Submarine X-1


1h 30m 1969

Brief Synopsis

An Allied diving team fights off the Nazis while trying to salvage a downed enemy ship.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
War
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: Jul 1969
Production Company
Mirisch Films; Oakmont Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
Great Britain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Synopsis

In 1943, a British naval officer from Canada, Lieut.-Comdr. John Bolton, loses his submarine and most of his crew in a raid on the "invincible" German battleship Lindendorf. Although Bolton is cleared of charges in a court of inquiry, the few survivors from the encounter hold him responsible for the deaths of their shipmates. A short time later, Bolton is assigned by Vice-Admiral Redmayne to train three 4-man crews along the northern coast of Scotland for a trio of midget submarines equipped with side cargoes of amatol explosives. Because the exact nature of the mission is kept secret, and because four of the men are survivors from the previous expedition, Bolton's rigid disciplinary measures are met with open hostility. However, the men unite when a German reconnaissance plane is sighted over the camouflaged training base, and German paratroopers land in the area. The Admiralty reveals that the midget subs are to attack the Lindendorf while she is undergoing repairs inside a Norwegian fjord. The subs make their way through heavily mined waters to reach the fjord, and crew members battle German frogmen underwater. One of the subs, the X-2, is sunk by a German E-boat's depth charges, and a second, the X-1, is scuttled by its crew before they are captured and taken aboard the Lindendorf. Before the men from the X-1 can be subjected to forced interrogation, however, the X-3 fires its explosives and destroys the Lindendorf.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
War
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: Jul 1969
Production Company
Mirisch Films; Oakmont Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
Great Britain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Articles

Submarine X-1


Produced in 1967 by Mirisch Films, Submarine X-1 (1969) sat on the shelf for two years before being quietly released in August of 1969. The World War II historical drama is invariably classified as a "minor" addition to the War Movie genre, thanks to a clichéd set-up and a low-budget approach to scenes that required a bigger "epic" look. The story itself, set in 1943 at the height of battle in the European theatre, is based on fact and covers a fascinating but little-known chapter in the naval campaign against the Nazis. Had Submarine X-1 been released in 1967 as intended, it would have also provided another early leading man part for actor James Caan, who that year appeared in two other unheralded but interesting films, Curtis Harrington's Games and Robert Altman's Countdown (both 1967).

Submarine X-1 opens with a pre-credits sequence in which a few Allied submariners, obviously survivors of an unseen undersea attack, wash up on shore. It is apparent from their demeanor that one of the survivors, who turns out to be Cmdr. Richard Bolton (James Caan) of the Royal Navy, is blamed by the others for the disaster. Following the credits, we learn that Bolton commanded the submarine Gauntlet, and that most of his fifty-man crew perished when he attempted to take down Lidendorf, a heavily fortified German battleship. Following an inquest, Bolton is told by Vice Admiral Redmayne (Rupert Davies) that he has been absolved of censure. Not only that, Redmayne assigns Bolton a new task: he will be sent to a secret base in Northern Scotland to train a small group of Special Services volunteers with the goal of taking another crack at the Lidendorf, which is parked in a Norwegian fjord.

In Scotland, Bolton trains twelve men, some of whom are also survivors from Gauntlet, to use a new weapon; a new class of submarine called "X" for "experimental." They are small, and made for a crew of just four, at 51 feet long, 35 tons in weight, with a maximum diving depth of 300 feet. Each sub carries two 4,000-pound charges of the explosive amatol - enough to take out a battleship.

Much of the first half of Submarine X-1 is taken up with the stresses of training for the mission; the volunteers drill on diving, hand-to-hand combat, performing difficult underwater tasks without breathing devices, and the all-important task of cutting a large enough hole in steel submarine netting to allow the small craft passage. Lingering resentment toward their leader makes for several scenes of tension, but overall this introductory material comes off as hackneyed; Bolton is thought to be too hard on one man in particular, but eventually Seaman Quentin (Paul Young) and the others become trustful and respectful. The action steps up by the midpoint of the movie, when a squad of German paratroopers drop in on the base and must be eliminated one-by-one. (This incident was a screenwriter-penned elaboration, of course, and did not actually occur). The discovery by the Germans speeds up the Allied need to deploy the three mini-subs and try to destroy the target. Here, the film's low budget becomes obvious; while the underwater miniatures and full-size mockups of the subs are terrific, the above-water high-speed photography of model ships and sets is much less convincing.

Since Submarine X-1 was quietly dumped into theaters as the lower half of a double bill, there was little notice taken by the critics. A reviewer for Variety wrote that, "...the film, admittedly not strong on marquee bait, isn't a bad programmer. A bit quiet on the action side, compared to today's product, it moves quickly enough for family entertainment and has some first-class underwater photography as an added asset." The writer also noted, "Caan's name is the only exploitable one in the cast and his portrayal of the Canadian commander comes over as solid, and almost as underplayed as the British members of the cast." The critic had praise for some technical aspects of the film, but not necessarily the location work, writing, "Art director Bill Andrews' baby subs and other handiwork are excellent, with underwater work particularly outstanding. Location work was done at Loch Ness, Scotland, and scenery adds to [the] pic, but there's little to indicate that it's really Scotland and not Lake Arrowhead."

Overlooked at the box-office in 1969, Submarine X-1 has also received little notice in recent genre surveys. It earned a one word review in Jeanine Basinger's The World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre (Columbia University Press, 1986): "Traditional." In The Great Combat Pictures: Twentieth-Century Warfare on the Screen (The Scarecrow Press, 1990), author James Robert Parish only acknowledges it as "a modest film."

James Caan would receive only slightly more notice in 1969 as one the stars of writer/director Francis Ford Coppola's The Rain People (1969), but would not gain major attention until he clicked with critics and with the public for both his performance as Brian Piccolo in the telefilm Brian's Song (1971) and his inclusion in the ensemble cast of Coppola's The Godfather (1972).

Producer: John C. Champion
Director: William Graham
Screenplay: Donald Sanford, Guy Elmes (screenplay); John C. Champion, Edmund North (story)
Cinematography: Paul Beeson
Art Direction: Bill Andrews
Music: Ron Goodwin
Film Editing: John S. Smith
Cast: James Caan (Cmdr. Richard Bolton, RNVR), David Sumner (Lt. Davies R.N.V.R), Norman Bowler (Sub-Lt. Pennington, RN), Brian Grellis (CPO Barquist X 3), Paul Young (Leading Seaman Quentin), William Dysart (Lt. Robert Talbot Gogan R.N.R.), John Kellandn (Sub-Lt. Keith Willis, RNVR), Kenneth Farrington (CPO Boker Knowles), Keith Alexander (Sub-Lt. X-3), Carl Rigg (CPO Norman Kennedy)
C-90m. Letterboxed.

By John M. Miller
Submarine X-1

Submarine X-1

Produced in 1967 by Mirisch Films, Submarine X-1 (1969) sat on the shelf for two years before being quietly released in August of 1969. The World War II historical drama is invariably classified as a "minor" addition to the War Movie genre, thanks to a clichéd set-up and a low-budget approach to scenes that required a bigger "epic" look. The story itself, set in 1943 at the height of battle in the European theatre, is based on fact and covers a fascinating but little-known chapter in the naval campaign against the Nazis. Had Submarine X-1 been released in 1967 as intended, it would have also provided another early leading man part for actor James Caan, who that year appeared in two other unheralded but interesting films, Curtis Harrington's Games and Robert Altman's Countdown (both 1967). Submarine X-1 opens with a pre-credits sequence in which a few Allied submariners, obviously survivors of an unseen undersea attack, wash up on shore. It is apparent from their demeanor that one of the survivors, who turns out to be Cmdr. Richard Bolton (James Caan) of the Royal Navy, is blamed by the others for the disaster. Following the credits, we learn that Bolton commanded the submarine Gauntlet, and that most of his fifty-man crew perished when he attempted to take down Lidendorf, a heavily fortified German battleship. Following an inquest, Bolton is told by Vice Admiral Redmayne (Rupert Davies) that he has been absolved of censure. Not only that, Redmayne assigns Bolton a new task: he will be sent to a secret base in Northern Scotland to train a small group of Special Services volunteers with the goal of taking another crack at the Lidendorf, which is parked in a Norwegian fjord. In Scotland, Bolton trains twelve men, some of whom are also survivors from Gauntlet, to use a new weapon; a new class of submarine called "X" for "experimental." They are small, and made for a crew of just four, at 51 feet long, 35 tons in weight, with a maximum diving depth of 300 feet. Each sub carries two 4,000-pound charges of the explosive amatol - enough to take out a battleship. Much of the first half of Submarine X-1 is taken up with the stresses of training for the mission; the volunteers drill on diving, hand-to-hand combat, performing difficult underwater tasks without breathing devices, and the all-important task of cutting a large enough hole in steel submarine netting to allow the small craft passage. Lingering resentment toward their leader makes for several scenes of tension, but overall this introductory material comes off as hackneyed; Bolton is thought to be too hard on one man in particular, but eventually Seaman Quentin (Paul Young) and the others become trustful and respectful. The action steps up by the midpoint of the movie, when a squad of German paratroopers drop in on the base and must be eliminated one-by-one. (This incident was a screenwriter-penned elaboration, of course, and did not actually occur). The discovery by the Germans speeds up the Allied need to deploy the three mini-subs and try to destroy the target. Here, the film's low budget becomes obvious; while the underwater miniatures and full-size mockups of the subs are terrific, the above-water high-speed photography of model ships and sets is much less convincing. Since Submarine X-1 was quietly dumped into theaters as the lower half of a double bill, there was little notice taken by the critics. A reviewer for Variety wrote that, "...the film, admittedly not strong on marquee bait, isn't a bad programmer. A bit quiet on the action side, compared to today's product, it moves quickly enough for family entertainment and has some first-class underwater photography as an added asset." The writer also noted, "Caan's name is the only exploitable one in the cast and his portrayal of the Canadian commander comes over as solid, and almost as underplayed as the British members of the cast." The critic had praise for some technical aspects of the film, but not necessarily the location work, writing, "Art director Bill Andrews' baby subs and other handiwork are excellent, with underwater work particularly outstanding. Location work was done at Loch Ness, Scotland, and scenery adds to [the] pic, but there's little to indicate that it's really Scotland and not Lake Arrowhead." Overlooked at the box-office in 1969, Submarine X-1 has also received little notice in recent genre surveys. It earned a one word review in Jeanine Basinger's The World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre (Columbia University Press, 1986): "Traditional." In The Great Combat Pictures: Twentieth-Century Warfare on the Screen (The Scarecrow Press, 1990), author James Robert Parish only acknowledges it as "a modest film." James Caan would receive only slightly more notice in 1969 as one the stars of writer/director Francis Ford Coppola's The Rain People (1969), but would not gain major attention until he clicked with critics and with the public for both his performance as Brian Piccolo in the telefilm Brian's Song (1971) and his inclusion in the ensemble cast of Coppola's The Godfather (1972). Producer: John C. Champion Director: William Graham Screenplay: Donald Sanford, Guy Elmes (screenplay); John C. Champion, Edmund North (story) Cinematography: Paul Beeson Art Direction: Bill Andrews Music: Ron Goodwin Film Editing: John S. Smith Cast: James Caan (Cmdr. Richard Bolton, RNVR), David Sumner (Lt. Davies R.N.V.R), Norman Bowler (Sub-Lt. Pennington, RN), Brian Grellis (CPO Barquist X 3), Paul Young (Leading Seaman Quentin), William Dysart (Lt. Robert Talbot Gogan R.N.R.), John Kellandn (Sub-Lt. Keith Willis, RNVR), Kenneth Farrington (CPO Boker Knowles), Keith Alexander (Sub-Lt. X-3), Carl Rigg (CPO Norman Kennedy) C-90m. Letterboxed. By John M. Miller

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Location scenes filmed in Scotland. Produced in 1967. According to one source, director William Graham collaborated on original story with John C. Champion but did not receive screen credit.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1969

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1969