Seas Beneath

"OK"

Seas Beneath Review


John Ford directed this early sound film programmer that is short on any kind of plot that makes sense but crackles with high seas action.

In this World War I yarn, unflinching U.S. Navy Captain Bob Kingsley (George O' Brien -- all smugness and self-assurance) is in charge of a "mystery ship" -- a schooner posing as a merchant vessel decked out with an immense cannon hidden in a giant box -- sent out to hunt down notorious German U-Boat 172 and its dashing commander Franz Schiller (John Loder). It's not much of a secret since when they land in a Spanish port riddled with undercover German spies -- including the luscious blonde Anna Maria (Marion Lessing), who takes a liking to Bob but also happens to be Schiller's sister -- Schiller is there with his boat refueling. Nevertheless, Bob and Schiller continue with the gentlemanly art of war and when they run into each other in a cantina they toast each other with Schiller exiting with, "Until our next meeting." Meet they do, in a rousing battle on the open seas, submarines and ships sinking along with the plot.

But then, this is nothing but a popcorn movie and Ford doesn't dawdle with too much exposition. O'Brien saunters out to meet the crew and blankly tells them (and us), "Our main object is to sail out there and be torpedoed by enemy U-Boats."

After getting right to the point, Ford concentrates on some amazing camerawork shot on location in mid-ocean and his camera travels from the main deck to the top mast and even emerging from the ocean from a submarine. This location work gives the film energy and excitement, which is somewhat diffused once the crew sets down in the port town. But it revs up again once they take to sea for the big submarine battle.

Along with the location footage, Ford offers some amazing stunt work that would give Buster Keaton pause -- one-take shots that reveal no fakery. In the opening sequence, a man leaps from the top of the main mast and dives into the ocean to rescue a floundering sailor. In another sequence, also in a single shot, a sailor sneaking aboard a German vessel is seen in the foreground on the American ship and he submerges into the sea, swims out to the German ship in the distance and then climbs up a rope onto the ship. Zowie!

Ford doesn't pussyfoot around with fake accents for the Germans or have them speak in BBC English to show how foreign they are from the down-to-earth Americans. Instead, he just has the Germans speak German, which lends another layer of reality to this comic book saga.

At the end of the film, the victors salute the vanquished and everybody heads home. In Seas Beneath the enemies are all gentlemanly contestants in a big game called War. Adversaries respect each other and if some has to get killed, well, as Schiller remarks, "War is war." And that is what dates the film the most.

Torpedoes away!



Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 29th March 1931

Production compaines: Fox Film Corporation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

IMDB: 5.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: George O'Brien as Cmdr. Robert 'Bob' Kingsley, Marion Lessing as Anna Marie Von Steuben, Mona Maris as Fraulein Lolita, Walter C. Kelly as Chief Mike 'Guns' Costello, Warren Hymer as 'Lug' Kaufman

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