters. Fox has done a nice job restoring the visuals, but the audio and extras are not up to snuff. Only buy it if you are a die hard World War II fan.

 


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