The Atomic Submarine
|The Atomic Submarine|
Theatrical release poster Reynold Brown
|Directed by||Spencer Gordon Bennet|
|Produced by||Alex Gordon|
|Screenplay by||Orville H. Hampton|
|Story by||Irving Block
|Music by||Alexander Laszlo|
|Edited by||William Austin|
|Distributed by||Allied Artists Pictures Corporation (US)
Warner-Pathé (original, UK)
|Running time||72 minutes|
The Atomic Submarine is a 1959 science fiction film starring Arthur Franz, Dick Foran and Brett Halsey, with John Hillard as the voice of the alien. The film was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and the script was adapted by Orville H. Hampton from a short story by Jack Rabin and Irving Block. The film is an alien invasion story that showcases the then new technology of nuclear submarines.
The film begins with a brief prologue. The film's narrator, Pat Michaels, describes how in 1909, Robert Peary had a world of trouble reaching the North Pole. He postulates that Peary would have been amazed that in a few decades that same pole he had such trouble reaching had become a major thoroughfare for civilian and military shipping. The prologue ends when the film tells of a futuristic prediction of cargo-carrying atomic submarines. One of those submarines is shown being destroyed by a mysterious undersea light. The loss of this submarine and several other ships alarms the world. Governments temporarily close the pole to traffic and convene an emergency meeting at the Pentagon.
Present at the meeting is Commander Dan Wendover (Dick Foran), the Captain of the atomic submarine Tigershark, and Nobel Prize winning scientist Sir Ian Hunt (Tom Conway). The United States Secretary of Defense Justin Murdock (Jack Mulhil) leads the meeting. He explains all that is known about the disasters in the Arctic. The Secretary then describes the high-tech capabilities of the Tigershark. These include a special hull and a mini-sub, the Lungfish, that can be stored inside the larger sub. The Secretary finishes the meeting by telling Captain Wendover that he is to take Hunt and the rest of the Tigershark's crew to find the cause of the ship sinkings and, if possible, eliminate it.
The next several scenes introduce the audience to Lieutenant Commander Richard "Reef" Holloway (Arthur Franz), the Executive Officer of the Tigershark. Also shown is how a submarine gathers its crew together on short notice and sets sail. Holloway is told that he will be bunking with the inventor of the Lungfish, Dr. Carl Neilson. At first he is thrilled. Holloway believes that his bunkmate is Dr. Neilson Sr., a scientist he reveres. To his dismay, Holloway learns that his bunkmate is instead Dr. Carl Neilson Jr. (Brett Halsey), a pacifistic scientist he dislikes.
The scenes after that show day-to-day life on an atomic submarine. After a time, the submariners do finally find the cause of the disasters: a saucer-shaped underwater craft with a strange light coming out of an eye-shaped window. The window is located at the top and in the center of the ship's upper dome. One of the Tigershark's scientists, Dr. Clifford Kent (Victor Varconi), briefly shows a photo of an Unidentified Flying Object taken from his days as a UFO investigator for the Air Force. Investigaging such phenomena was his job in those days. Because of that photo and its similarity to this vessel, the submariners began to realize that their quarry is an extraterrestrial lifeform. Inspired by the eye-shaped window, the crew nickname the spacecraft "Cyclops".
Commander Wendover orders the submarine's most powerful torpedoes fired on the saucer. The torpedoes reach the saucer, but are stopped short of it by a gel-like extrusion from the saucer, and they do not explode. While dismayed by this failure, the captain knows that he has to do something to stop the ship sinkings, so he orders the Tigershark to ram the spacecraft. The submarine's nose breaks into the lower side of the saucer and becomes trapped there.
Lieutenant Commander Holloway and Dr. Neilson then lead a team aboard the Lungfish and enter the spacecraft. Once inside, Holloway and crew find dark hallways with little illumination. It is then that Holloway gets his first telepathic message from the spacecraft's sole occupant, an octopus-like creature with only one eye. Holloway meets the creature "face to face". In the course of their conversation, the alien proves its hostile intent by savagely killing the other members of the away team. The creature further proves hostile by announcing to Holloway that it plans to bring several human specimens back to its home planet and eventually return with more of its kind to take over the Earth. Now realizing that he has a lot more to worry about than a few ship sinkings, Holloway attacks the alien by firing a Very pistol into its eye, temporarily blinding it. He races back to the Lungfish and returns to the Tigershark with Dr. Neilson. The Tigershark then breaks away from the saucer.
Holloway then tells Commander Wendover, "Captain, if that thing ever gets back to where it came from, the Earth and everyone on it is doomed." The submariners remember that their weapons failed the first time that they were used against the spaceship. They have an emergency meeting where Tigershark's group of scientists develop a plan to turn one of their ICBMs into a ground-to-air missile. Their plan is carried out with the agreement of Commander Wendover and the aid of several crewmen. When the saucer rises from the ocean and attempts to return home, the Tigershark fires the missile and destroys the saucer and its occupant, thus saving the Earth. In a postlude, Holloway and the young Neilson are reconciled, with the latter realizing that his pacifism was no match for hostile aliens.
- Arthur Franz as Lieutenant Commander Richard 'Reef' Holloway
- Dick Foran as Commander Dan Wendover
- Brett Halsey as Dr. Carl Neilson
- Paul Dubov as Lieutenant David Milburn
- Bob Steele as CPO 'Grif' Griffin
- Victor Varconi as Dr. Clifford Kent
- Joi Lansing as Julie
- Selmer Jackson as Admiral Terhune
- Jack Mulhall as Secretary of Defense Justin Murdock
- Jean Moorhead as Helen Milburn
- Richard Tyler as Seaman Don Carney
- Sid Melton as Yeoman Chester Tuttle
- Kenneth Becker as Seaman Al Powell
- Frank Watkins as Watkins
- Tom Conway as Sir Ian Hunt
- John Hilliard as Voice of Spaceman
- Pat Michaels as Narrator
Two later science fiction films also 'starred' nuclear submarines: Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in 1961 and the Japanese film Atragon in 1963. In all three films, a high-tech nuclear submarine of the near-future travels to the deepest part of the ocean in order to save the Earth from destruction.
Coincidentally, Arthur Franz, who played Lieutenant Commander Holloway in The Atomic Submarine, guest starred on an episode of Irwin Allen's 1964 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea television series.
- Wingrove, David. (1985). Science Fiction Film Source Book. Longman Group Limited
- The Atomic Submarine at the Internet Movie Database
- The Atomic Submarine at AllMovie
- The Atomic Submarine at the TCM Movie Database
- The Atomic Submarine essay at The Criterion Collection by Bruce Eder
- The Atomic Submarine screenplay
- The Atomic Submarine film trailer on YouTube
- The Atomic Submarine film on YouTube (free, complete in 8 parts)