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In the Periscope: Submarine Standouts

Movies* From the silent era to the current 'K-19,' undersea adventures have been a staple. 'Das Boot' is regarded as the best.

July 24, 2002|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Submarines have been favorite movie subjects since the earliest days of cinema. From such silents as "The Aerial Submarine" (1910) and "Submarine Chase" (1917) to "K-19: The Widowmaker," which opened Friday, submarine movies have come in myriad forms, including war films, fantasy adventures, comedies and even an animated pop-art musical. Here's a look at some of the more notable submarine films that have floated by over the years.

"Submarine" (1928): This effective Frank Capra thriller, starring Jack Holt and Ralph Graves, deals with the rescue of a submarine sunk off the San Diego coast during exercises that trap the crew some 400 feet below the surface.

"Devil and the Deep" (1932): Tallulah Bankhead is at her melodramatic best in this deliciously silly 1932 drama as the wife of a jealous submarine commander (Charles Laughton). Gary Cooper, a lieutenant on his sub, just happens to be having an affair with Bankhead. Laughton seeks revenge and the trio ends up on a crippled submarine. Cary Grant, in one of his earliest roles, plays another officer on board the craft who catches the eye of Bankhead.

"Crash Dive" (1943): Tyrone Power, Dana Andrews and Anne Baxter headline this World War II action-adventure that won an Oscar for its special effects. The battle sequences are still effective, but the story, which finds the sub lieutenant and his commander in love with the same girl, is strictly standard issue.

"Destination Tokyo" (1943): Eleven years after he appeared in "Devil and the Deep," Cary Grant headlined this action-packed World War II flick. Grant plays the stalwart commander of a U.S. submarine who sneaks the sub into Tokyo Bay to gain information for the first air raid over Tokyo.

"We Dive at Dawn" (1943): Anthony Asquith directed this patriotic British World War II flick starring the always dependable John Mills as the commander of an English submarine sent to sink a new German battleship. The mission leads the crew so far from home base that the sub begins to run out of fuel.

"Submarine Command" (1951): John Farrow--Mia's father--directed this seaworthy World War II drama that explores the personal and professional lives of a submarine crew. William Holden, Nancy Olsen and William Bendix star.

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954): Walt Disney's fanciful and exciting adaptation of the Jules Verne adventure novel is jampacked with then-cutting-edge special effects, fast-paced action and strong performances. The story revolves around a ship sent to investigate a rash of mysterious sinkings. It encounters the brilliant but mad Captain Nemo, who commands the technologically advanced submarine, the Nautilus. Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre star in this family film directed by Richard Fleischer.

"The Enemy Below" (1957): Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens star in this no-nonsense World War II thriller ably directed by Dick Powell. Mitchum is the captain of a U.S. destroyer who engages in cat-and-mouse maneuvers in the Atlantic with the erudite Jurgens, the commander of a German sub.

"Run Silent, Run Deep" (1958): Robert Wise directed this taut World War II thriller--sort of a twist on "Moby Dick"-- starring Clark Gable as a stoic submarine commander who is obsessed with sinking a specific Japanese ship. Burt Lancaster plays the strong-willed lieutenant who is always locking horns with Gable. Jack Warden, Don Rickles and Brad Dexter head the sturdy supporting cast.

"Operation Petticoat" (1959): Cary Grant finds himself submerged once again in Blake Edwards' giddy World War II farce. Grant plays a by-the-book commander who is given a rather decrepit and pink-colored sub to navigate in the Pacific. Tony Curtis also shines as his fast-talking con man of an executive officer.

"Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (1961): A silly action-adventure written and directed by the master of movie disasters, Irwin Allen. It stars a stiff Walter Pidgeon as the admiral of a U.S. nuclear submarine whose mission is to save the Earth from the Van Allen radiation belt that has caught on fire. Of course, there are even more fireworks among the crew, which includes Joan Fontaine, Barbara Eden and Frankie Avalon (who also croons the dreadful theme song).

"Yellow Submarine" (1968): Gorgeous, clever and groovy animated musical adventure in which the Beatles rescue Pepperland from the evil Blue Meanies. Based on the Beatles' hit tune from 1966, the score includes such Fab Four standards as "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" as well as the peppy "All Together Now."

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