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During the Pacific Campaign of World War II, submarine commander Stevenson (Edmond O'Brien) orders a demolition expert/frogman (James Garner) to land incognito on an enemy-held island in order to steal a top-secret codebook of the Japanese armed forces. Since time is of the essence on this mission, there is a distinct possibility that the submarine crew may have to abandon the demolition expert if he doesn't complete his quest in time. Complicating the assignment is the combative relationship between the by-the-rules commander and his rebellious, anti-authority recruit.
Thanks to his success in the popular television Western, Maverick (1957-1962), James Garner quickly moved from supporting parts in feature films to his first starring role in 1958 when he headed the cast of Darby's Rangers, a World War II action drama directed by William Wellman. Garner's performance as the mastermind of a special covert operation convinced Warner Brothers that he had the makings of a major star and they promptly cast him in yet another war thriller - Up Periscope (1959) - this time pairing him with two-time Oscar nominee Edmond O'Brien. While Up Periscope might not rank as the screen's greatest submarine adventure, it certainly was a step up for Garner. Budgeted at over a million dollars and produced in color and widescreen, it was not your standard B-movie and it was the first film to effectively showcase Garner's wry sense of humor, a talent he would hone to great effect in such sixties comedies as The Thrill of It All (1963) and Support Your Local Sheriff (1969).
Up Periscope is also notable for its supporting cast which includes Alan Hale, Jr. (who would soon find his niche as the Skipper on Gilligan's Island, 1964-67), Richard Bakalyan (best known for his juvenile delinquent roles in cult favorites like The Cool and the Crazy, 1958), Edd Byrnes (remember "Kookie" from the 1958 TV series, 77 Sunset Strip?) and Carleton Carpenter (a former singer/dancer from such MGM musicals as Three Little Words, 1950). Look for Warren Oates in a minor role as a sailor in the mess hall (It was his film debut). The direction is by Gordon Douglas, a respected craftsman of action features like the 3-D Western, The Charge at Feather River (1953), and the classic science-fiction thriller, Them! (1954).
Producer: Aubrey Schenck
Director: Gordon Douglas
Screenplay: Richard H. Landau, Robb White (novel)
Art Direction: Jack T. Collis
Cinematography: Carl E. Guthrie
Film Editing: John F. Schreyer
Original Music: Adolph Deutsch (uncredited), Ray Heindorf, Max Steiner (uncredited), Franz Waxman (uncredited)
Principal Cast: James Garner (Lt. Ken Braden), Edmond O'Brien (Stevenson), Andra Martin (Sally Johnson), Alan Hale, Jr. (Malone), Carleton Carpenter (Carney), Frank Gifford (Mount), William Leslie (Doherty), Edd Byrnes (Ash), Sean Garrison (Floyd), Richard Bakalyan (Peck).
C-112m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Jeff Stafford