Monday, February 17, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Underwater! (1955) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Jane Russell stars in UNDERWATER! (1955), newly released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

I first saw this film almost exactly five years ago thanks to Turner Classic Movies. It was a real pleasure to return to this Technicolor "RKO Superscope" production, as the Blu-ray is exquisitely beautiful. This film was a great choice for Blu-ray, which shows off both the gorgeous cast and the underwater scenes to perfection.

Five years ago I rated the film as "pleasant" but somewhat tepid; while I still feel the film meanders, I think I liked it more this time around. The beautiful print added considerably to my enjoyment, and it probably also helped that I knew what to expect going in.

Russell and Richard Egan play newlyweds Johnny and Theresa Gray. They're in a cash crunch but decide to throw in with Dominic (Gilbert Roland), who was a Navy "frogman" with Johnny during the war, and search for a old shipwreck rumored to contain gold.

Beautiful but similarly broke Gloria (Lori Nelson) has a yacht they can use for the trip, and Father Cannon (Robert Keith), a priest, joins the crew, hoping they can recover religious relics from the wreckage.

Naturally the group runs into periodic problems, or there wouldn't be much suspense! A suspicious shark hunter (Joseph Calleia) and his crew pose challenges, as do actual sharks. The most nerve-wracking scene, in fact, finds Theresa stuck in the underwater wreckage while a shark circles nearby. Eeek!

Russell and Egan are appealing as Johnny and Theresa; by all accounts they were both just as nice offscreen, which is always good to know. (An acquaintance who knew Egan told me that he wouldn't take a role if he didn't want his five children to see the film; he married in 1958.) Russell occasionally speaks with a mystifying Latin accent of some sort, but most of the time she sounds like regular ol' Jane Russell.

The story definitely could have been better developed, particularly when it comes to Gloria; the way she ended up with the yacht is rather (deliberately?) vague, and a potential relationship with Dominic is barely hinted at. Roland was considerably older than Nelson, but he's in such fantastic shape that a relationship would nonetheless be entirely plausible.

As mentioned above, this time I knew the movie would be short on story from the outset, so I wasn't disappointed, and instead I just focused on enjoying the film's 99 minutes "hanging out" with the gorgeous quartet of lead actors, who all look fabulous in Blu-ray.

The movie has some beautiful underwater photography by Lamar Boren, while the rest of the film was shot by Harry J. Wild. The caliber of the Blu-ray may make it especially easy to spot the contrast of the scenes filmed in a water tank with those done on location, but at the same time, like everything else in the movie, the water tank scenes look very nice despite the obvious "movie magic."

UNDERWATER! was directed by John Sturges.

As previously stated, the Blu-ray looks terrific. The Blu-ray sound quality is also excellent. There are no extras on the disc.

UNDERWATER! may be weakly scripted and somewhat meandering, but I really enjoyed my return visit to this film thanks to the beauty of the print -- and the cast! -- and I'll watch it again in the future. I expect that some of my fellow classic film fans will find similar enjoyment from this Warner Archive release.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

3 Comments:

Blogger Margot Shelby said...

Beefcake!

5:10 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Yep! :)

Best wishes,
Laura

10:17 PM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, you gave us a good review of what I think is a fun, entertaining, and alluring aquatic movie. UNDERWATER!(filmed 1953-54, released 1955) would be as dull as dishwater, if it wasn't for, as you write, "the gorgeous quartet of lead actors, who all look fabulous in Blu-ray."

On another note, I wonder if Writer Peter Benchley ever saw UNDERWATER! the movie? Benchley wrote the novel THE DEEP(1976) and co-wrote the screenplay for THE DEEP(filmed 1976, released 1977) movie. These two movies are similar in plot. Did Benchley think he could improve on the storyline? Did he, or didn't he?

Enjoy UNDERWATER! for what it is, a fun nostalgic time at the movies.

10:20 PM  

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