The Enemy Below (1957) Killer Sub Versus Sub Killer With Robert Mitchum And Curd Jürgens

Ole dimple chin Robert Mitchum plays the captain of an American WW2 submarine destroyer. Here’s my review of The Enemy Below (1957)

Tagline – The death battle of the sub-killer and the killer-sub !

What’s going down?

Out patrolling the South Atlantic ocean is the American destroyer escort USS Haynes. Kitted out with the latest anti-submarine warfare. It’s job was to sweep the seas for that hidden devastating enemy, the German U-boat. The infamous and deadly torpedo submarines that hunted its prey like a wolf. The USS Haynes and it crew are lead by Captain Murrell (Robert Mitchum). A tough, experienced merchant marine now an active duty officer. The perfect match for the wily, war veteran of the U-boat Kapitän zur See von Stolberg (Curd Jürgens). What follows is a deadly cat and mouse trial of wits as they both try to out do each other. A battle that will test not only their wits but the strengths of their crew’s as well.

The main players

Robert Mitchum is Captain Murrell
Curd Jürgens is Kapitän zur See von Stolberg
Theodore Bikel is “Heinie” Schwaffer, second in command
David Hedison is Lieutenant Ware, executive officer
Russell Collins is Doctor
Kurt Kreuger is von Holem
Frank Albertson is Lieutenant Crain
Biff Elliot is Quartermaster

Tagline – The Amazing Story of the Destroyer Captain and the Sub Commander Tracking Each Other Down Across 1000 Miles Above and Below the Sea!

Sure I’ve seen them in something?

This section helps me link films that I’ve already done some reviews for and the opportunity for any of you kind readers to jump in with some recommendations. So please feel free throughout my blog to help nudge me on to great movies. It’s what I’m here for really.

Robert Mitchum of course we all know him. Here’s four I’ve reviewed Angel Face (1953) His Kind Of Woman (1951) Crossfire (1947) and the awesome The Yakuza (1974)

Curd Jürgens is known for his roll as Karl Stromberg in the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). He also popped up in the BBC’s Cold War series Smiley’s People. A veteran of heaps of German films which I’m afraid I wouldn’t know what to recommended so you know what to do.

Mitchum’s second in command is David Hedison and a very familiar face. He’s known for being in a submarine. As Captain Crane in the 60s classic series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. And also played the character Leiter in two Bond films. Live and Let Die (1973) and Licence to Kill (1989).

Kurt Kreuger is aboard the U-Boat and he featured recently on my blog alongside Humphrey Bogart in Sahara (1943)

Notes on production?

The Enemy Below is based on a novel from 1956 by a British Royal Navy Officer called Denys Rayner. Based on his own experiences with anti-submarine warfare throughout the Battle of the Atlantic.

The film is expertly directed and produced by the actor Dick Powell. I had reviewed his excellent debut directed film Split Second (1953) a few years ago. A couple of his acting ones I’ve reviewed are Cry Danger (1951) and Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) but also check Cornered (1945) and The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) which I’m still to see!

The screenplay was written by Wendell Mayes who would go on to write many amazing films for director Otto Preminger like Anatomy of a Murderer (1959) Advise and Consent (1962) and In Harm’s Way (1965). Also two classic 70s action films The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and the Bronson smasher Death Wish (1974).

Hits like a sledge hammer

There are two big monologues from the two captains. Both with heartbreaking stories that really hit home the sadness of war. The drive that carries each man to try and out wit and destroy the other. Yet the burden of death, fear of mistakes, the crew safety obligation and even their own pride and respect of each other sits heavy on their shoulders.

From the German submarine Kapitän Von Stolberg talking to his friend about how unhappy he is that Hilter has changed the way they fight. From recalling his pride fighting sub battles through WW1 to the recent deaths of his sons, dying unworthy deaths. It’s a dangerous, treasonous speech filled with deep emotion.

In similar vein Captain Murrell tells the story of how his last ship had been targeted and sunk with disastrous personal loss as he witnessed the death of his girlfriend in front of his eyes, just a finger tip away. Both speeches really set the tone of the film and give great depth to each character.

A few killer lines

Captain Murrell – “I have no idea what he is, what he thinks. I don’t want to know the man I’m… trying to destroy.

Kapitän Von Stolberg – “It’s a bad war. It’s reason is twisted. It’s purpose is dark. It’s not for a simple man.


Lucky I came back to this one. I had tried it last year but the beginning really put me off. The over patriotic, jingoistic music was one thing but thrown into the mix is Jeff Daley who plays a bit part Navy Seaman Corky. He towers over everyone and has the most unique overpowering voice. He really glares out at you. I know it sounds bad but it all really put me off. However I’m so pleased I went back and once you get past the beginning 10 minutes and you meet Curd Jürgens character everything falls perfectly into place. It really does.

With an essentially anti war message underpinned with the dialogue from the two captains. I read that Curd had said “This was an important picture for me because it was the first film after the war in which a German officer was not interpreted as a freak.”. You really feel for both sides. The emotional hook is definitely the heart of the film.

The full power of this cat and mouse game is surrounded with the deadliest of firepower. Shown spectacularly by the constant bombardment of hourly depth charge attacks. Blowing chunks out the ocean sending shock-wave after shock-wave towards the ever hidden submarine. The effects and sounds are incredible and I can only imagine the Navy was having a field day firing them off for production.

If you like your war films with a message then I can wholeheartedly recommend this film. The two performances from Robert Mitchum and Curd Jürgens are well worth your time.

Rating score

Wolfman’s rating 8/10       IMDB 7.5/10

Feel free to recommend me related movies and any other trivia if you wish. Keep having fun at the movies…. Mikey Wolf

17 thoughts on “The Enemy Below (1957) Killer Sub Versus Sub Killer With Robert Mitchum And Curd Jürgens

  1. Really a solid film when submarine pics were the rage. Torpedo Run and Run Silent Run Deep were also on the market. Mitchum great and an eye opener from Curd for portraying a character as opposed to a stereotype. Like other German actors his age, Anton Diffring comes to mind he was typecast in many war films which were popular during his run. One title i recall him in i liked was a thriller titled The Mephisto Waltz. Worth a look.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OOooo Mike I haven’t seen Torpedo Run and Glenn Ford and Sir Borgnine in the cast! Straight on the list.
      HAHA I didn’t know the name Anton Diffring but as soon as I put his name in google a flash of nostalgia from his face. Great to now know his name. Fahrenheit 451, The Heroes of Telemark and of course Where Eagles Dare. The quintessential German solider. Yeah I think that Curd getting to play a more rounded person really shines through in The Enemy Below.
      Thanks for the tip on the The Mephisto Waltz too. Cheers.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hold the presses! In my next life I hope my name is Curd Jurgens. Or at least the Curd part. I’d suffer a lot in school, but once I was an adult, I’d be stronger from all the emotional challenges I’d survived.
    I fully understand how great it must have been to play a German military role without being portrayed as insane, a monster, or any other exaggerated feature. It’s so boring to see those cliches anyway. Same with Das Boot. I haven’t seen it in a while, but those characters were all very human and three-dimensional, right? Of course, that was more recently, not just a decade after the war, give or take, like this one.
    I’m sure my father loves this movie. I myself am not a fan of war movies. But one thing that REALLY gets to me are submarine movies. I can’t even imagine doing that for a job. I would definitely lose my mind in that claustrophobic environment, just waiting for a watery death. Eeeeeek! Brave, brave men.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You know what Stacey you really made me laugh. “I’d suffer a lot in school, but once I was an adult, I’d be stronger from all the emotional challenges I’d survived.” LOL.
      Did Lemon Curd ever make it to the States? Hehe I probably assume wrongly that it is a British thing. I’m not a fan. Eggs, butter and sugar and the zest of a ton of lemons to make a tangy lemon thick congealed slosh. Kind of thing your Nan would try and make you eat. I think I’d rather be called Curd than eat Curd!

      Das Boot is the zenith of submarine films/series. There is actually a sequel of sorts made in 2018. I keep meaning to watch it. Just you know, way too much stuff to watch. Maybe one day. You are of course right that original really got right in the nitty gritty. All it’s claustrophobic stinking water BO coffin glory. Yep “all very human and three-dimensional”… I could never do it but I do like a good sub film and have been in one, well on land. To make me sound a little more brave than you might of thought of me, the sea was only a few meters away LOL.. Yep you get the feeling straight away that shit gonna go wrong, real easy, at any given time! Eeeeeek! indeed.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lemon curd….sounds simultaneously fascinating/terrifying, lol !!!
        As for submarines….I’m right there with you on land, of course.
        I feel the same way about spelunking. I could NEVER keep going down, down, down into a cave, crawling through tight spaces, getting further down, possibly lost, possibly trapped !!!
        Well, it’s official. I guess I’m claustrophobic !!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • spelunking has to be one of the funniest words. I always have to look it up as I never remember what it means. Probably because I’m laughing too much. LOL
          Yep me too. There ain’t no way you getting me down in some claustrophobic hole in a cave system as I open the window and take a deep breathe and wipe the sweat from my brow.
          Apols for later reply as the norm! I hope you have a lovely weekend.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. One I’ve always wanted to see, Mikey, and now you’ve convinced me it’s high time to check it out! I’d found a good widescreen copy online, so I’ll be giving that a look soon…I’ve always liked Robert Mitchum, and I’ve always wished that David Hedison had played Felix Leiter in EVERY Bond film! And thanks for the warning concerning those first ten minutes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I sure you will enjoy it Todd. Yeah the first 10 mins give a slight impression of a different vibe to the film I thought but now I’ve said it you probably won’t notice it. Defo look out for that scene stealing booming voice. He’s only a small part but he over shadows everything when he pops up. hehe.
      I did like it in Bond films when they would use the same character over a few films. Clifton James’s Sheriff was always fun to see as was Joe Don Baker’s Jack Wade. Shame the new Bonds are pretty wack, not a fan.

      Liked by 1 person

    • No sub film is as good as Das Boot. I’ve seen the film and the series but now read there is two new directors cuts that add / take even more stuff around. Plus I haven’t seen it yet but there’s a new Das Boot series that is a sequel of sorts!! Keep meaning to watch it. Can’t have the stink of BO and farts that the original oozed through the screen 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post, Mikey. Spot on. I love that you gave Wendell Mayes props. I had no idea who he was before I read your post. The guy sure could write dialogue. Brilliant. If he wrote the script to Anatomy of a Murder alone, he would be a genius in my book. But Advise and Consent and Death Wish?!…Very cool. And of course Dick Powell is wonderfully cool. What a gentleman!
    I haven’t seen this one. Great cast–and I am a big Robert Mitchum fan. I think it was Charles Laughton who nicknamed him “ole droopy eyes,” but I prefer your “ole dimple chin.” Mitchum’s dimpled chin was handsome, unlike Kirk Douglas’ whose was so pronounced you expected ants to crawl out of it.
    If I run across The Enemy Below some night while I’m surfing for something to watch, I’ll check it out. It wouldn’t have been an option if not for your post. Love stories, war films and sci-fi I usually steer clear of, but there are those precious few…Blade Runner, A Boy and His Dog, The English Patient, Bridge over the River Kwai, to name a few.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apols for my tardiness.
      It wasn’t by any big knowledge skills on the Wendell drop lol. I didn’t know him either and was like “WOW” this dude had some skills. Love this hobby, always learning.
      Insert drink of choice? It’s usually beer tbh but can be coffee, often black. Anyhow what am I going on about this time you may ask? Well what ever it was in my mouth it is now all over my PC screen. (OK I’ll admit virtually) “unlike Kirk Douglas’ whose was so pronounced you expected ants to crawl out of it.” HAHA that had me holla-ing with laughter Pam LOL..
      I think what sets this sub film apart and especially from the era is the fact there’s a pretty strong anti-war message beneath the depth charges and sweaty war stuff.

      PS love all those films you mention apart from I haven’t really seen The English Patient before. Just the bit when someone is left in a cave or the desert or something. Haha it might not have even been that film. Adds to the watch list.
      Hope you have a great weekend.

      OH one last thing. Have you done the “Cotton Club Murder” on your site? I heard about it the other day. It’s ripe for the All Things Thriller treatment I’d say. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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