The Atomic Submarine (1959)

This is kind of the odd man out in this box set: it’s the only American production (the others being British even if they tried not to look like it) and it’s the only one produced by Alex Gordon (whose younger brother Richard was behind the other three). Alex’s film career began auspiciously (?) as a writer for Ed Wood, before progressing to Roger Corman and AIP, and thence to this… which, to some extent, is a perfect example of what people mean when they say the only films that should be remade are the ones that didn’t really work first time round. Cos the central idea behind this is actually pretty good: ships and submarines keep going missing at the north pole, an exploratory mission finds the culprit is nothing less than a seagoing alien spacecraft. It’s just that, for whatever reason, the execution never really comes off. I suspect a fair amount of this was budgetary and logistical (one of the actors, Brett Halsey, is interviewed on the DVD and says something about principal photography taking just six days), some of it is probably mediocre direction, but equally ho-hum writing and characters don’t help either; there’s a fairly ham-handed antagonism between Halsey and Arthur Franz, the latter playing your standard military man who loathes the other man for being a pacifist who’s only there unwillingly because only he can operate some particular device. Interestingly, Halsey describes the top-billed Franz (who’d been the gunman in The Sniper) as uncommunicative and giving the impression on set that he felt he could be doing better than this (where Halsey was happy to be doing the work). To a certain degree I suppose that comes across in the film, and it’s a tension that’s not exactly to the film’s benefit. Even 72 minutes of it is rather more than it can support.

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