(director: William Graham; screenwriters: story by John C. Champion and Edmund North/Donald S. Sanford/Guy Elmes; cinematographer: Paul Beeson; editor: John S. Smith; cast: James Caan (Commander Bolton), Rupert Davies (Vice-Admiral Redmayne), David Sumner (Lt. Davies, RNVR), William Dysart (Lt. Gogan, RNR), Paul Young (Leading Seaman Quentin), Norman Bowler (Sub. Lt. Pennington); Runtime: 90; United Artsists; 1968-UK)

“A routine WW11 submarine action picture.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A routine WW11 submarine action picture featuring an unknown cast, though in a few years the film’s star, James Caan, was to get his breakthrough role in “The Godfather.” The film was shot on location in the north of Scotland, which substituted for the fjord in Norway where this actual story took place.

James Caan plays Lt. Commander Bolton a stern, no-nonsense, gung-ho sailor. He is just coming out of a Naval inquiry as to his decision to attack the heavily fortified German battleship ‘Lidendorf’ in a Norwegian fjord, whereby his submarine was severely damaged and 50 of his men lost their lives. He is cleared of all reckless error in judgment charges and is called into the office of Vice-Admiral Redmayne (Rupert Davies) to find out his next assignment. He is surprisingly given a promotion and told that his next assignment is a top-secret mission, where he is in charge of a training program in Scotland. He will train three volunteer specially picked crews for a commando mission to go through the nets and attack the German battleship again, but this time with three experimental small submarines given the name X — whose letter stands for experiment. The subs are 51 feet long, weigh 35 tons, and have a depth of 300 feet, and will take on a crew of four. On each side of the boat will be a deadly explosive amatol device.

Half of the film concerns the serious training the men undergo under the watchful eye of the stern Bolton. The usual war film clichés are present in large doses. The sailor (Young) who is disgusted with Bolton for pushing too hard fails in his exercise to loosen the bolts underwater and after being grounded because exhaustion sets in, he goes down again to show Bolton that he’s got the guts to be on this mission. This is strictly a tired formula device.

At the half-way mark, the first action occurs as the German paratroopers attack the secret training spot. The high command realizes after the attack that their position has been compromised and they rush the training through, as they want to attack the feared battleship while there is still an element of surprise about their secret subs. They are also afraid that if they wait any longer, the Germans will lauch a full-scale attack on the site and destroy their subs.

As the men cut through the nets in the fjord they are intercepted by German frogmen, who capture three of them. This action occurs mostly offscreen. It then becomes Bolton’s decision when to attack the ‘Lidendorf.’

A watchable but forgettable film. It’s a well crafted actioner with a terse and fast-paced story, and should be acceptable for those who don’t mind that the movie is one big cliché.