The Atomic Submarine (1959)

The Atomic Submarine (1959)
  • Time: 72 min
  • Genre: Sci-Fi | Thriller
  • Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet
  • Cast: Arthur Franz, Dick Foran, Brett Halsey


In the far and distant future of 1968, many ships and planes are crossing the North pole to transport passengers and cargo. However lately more than eight ships and seven submarines have vanished mysteriously. The Tigershark is sent out to investigate their whereabouts and – if possible – remove the cause of their disappearance. But the life form Commander Vandover and his crew encounter may be too powerful even for their weapons of newest technology…

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  • Following a series of attacks on cargo ships and, most notably, nuclear submarine’s, the Pentagon send their best ship, The Tigershark, to investigate. On board is Lieutenant Commander ‘Reef’ Holloway (Arthur Franz) and noted scientist Sir Ian Hunt (Tom Conway), who after examining the previous incidents and eye-witness statements, soon form the belief that they are dealing with some kind of underwater alien craft. Holloway’s attack-first-ask-questions-later approach puts him at loggerheads with young pacifist Dr. Neilson, Jr. (Brett Halsey), the son of a revered scientist. They soon discover their speedy enemy, and Holloway finds himself confronted by a one-eyed monster intent on world domination.

    There is a lot to criticise about The Atomic Submarine, regardless of the obvious budget limitations and drive-in aspirations. Sci-fi movies from the 1950’s and 60’s manufacture most of their charm from bad special effects and clunky dialogue, but The Atomic Submarine looks particularly ropey, with miniature toys and a fish-bowl filling-in for apparently state-of-the-art aquatic engineering and the great blue yonder. The first two-thirds of the film is extremely talky, which would be fine if not for the characters being little more than B-movie archetypes, either puffing their chest with patriotic defiance or providing some light comic relief.

    Yet the climax, which sees a lot of the crew massacred by the drooling extra-terrestrial (voiced by John Hilliard), proves worth the wait. It’s certainly formulaic, but it’s full of wobbly, retro sets and a genuinely creepy score by Alexander Laszlo, key aspects in what makes these films so fun to watch. The face-off between Holloway and the spaceman also contains some unintentionally hilarious dialogue. “At last Commander, we meet as your people say… face to face!” says the alien. “That’s a face?” Holloway replies. The Atomic Submarine is immediately forgettable, best watched late at night when you feel like you’re the only person left awake in the world, but this effortlessly likeable fluff.

    Rating: 3/5

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