Atomic Submarine (1959)
By: Paul Ryan on November 7, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 72 minutes
The Movie
Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet
Starring: Arthur Franz, Dick Foran, Brett Halsey, Paul Dubov
Writer: Orville H. Hampton
Country: USA
Some time in the near future (and by "near future" I mean the 1960s) the Arctic Circle has become the world's key trade route, courtesy of a fleet of massive nuclear submarines. When one of these super subs is attacked and destroyed by a mysterious force, the USAS - Under Sea Atomic Submarine - Tiger Shark, skippered by the no-nonsense Commander Dan Wendover (Dick Foran) and seconded by the heroic Reef Holloway (Arthur Franz) is despatched to investigate. Aided by a trio of scientists (one a peacenik with father issues, another is a refined Brit, and the other a mittle-European who sounds like Bela Lugosi), the crew of the Tiger Shark soon discover that the cause of the attacks is not of this Earth. Well at least it wasn't those damn Commies…

The Atomic Submarine is an amusing slice of b-grade sci-fi hokum. Directed by veteran serial helmer Spencer Gordon Bennet, the film moves at a brisk clip, which always helps with a film this cheesy. Special effects are a mixture of hilariously hokey model work and ample stock footage of varying age, quality and grain. Characters are expectedly two-dimensional and acted with appropriate conviction, be it the square-jawed military kind or the furrowed-brow scientist variety. Particularly chucklesome is Pat Michaels' booming, ultra-serious, often absurd narration, with such gems as "the strangest, most fearful voyage ever made by a submarine, atomic or otherwise!"

It takes a fair bit of screen time to get to the monster stuff, but it's worth it for the dodgy, one-eyed alien beastie that kills people in a blur of bright lights, smoke and negatived film, aided by the odd malfunctioning cardboard airlock. So if you're in the mood for some vintage fifties sci-fi corn, you can do worse than to check this one out
The video transfer appears - like a lot of Umbrella/Madman titles - to be an NTSC conversion, but ultimately doesn't look too bad. There's good detail and only a few nicks and scratches in the print. The image seems to be a little cropped at times, but that's only noticeable when there's text on the screen.
The cover says Dolby 2.0 stereo, but there's nothing much to distinguish it from a mono track. It's a little tinny at times, but generally fine.
Extra Features
Trailer (59secs): "Tomorrow's fear becomes today's nightmare!" A brief, self-serious trailer that largely plays down the sci-fi stuff.

Alex Gordon Trailers: Trailers for four other titles from this film's producer, Alex Gordon. First up is 1958s The Fiend Without a Face (4x3ws, 1.50m), full of deadly brain monsters and stiff upper lips. Next is 1959s First Man Into Space (4x3ff, 1.33m ), which asks, "can a motion picture foresee the future?" If that future is supposed to be one where all astronauts get turned into shambling, blood-sucking monsters from exposure to "cosmic radiation", then the answer sadly, is no. From here we come to the 1958 Boris Karloff opus The Haunted Strangler (4x3ws 1.52m), a period horror tale with Karloff a gentle writer with a deadly split personality. Lastly is another Karloff pic, the 1958 tale of graverobbing and drug abuse, Corridors of Blood (4x3ws, 1.36m). It promotes itself as "a N-E-R-V-O-R-A-M-A shocker", whatever that is…

Umbrella Propaganda: Trailers for Biggles (4x3ff, 2.05m), The Day the World Ended (4x3ff, 1.40), The Time Guardian (4x3ws 1.28) and The Shape of Things to Come (4x3, 30secs). These trailers are all very amusing, particularly the eighties-tastic Biggles preview.
The Verdict
The Abyss it is not. Heck, its not even Gerry Anderson's Stingray. Nevertheless, Atomic Submarine is silly, square and dumbly enjoyable. While not packed with quite the level of extras as the Region 1 Criterion edition, Umbrella's disc is still worth checking out.
Movie Score
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