There are lot of war themed movies to watch on Memorial Day. One that does not get a lot of attention but has considerable acclaim is The Enemy Below. Released in 1957 it tells the story of a battle between an American submarine destroyer captain (played by Robert Mitchum) and a German U-Boat commander (Curt Jürgens)during World War II.
As the story opens, we learn the crew of the American destroyer is not sure about their new captain, who recently lost a ship. Down below we learn the German submariner is a skilled and competent officer who is tired of the war. However once the submarine is detected, Mitchum’s Captain Murrell shows he is no “feather captain” but highly skilled at submarine tracking. Jürgens von Stolberg is highly skilled at evading. The battle of wits continues throughout the movie as each tries to out maneuver the other. We see the pressures it brings to both crews.
On the American destroyer one of the sailors suffers serious hand wounds from the launching of the depth charges. Murrell shows compassion for the sailor who had to have his fingers amputated. Von Stolberg has to deal with crew suffering from the pressure of having depth charges rattle the submarine. He helps calm one sailor who gets angry threatening others with a wrench. Then he plays a record over the intercom to raise the spirits of his men knowing it will be detected by the destroyer above.
And the ending, which I will not spoil here, is well worth watching. The movie never slows down and keeps you hooked. You come to admire both captains for their skill and caring about their crews. There is no senseless World War II jargon tossed about but a determination on both sides to win over the other. If you want a good war movie that is both thrilling and tells a great story, you will not go wrong in watching The Enemy Below.
Fans of Star Trek (the original series) will note a remarkable similarity with one of the top rated episodes Balance of Terror. In that episode Captain Kirk has to match wits with a Romulan commander (played by Mark Leonard who would later play Spock’s father)in much the same way as this movie does.