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Fox Lorber presents
Submarine Attack (1954)

"Why don't you just throw us back into the sea? It's your right."
- Carter (Edward Fleming)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: December 24, 2001

Stars: Lois Maxwell, Renato Baldini
Other Stars: Folco Luili, Carlo Bellini, Edward Fleming
Director: Duilio Coletti

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:32m:00s
Release Date: December 26, 2001
UPC: 720917530123
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ C-C-D+ D+

DVD Review

Submarine thrillers have been a fairly reliable genre. Most audiences simply can't resist the bold and daring exploits of a lone crew, hiding beneath the waves, silently praying they survive to tell their story. It can make for compelling cinema, or it can make for by-the-numbers predictability. Submarine Attack (also known as Torpedo Zone) is an unusual entry into this realm, mainly because it's an Italian production that mixes many foreign actors with its Italian stars. While the makers of the defining submarine thriller, Das Boot, made much out of their filming the entire movie on board a specially built submarine set, this film was actuallyfilmed in and on a real one—for the most part. It's a technically interesting project, far ahead of its time. That alone, though, isn't enough to save it from being just plain boring.

The film begins with an Italian submarine sinking a Danish ship during World War II. When the crew of the sub sees that there are survivors, they pick them up and place them with the rest of the prisoners-of-war on board. Although the Italians don't need to care for survivors, the captain seems to see it as part of his duty. Amongst the victims is Lily (Lois Maxwell), a British Royal Air Force member, and the only woman onboard. Though she is initially filled with anger and hatred for her Italian captors, she begins to settle into accepting them, as do the other prisoners. They are treated well, allowed to participate in some of the workings of the ship, and made almost a part of the crew. Exactly what drives the Italian captain to do this is a mystery, but for all his niceties, he is still technically the "enemy." The sub takes daring risks, destroysmore boats, and the prisoners must accept that more of their allies are being killed.

The core of the film comes at a point when the submarine takes serious damage during afight with an enemy ship and two escort planes. Afterwards, it cannot travel underwater without sinking because of the weight caused by all the on-board prisoners. Although he wouldn't be breaking any rules by kicking the people off the sub, the captain honorably decides to travel on the surface to a neutral port where he can let them off. The problem is, getting there means they'll be exposed to any number of Allied forces. As a result, the Italians and their prisoners (who are from many nations and walks of life) must work together to get to a safe port. This is difficult, especially for Lily, whose fiancé was killed by Italians, but it must be done. Submarine Attack is certainly a different film for the time period, mainly because of its focus on internal dramatics between enemies, rather than a story about wartime victories. Theproblem is that, despite its good points, it is weighted down, too much, too soon, andbecomes uninteresting by the midway point.

The thing that initially bothered me was the dubbing. I realize that Italians were fanatics for dubbing, often doing it to virtually every film they made. They saw it as an element of post-production they could control to make the actors sound the way they wanted. In a serious drama, though, it makes it hard to get into the story when there's so much lip-flap and voices that don't fit the actors; the worst offense being the dub of Lois Maxwell. Granted, at the time, she hadn't established any fame yet and few would know what she really sounded like; in retrospect, it makes it very hard to get into her character. I felt like I was distanced from the characters because the voices were so off the mark.

I felt the story moved a little too slowly as well. There are too often meditations on onetopic that linger past their welcome, especially in terms of how the camera is used. It makes the tension less from excitement and more from wanting to see the next scene start up. Much of the internal dramatics between the prisoners seem forced, like making them all from different sides and places. While there is a great deal of technique, like filming outdoor scenes actually out in the middle of the ocean on a submarine deck, so little happens that really involved me, I wondered why that much effort was invested. I just didn't find the drama very captivating in the end. While in 1954, I'm sure this could easily be regarded as an achievement of great caliber, after having grown up on so many similar films, it doesn't seem quite as a good as later efforts.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: While the transfer itself does its best, the actual source material is in fairly bad condition. Not enough to ruin the viewing, but certainly enough to distract. To begin with, the filmhas a lot of scratches, holes, and other physical problems. The picture sometimes movesaround the screen (as if it were loose in the frame gate), which can be annoying. The film is a patchwork of massive edits and cuts, many of which seem to be originatingfrom the first print. Whenever a piece of footage appears that's obviously stock, it's been edited into the scene rather roughly, many times with large gaps of blackness before it appears. Additionally, the film is faded quite a bit, leaving very little distinction between colors, especially inside the submarine, which already has a limited palette. The digital transfer itself, running at a constant 9-10mbps, deals with the problems pretty well, with minimal artifacts and movement, pre-empting the problems with the print.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio track is perhaps more damaged than the visuals. There's substantial distortions, drop-outs, and audible hum and hiss. Volume must be fairly loud to make out all details, but whenever there's a battle sequence, it has to be turned down because of the severe distortion in major sound effects (similar to over-taxing the bass on small speakers). The film can be watched, but the volume must be constantly adjusted to hear dialogue properly as well as avoid being irritated by the relatively dirty signal.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Supplments include brief filmographies for some of the cast as well as some text triviaregarding the film's production. There are weblinks to the Fox Lorber/Winstar website(www.winstarvideo.com) as well; nothingsubstantial.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Submarine Attack is far from being a bad movie, but it does lack some of thespark and energy that better submarine thrillers have managed to capture. That isn't somuch the fault of the movie as it is the progress of cinema.


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