The Silent Enemy (1958 film)
|The Silent Enemy|
|Directed by||William Fairchild|
|Produced by||Bertram Ostrer|
|Screenplay by||William Fairchild|
|Based on||Commander Crabb|
by Marshall Pugh
|Music by||William Alwyn|
|Edited by||Alan Osbiston|
|4 March 1958|
The Silent Enemy is a 1958 British action film directed by William Fairchild. It stars Laurence Harvey as Lionel "Buster" Crabb and describes his exploits during World War II. Based on Marshall Pugh's book Commander Crabb, it was made following the publicity created by Crabb's mysterious disappearance and likely death during a Cold War incident a year earlier. It was the first Universal Pictures film in SuperScope
The film depicts events in Gibraltar harbour during the World War II, Italian frogman and manned torpedo attacks, although the film's depiction of those events is highly fictionalised. For example Crabb spent several months deactivating mines brought ashore by other divers before learning to dive himself. Also the divers didn't initially wear flippers. Crabb and Knowles were the first to use them, having removed them from the Italian chariot divers.
The story begins with a dramatisation of the Italian manned torpedo raid on Alexandria (1941) in which two British battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant were severely damaged. The British are worried that this new tactic will give the Italians naval supremacy in the Mediterranean, with the primary target for the Italians being the Royal Navy base at Gibraltar. To counter this threat, Bomb disposal expert Lionel Crabb (Harvey) is posted to Gibraltar. He creates an initially very small team of divers to intercept the Italian attacks and defuse the bombs. Meanwhile, from Algeciras in neutral Spain, an Italian expert on underwater operations, Antonio Tomolino (Foà), is secretly watching the British base in Gibraltar and planning new attacks.
After the Italians mount a failed attack upon a cruiser in Gibraltar, Crabb and his divers recover one of the manned torpedoes and begin to repair it, with the new somewhat stringent Petty Officer Thorpe (James) coming in to take over physical and diving training.
After a further series of attacks against ships in Gibraltar harbour and an attempt to recover secret documents from a wrecked aircraft, Crabb decides to visit Algeciras to discover where the Italians are operating from. After following a man with an Italian tattoo to an interned Italian ship, the Olterra, he discovers that the ship’s hold is being used as a workshop and base for the operations with an underwater door being used for the manned torpedo's and frogmen, which leaves them undiscovered by Spanish authorities. Crabb reports the discovery of the Olterra to his superiors but under the laws of neutrality, he cannot arrange an attack without top level authority.
Meanwhile, the Italians plan a major attack on a British convoy. Crabb decides to ignore orders and with the manned torpedo repaired he and another diver manage to infiltrate the docks at Algeciras launching a pre-emptive strike on the Olterra destroying the ship, workshop and the crew.
The next morning, with the convoy leaving Gibraltar, Thorpe informs Crabb that for his bravery in this operation he has been awarded the George Medal, commenting to his men "You all deserve the ruddy medal!".
- Laurence Harvey as Lieutenant Lionel Crabb, R.N.V.R.
- Dawn Addams as Third Officer Jill Masters, W.R.N.S.
- Michael Craig as Leading Seaman Knowles
- John Clements as the Admiral
- Sid James as Chief Petty Officer Thorpe
- Alec McCowen as Able Seaman Morgan
- Nigel Stock as Able Seaman Fraser
- Ian Whittaker as Ordinary Seaman Thomas
- Arnoldo Foà as Tomolino
- Gianna Maria Canale as Conchita
- Massimo Serato as Forzellini
- Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Rosati
- Carlo Giustini as Fellini
- Raymond Young as Celloni
- David Lodge as Sergeant
- Ewen Solon as Willowdale Captain
- Brian Oulton as Holford
- Howard Marion-Crawford as Wing Commander
- Cyril Shaps as Miguel
- Lee Montague as Miguel's Mate
- John Lee as Flag Lieutenant
- Terence Longdon as Lieutenant Bailey
- Ian MacNaughton as Sentry outside Admiral's Office
- David Fotheringham as Italian frogman
- Alan Webb as British Consul
- John Moffatt as Diving Volunteer
- Harold Siddons as Army Interrogation Officer
- Michael Brill as Naval Interrogation Officer
The film was announced in June 1957. Filming took place in England, Malta and Gibraltar.
Harvey was injured in the leg during filming in Malta, and had to go to hospital.
Michael Craig had been suspended by Rank for refusing the lead in The Gentleman and the Gypsy but was taken off it after James Woolf of Romulus offered Rank Craig's annual salary. Craig said Harvey "was good company, generous to his friends and, in spite of his reputation as a user, I liked him a lot".
- BRITISH PLAN FILM ON 'SILENT ENEMY': Laurence Harvey Will Star in Story Based on Life of Comdr. Lionel Crabb 'Ben Hur' Advances By THOMAS M. PRYOR The New York Times13 June 1957: 37.
- James Novel Submitted to Bergman; Injuries Hospitalize Harvey Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 20 July 1957: B3.
- Craig, Michael (2005). The Smallest Giant: An Actor's Life. Allen and Unwin. p. 79.