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SUBMARINE SEAHAWK(director: Spencer Gordon Bennett; screenwriters: Owen Harris/ Lou Rusoff; cinematographer: Gilbert Warrenton; editor: Ronald Sinclair; cast: John Bentley (Captain Paul Turner), Wayne Heffley (Lt. Commander Dean Stoker), Paul Maxwell (Lt. Bill Hallohan), Steve Mitchell (CPO Andy Flowers), Brett Halsey (Lieutenant (j.g.) David Shore), Hal Bogart (Radio Operator), Henry McCann (Seaman Ellis Bellis), Marilyn Hanold (Nancy), Jan Brooks (Ellen Turner), Mabel Rea (Maisie); Runtime: 83; AIP; 1959)
“A vigorously played AIP submarine B-film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A vigorously played AIP submarine B-film, with a no-name cast and low-budget special effects. All the enlisted men talk in an unnatural jargon, which is make-believe navy talk. It is one of those rare 1950s WW11 films where the Japs (If I can be 21st century politically incorrect and follow along with the film’s jargon) are not even cursed out — the men could have been fighting the Greeks and no one would have known the difference.

The sub goes by the name of Seahawk, and is celebrated as a fighting ship. The proud sub crew reacts with baseball cheers when the home team torpedoes a Jap destroyer and with boos when they can’t fire their ‘fish.’ It’s one of those ‘gung ho’ movies, where the only dissension comes from one of the officers who goes over-the-top by being too gung-ho.

I recommend this film for those who didn’t like “The Yellow Submarine” but like any other submarine film which doesn’t have a cast of rock singers. This is one of those films that has a simple plot and pads it with supposedly human interest stories. It highlights one character from among the officers and one from the enlisted men.

The new skipper of the Seahawk, Paul Turner (Bentley), is given command even though his captain, Dean Stoker (Heffley), gave him a negative report and the executive officer, Bill Hallohan (Maxwell), can’t stand him. They think he is too cold and academic to be in charge of his own boat. But their superiors pick him when the present captain is promoted to a desk jockey. Turner is a scholar, an expert in Japanese boats, and before the war was assigned to help the Japanese build their boats. The mission calls for the conversion of the submarine to one of reconnaissance. The orders are to find some 30-odd missing enemy war ships. By locating where the enemy is building up a reserve force, the Navy will know where to strike first.

Bespectacled Seaman Ellis Bellis (Henry) is from Kansas and looks like a nerd, doesn’t drink or look at women. He talks only about marrying his hometown farm girl Nancy. The men feel they should get him drunk and laid. The chief officer Andy Flowers (Steve Mitchell) is in charge of that detail and he gets him drunk and matched with a prostitute (Mabel). The fruition of the chief’s mischievous project comes close but the Shore Patrol comes to the nerd’s rescue just before he becomes active with the prostitute. They carry the inebriated sailor back to the sub for the emergency departure of the Seahawk.

The gist of the story is about the feelings the crew of the Seahawk have about their new captain, as they grumble about his inexperience and that he’s a coward because he doesn’t allow them to sink the near-by Japanese warships.

Turner must put up with the new radio officer (Halsey) who tries to sabotage the captain’s efforts with the men, and he even tries to take over command. He will be reclassified when they get back to Pearl, as Turner learns how to be tolerant while exercising his command. But Halsey’s strained performance nearly sabotaged the film.

The best scene was reserved for the climax with the men trapped in the Jap submarine nets. The American airplanes are destroying all the trapped ships, but it’s up to the captain to figure a way to get his leaky sub safely back to Pearl; and, as they say in Kansas, that ain’t easy Maisie!


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”