Monday, August 14, 2017

#1 Das Boot vs. #9 Above Us the Waves


DIALOGUE:  “Das Boot” has a good mixture of dialogue and action.  The dialogue is divided between the officers and the crew.  The officers are a heterogeneous lot and their conversations offer a variety of takes.  The captain in particular offers a cynical, war-weary view of the war.  When he observes the men carousing before they go on patrol, he says:  “Scared f***ers.  They need sex as much as the infantry needs alcohol.”  He is not a man of many words, however.  His facial expressions do his talking for him.  The sailor banter is crude as you would expect.  GRADE  =  B

There is nothing special about the dialogue in “Above Us the Waves”.  It’s a very British movie so the dialogue is sparse.  There are no speeches and little exposition.  There is some humor of the British ilk.  Very dry.  GRADE  =  C

                                             Above Us the Waves  =  6

SPECIAL EFFECTS:  “Das Boot” is not famous because of it special effects.  There is little undersea footage.  The depth charge scenes eschew the descending cans imagery.  The explosions themselves are well-done and the effects on the sub interior are the best of any sub movie.  The sound effects are also the acme.  The effects for the burning tanker are awesome and there is a bomb laden final scene that saved the best pyrotechnics for last.  GRADE  =  B

“Above Us the Waves” has some fine underwater camerawork.  It was obviously done in a pool in daylight, but I am fine with that considering when it was made and for how much.  These shots include a sequence that includes the cutting of a submarine net, going under a torpedo net, and then placing some limpet mines on the hull of a ship.  However, the scene where one of the subs gets trapped under the Tirpitz is underwhelming.   GRADE  =  C+

HALFTIME SCORE:  Das Boot  =  16
                                   Above Us the Waves  =  13

ACTION:   One of the things that makes “Das Boot” so realistic is that it is not nonstop action.  There are long stretches where the sub sees no action.  It is frustrating for them, but not for us.  The reaction of the officers and crew are fascinating.  The action we get is pretty much confined to depth chargings and the efforts of the crew dealing with the damages from them.  GRADE  =  C

 “Above Us the Waves” is light on action.  It’s more of a claustrophobic thriller. It’s as slow moving as the mini-subs.  But no one advertised it as an adrenalin rush.  It does build well to the attack on the Tirpitz.  GRADE  =  C

                                              Above Us the Waves  =  19

ACCURACY:  It is hard to judge the accuracy of “Das Boot” because it is based on a novel that is based on an actual u-boat patrol.  The movie is more realistic than accurate.  It gets the details and vibe right.  The attitudes and behavior of the submariners are authentic.  It lays the frustration and cynicism on a bit thick considering this was not the low moment in the war for the u-boats.  There was an actual u-boat and the book author is represented by the naval correspondent Werner.  However, the actual U-96 did not experience the incidents covered in the movie.  Since it does not claim to be a true story, I am going to grade it mainly on its accuracy in depicting life on a u-boat.  GRADE  =  B

“Above Us the Waves” is based on Operation Source which was the attempt by Royal Navy mini-subs to sink the German battleship Tirpitz at its anchorage in Norway.  It also covers the original plan which was to try to use Chariot manned torpedoes to attach mines.  That mission failed as depicted in the film.  The action by the X-craft is pretty close to what happened.  One of the subs was lost mysteriously, probably to fire from the Tirpitz.  The other two placed their side cargoes under the warship and two of them exploded causing significant damage that put it out of action for six months.  The two successful craft tried to escape, but were taken under fire and had to surrender.  Six men were captured and two were lost.  GRADE  =  A

FINAL SCORE:  Das Boot  =  30
                           Above Us the Waves =  28 

ANALYSIS:   “Above Us the Waves” is not a traditional sub movie.  It might not have made the tournament if I could have found another movie where a torpedo was fired.  I’m glad I did this tournament because I might not have run across this little gem.  And it is admirably accurate in dramatizing an operation that I had not been familiar with.  Still, it’s hard to pit it against possibly the most acclaimed sub movie.  The categories this round did not really play into the strengths of “Das Boot”.  It is no doubt the better of the two movies so it deserves to move on.


  1. I'm rooting for Das Boot all the way.

  2. Hardly a little gem, its a very well known British war film and regarded here as a classic.


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