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  • Not every film of a great director is filled with identifying and interesting touches, and this is a case in point. (Having sat through three such films yesterday -- the others being "Slightly French" and "Sleep, My Love" -- the point was made ad nauseum.) Not a bad picture, but a pretty dull one. The never-very-interesting Macdonald Carey is the leading man, and the supporting cast is generally lacking in interest (particularly the US G-men, who seem barely to be professional actors), but leading lady Marta Toren has moments of interest (and is quite beautiful), and it is always nice to see Carl Esmond (a/k/a Willy Eichberger), a character actor who lived to the ripe old age of 102 and began his career with a memorable performance in Ophuls's "Liebelei." On the whole, though, this is a film for those (like me) who feel obliged to see everything directed by the great Sirk -- who, when he was fully engaged, was among the greatest.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    MYSTERY SUBMARINE 1950

    A rather strange Nazi's in South America mixed in with cold war monkey business film. The film is set several years after the end of World War Two.

    Macdonald Carey headlines this Douglas Sirk directed film with help from, Marta Toren, Robert Douglas, Carl Esmond and Ludwig Donath. Ex-German scientist, Ludwig, is vacationing on Cape Cod with his aide, Marta Toren. Toren is approached by a man while out walking the beach. The man calls her by name and says he is a friend of her husband. Marta finds this odd since her husband had been killed on a U-boat during the war.

    The man, Carl Esmond, swears her husband is still alive, and wants her to join him. There is however something that Toren must do to help arrange this. Toren and Ludwig are having an outing the next day on a yacht. She is to sabotage the radio at a certain time.

    Toren does the deed and soon there is a U-boat surfacing near the yacht. Esmond and several sailors in Nazi uniforms board the yacht. They grab up Toren and the scientist type, Ludwig. They are transferred to the submarine. Then the U-boat puts a torpedo into the yacht, sinking it. There are no survivors.

    Miss Toren now discovers that she has been duped. Her husband did die during the war. The whole thing was a plot by the Captain and crew of the renegade U-boat. They intend to sell Ludwig to the Soviets for a tidy sum. The U-boat sets sail for the northern coast of South America. The US Government is not amused that one of their scientists is gone. They investigate the ship's wreckage for clues. They soon put two and two together and get "torpedo". They even figure out that it was a German torpedo.

    Macdonald Carey, an ex-sub officer, a doctor, and a German speaker, is drafted in to help in the search for the missing Ludwig. Ludwig has a weak ticker and the U.S. would hate to have him die. The Americans, by the process of elimination, decide to hunt down South American way.

    Carey spends time in a small boat going up and down the various rivers and coves dotting the coast. Needless to say, he finds said sub hiding up one of the rivers. The Nazi guards soon have a grip on the man and hustle him to the Captain, Robert Douglas. It is a good thing Carey was given a cover as a former German Naval officer. And it so happens that the German do need some medical help. Ludwig is not coping well with confinement.

    Carey is soon at work on Ludwig and the man improves. He is let in on the plan to sell Ludwig and is offered a cut. Needless to say he accepts. Now he just needs to get a message to the US Navy. Needing more medicine the Nazi bunch pull a late night raid on a small hospital just up the coast.

    Carey tries to leave a message but it is discovered by Esmond. The Germans think about killing Carey, but concern over Ludwig's health stops them. A dead scientist brings no cash. Locked up with Toren, he gets the whole story from the woman. She will do anything to redeem herself.

    The US Government types hear about the theft of the drugs. They are of course just the ones needed for Ludwig's heart problems. They send off a Navy anti-sub group, to have a look. They also have the area patrolled by aircraft.

    It is now time for the U-boat to head for the meeting with the Red ship. The submarine is spotted and all US forces converge on it. The destroyers drop a few depth charges hoping to scare the German's to the surface. They do not want to kill Ludwig or Carey. The U-boat dives deep and it looks like they will get away, but, Toren manages to set off the emergency flares. These alert the Navy to the U-boat's new heading.

    A fresh round of depth charges damages the sub. The Germans pull the old gag of firing life savers, and other assorted items out a torpedo tube. This, and by the release of some fuel oil, they hope to fool the Americans. It seems to work as the attack stops. The German's renew their trip to the rendezvous with the Soviets.

    At the meeting, all seems okay as the exchange is made. However, the German's have been hoodwinked. The US Navy is all over the ship. It seems that on one of the life preservers, Carey had written the rendezvous coordinates. The Navy had raced ahead and grabbed the Red ship, then, they just waited. With Ludwig, Toren and Carey safely on the ship, several Navy bombers put paid to the U-boat's account.

    This is not one of director, Douglas Sirk's better films. Sirk, was another of the German film-makers who had fled Nazi Germany. He started off in Hollywood with several decent film-noir, "Lured", "Shockproof", "Sleep my Love". He would later score big in the later 1950's with films like, "Written on the Wind", "All that Heaven Allows", "Magnificent Obsession" and "Imitation of Life".

    This one however just does not work, with poor writing and the actor's looking, "all out to sea".

    Swedish actress Mara Toren managed to pump out ten films during her five years in Hollywood. She would die at age 30 of a cerebral hemorrhage.
  • Her husband was killed during the war. Yet Märta Torén is told that he is alive. She and scientist Ludwig Donath are taken about a submarine... which turns out to be a U-boat commanded by Robert Douglas, engaged by an unnamed enemy to deliver Donath, Douglas is despicable, of course, but even more despicable is Macdonald Carey, who seems to be a German doctor, part of Douglas' crew.

    Douglas Sirk's first movie under his long-term contract with Universal is a slow Cold War thriller, filled with the sort of warm-blooded characters amidst the cold-blooded creatures who control the society she moves among: Douglas, of course, who tells her she will be his; the US Attorney who seems intent on trying her for treason; even Carey, at first.

    Although the first half of it is set in an uncertain and mysterious world to the audience, the second half turns into one of those submarine war movies. It is informed with paranoia, that the war is not over. It seems to have been the way Universal thought one could make one of those movies without setting it during the Second World War, a subject that was already growing stale to the public. It would return in the form of service comedies.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Douglas Sirk was finally an uneven director.It goes without saying that his masterpieces are melodramas and that the middle of his career contains his weakest efforts ,with the possible exception of "the first legion" a curious religious film and "thunder on the hill" another somewhat religious one.He never really impressed me with westerns ("Taza ,Son Of Cochise" ) or thrillers ("sleep my love" ) or adventures ("captain Lightfood " is good but not outstanding) or comedies ("no more room for the groom" being probably his best of the genre).

    His major works are to be found in his German career ("La Habanera" "Stützen Der Gesellshaft" "Zu Neuen Ufern" ) and in the fifties melodramas ("All that Heaven allows" the influence of which was huge on European directors such as François Ozon or Fassbinder "The tarnished angels" "written on the wind ",the Stahl remakes "magnificent obsession" and "imitation of life" ).But his masterpiece at least to my eyes remains his masterful " a time to live and a time to die" from (and with) E.M.Remarque.

    The first comment on this movie was so negative it was almost a good surprise when I saw for the first time "submarine" yesterday.Yes,the screenplay is far-fetched;yes,the actors are average;yes ,the flashback is not a good idea ,cause it ruins much of the interest since we know from the start that the girl is no traitor.The moral would be: beware of clams fishers when you walk along the beach ! It might take you farther than you may think.

    Thanks to a past-its-use by date medicine ,we know that the action takes place after 1947 ,but the political background remains very vague. There's no real chemistry between the two leads and that they could get married is hardly believable.

    What partially saves this movie -which is not worst than "Taza" or "Sign of the Pagan" ,even better- is that it does not lack tempo and it packs a lot of events in 78 minutes only.It's passably entertaining stuff ,which is not so bad .

    The screenplay displays similarities with Rene Clement's movie from 1946 called "Les Maudits" in which a doctor was kidnapped and taken to a German submarine just after the war.That French movie is much superior to Sirk's.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'm not a Douglas Sirk fan, but this one I thought was masterfully directed. Stunningly photographed too by Clifford Stine! Alas, this improbable adventure thriller begins to lose its grip about three- quarters of the way through -- mostly due to the very mediocre and totally uninspired acting of the miscast Macdonald Carey who turns his hero into a very flaccid figure indeed! Robert Douglas is not happy in his role either and is forced to struggle manfully -- but utterly unconvincingly -- with a German accent. Fortunately, production values are exceptionally lush. If we rank the movie as a "B" feature, then it definitely emerges as superior movie fare.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    *** This review contains spoilers *** This movie shows just how much you could do in 1950 with but a small budget, some ingenuity in the writing, and, as film-makers of the day used to say, "the cooperation of the United States Navy".

    The premise is that a German U-boat has escaped the general German surrender at the end of World War Two five years earlier and is practicing piracy out of an improvised hidden base somewhere in South America. Its stereotypically haughty, autocratic (not to mention, aristocratic) and diabolical Nazi German commander has a plan, though, to retire from this career that must sooner or later come to an end (the boat hasn't had a proper overhaul in six years!), deciding to use his boat for one last foray to effect the kidnap of an ailing European scientist of value to the security of The Free World so he can sell him to an undisclosed (but clearly, Soviet-aligned Communist) enemy for a fortune in cash. The United States seeks to find and recover the scientist by use of a program of secret agents operating undercover in South America.

    Thus the movie seeks to cross the then-emerging "G-Man" Cold War counter-espionage genre with a submarine movie and concomitant action at sea (with the obligatory boy-spy-meets-tainted-girl-with-a-foreign-accent angle)and that's about what you get here. The action uses very little in the way of special effects, relying instead upon actual action footage of U.S. naval vessels, aircraft, and explosive ordnance. The submarine angle is surprisingly well-done for a B-movie and (speaking as a former submariner) was clearly decently technically advised. The loan of a veteran American World War Two Fleet Submarine to portray the U-boat in all the interior and the vast majority of exterior shots is jarring to the cognoscenti, however (as is perhaps the terminology, which is about 100% U.S. Navy standard submarine procedure), a substitution not unlike casting Elizabeth Taylor in the Marilyn Monroe part in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH, on the theory that one rising young starlet is as good as another.

    The actress in the lead, Marta Toren, similarly, was billed in her day as "the next Ingrid Bergman", and in that regard it is not hard to see why. Brunette and European, one wonders if she might not have learned her acting by actively studying Bergman films hour after hour on end, so similar are her mannerisms and even her vocalizations in many places. The male lead looks like he might have been billed as "another Robert Mitchum" except that he has nowhere near the presence of Bob. The remaining figures are pretty typical examples of classic European types and B-movie bureaucrats you used to see in movies and television of that era. The musical score is likewise very generic for the period. The one bit that really impressed me was how the story wraps up at the end with a surprising bit of ingenious writing in lieu of what seemed would be another inevitable potentially complicated and expensive action sequence (or at least uninteresting 1950's two-minute shoot-out of some kind), and with the writers actually indulging in a self-congratulatory joke by having the villain actually declare out loud at the denouement, "how ingenious!"

    I guess the movie's main failing is that it seems a bit contrived as well as a bit slow even though it really shouldn't be. Overall, this wouldn't be a half bad made-for-TV-movie if there had been any such thing in 1950, and so I give it a "6" -- not must-see, but competent and tolerable.