Monday, July 31, 2017

#6 We Dive at Dawn vs. #11 Up Periscope


PLOT:  We Dive at Dawn” is a British submarine movie released in 1943.  The Sea Tiger, commanded by Lt. Taylor (John Mills), returns from an unstellar cruise so we can get some soap operaish plot developments involving the crew.  Once these human interest stories have been initiated, the boat gets a secret mission to sink a German battleship.  Once this is possibly accomplished the sub has to land a shore party to blow some stuff up.  The plot does a good job balancing character development, the home front, and the action.  It builds to a rousing conclusion.  GRADE  =  B+

Up Periscope” was released in 1959 which makes it the last of the post-WWII sub movies.  It concentrates on a secret mission which involves landing a frogman (James Garner) on a Japanese island to steal a code book.  Unfortunately, Commander Stevenson (Edmund O”Brien) is a by the book type who does not want to endanger his boat even if it means winning the war.  There is a romance to bookend the movie and a duel with a destroyer.  The mission is fairly suspenseful, if predictable.  There is little character development and it lacks crew perspective.   Basically, it’s nothing special.  GRADE  =  B-

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  We Dive at Dawn  =  8
                                             Up Periscope  =  7

ACTING:   “We Dive at Dawn” has a good cast of Brits who you probably don’t know except John Mills.  In a bit of a a twist, he plays the ladies’ man instead of a member of the crew.  This is a bit of a stretch but he of course is perfect as the imperturbable captain when at sea.  The acting honors go to Eric Portman as the sad sack Hobson who is dealing with a wayward wife, but still finds it in himself to become an action hero.  It actually is believable. 

Much of the entertainment value for “Up Periscope” comes from the acting.  Garner and O’Brien are appropriately feisty towards each other.  It was Garner’s second significant role after “Darby’s Rangers” and he was still appearing in “Maverick”.  He was coming into his own as a leading man.  O’Brien was at the top of his career.  The supporting cast is fine and dominated by Alan Hale, Jr.  as the boat’s resident wolf!  Believe it or not.  He also provides the little comic relief in an otherwise serious movie.  GRADE =  B

HALFTIME SCORE:  We Dive at Dawn  =  17
                                   Up Periscope  =  15

TACTICS:  “We Dive at Dawn” has the Sea Tiger traveling on the surface during the daytime because they are in a rush to intercept the battleship.  However, it does crash dive when a plane is spotted.  “Looked like one of ours, so we dived immediately.”  That line alone tells you the screenwriter knows the dangers of sub warfare.  The sub easily goes through a mine field and rams its way through a net.  They fire six torpedoes at the battleship and have to dive before knowing what the effects were.  It was a lucky fire situation, however.  They get out of a depth charging by broaching which was nuts.  GRADE  =  D

“Up Periscope” is a strange bird when it comes to tactics.  Commander Stevenson loses the faith of his crew by staying on the bottom while a fleet passes over even though he has a crewman who is grievously injured in an accident.  This makes little sense because the Japanese are not even pinging for him.  Later, he risks the boat by traveling on the surface to get to the target island sooner, but when he gets there he refuses to risk the sub by going into the lagoon.  He changes his mind because there is a ship outside, which makes little sense.  GRADE  =  C

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  We Dive at Dawn  =  22
                                               Up Periscope  =  21

CLICHES:  In “We Dive at Dawn” leave is cut short because of a special mission.  A depth charging results in leaks.  They fool the Germans by jettisoning oil, debris, and a conveniently dead German.  They send a shore party ashore to wreck s*** and steal some fuel.  They don’t follow a ship through a net, they bash their way through!  GRADE  =  B-

In “Up Periscope”, the skipper and the frogman butt heads.  The sub is sent on a special mission.  Garner conducts a one-man commando raid to get a code book.  A man is left on deck during a dive.  Diesel oil is released to fool a Japanese destroyer that is depth charging them.  The sub has a black mess mate.  GRADE  =  C

FINAL SCORE:  We Dive at Dawn  =  29
                           Up Periscope  =  27

ANALYSIS:  Because of the categories, this matchup ended up closer than it should have been.  “We Dive at Dawn” is the much better movie.   It has better acting and develops the characters well, including some of the crew.  The dialogue is more realistic (provided you can wade through the accents) and the behavior on board more genuine.  It has a superior set piece that is one of the better shore party scenes in a sub movie.  On the other hand, “Up Periscope” has too many holes in the plot.  It also has a lame romance thrown in.

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