Monday, September 01, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Deep Six (1958) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE DEEP SIX (1958) is one of several Alan Ladd films recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

THE DEEP SIX, from Ladd's Jaguar Productions, is admittedly a rather clunky film in various ways, yet I have to say that despite its issues I rather enjoyed it, and I suspect my fellow Alan Ladd fans will likewise have a pleasant time watching it.

The movie begins with a very nicely produced opening credits sequence, with music composed by David Buttolph. The sleek sets and wardrobe design of the film's first few minutes then establish the film firmly in the '50s -- so it came as a bit of a surprise for me when advertising artist Alec Austen (Ladd) receives a telegram dated 1942!

The wardrobe and hairstyles of Alec's girlfriend Susan (Dianne Foster) never seem anything other than of the '50s. (Although I have no idea what decade her awful hats were supposed to be from!) The mismatch reminded me of WWII films like THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY (1964) and BATTLE OF BRITAIN (1969) which were similarly entrenched in the decades in which they were made. THE DEEP SIX would have worked much better as a Korean War film.

Putting that issue aside, the plot concerns Alec's inner battle between a Quaker upbringing and a desire to serve his country. Alec was in the ROTC in college and remained in the reserves, and when he's called to serve full-time due to the war, the news comes as a particular shock to his Quaker mother (Jeanette Nolan). Alec is much more sanguine about meeting his responsibility.

When Alec reports for duty, his fitness to serve in combat is immediately questioned by the ship's executive officer (Keenan Wynn), who is anxious to avenge Pearl Harbor. Alec must prove to the crew his willingness to defend and protect the United States, and ultimately he takes on a very dangerous mission to rescue some downed fliers who possess critical information about a Japanese installation.

Alec's romance with Susan is handled abruptly at times -- she greets his marriage proposal with the news she's already engaged, then she makes that problem go away by the next time she's on screen! As is so often the case in war films, their story gets short shrift.

Despite the somewhat odd twists and turns of the script, I enjoyed watching this film. I love Alan Ladd more with each movie; there's something about his persona I find quite moving. Even though he was starting to look a bit worn in 1958 due to his offscreen troubles, there's something so decent and admirable about his onscreen characters. It's interesting that a man so secure in his own skin in front of the camera was apparently so insecure about his talent.

It's rather touching seeing Ladd reunited here with his frequent costar and dear friend William Bendix. The movie also has a very nice supporting turn by Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as the ship's doctor.

It's also fun to see James Whitmore and Keenan Wynn, the singing gangsters of KISS ME KATE (1953), reunited half a decade later. Peter Hansen and Warren Douglas, who have both showed up in my recent viewing with great regularity, here play a ship's officer and a pilot.

Dianne Foster, who I've previously enjoyed in NIGHT PASSAGE (1957) and THE BROTHERS RICO (1957), was in two John Ford films the same year THE DEEP SIX was released, GIDEON OF SCOTLAND YARD (1958) and THE LAST HURRAH (1958). She's now 85.

Foster retired from acting within a few years of her 1961 marriage to a dentist, in order to focus on her family. As I read about her, I was quite startled to suddenly realize that, unless her son's first and middle names plus family background are all a huge coincidence, he is the excellent Long Beach oral surgeon who has removed each of my children's wisdom teeth! I did a double-take when I read her son's name. Talk about a small world.

THE DEEP SIX was directed by Rudolph Mate. The screenplay of this 105-minute film was based on a based on a novel by Martin Dibner.

The cinematography was by John F. Seitz. The color of this widescreen film is rather faded, but I suspect that's due in part to the unreliability of Warnercolor. Otherwise it's a nice print. There are no extras.

Additional Alan Ladd films recently released by the Warner Archive which have been reviewed here: DRUM BEAT (1954) and THE BIG LAND (1957).

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.

1 Comments:

OpenID vienna said...

I've always enjoyed The Deep Six and will definitely be buying it.
I like the Alan Ladd character and the conflict he has to deal with concerning his religion.
Thanks for your review.

12:11 AM  

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