Having placed mines on the hull of a British warship while it is safe in harbor during World War II, the two-man crew of an Italian miniature submarine are captured and held prisoner while the crew try and discover the nature of their mission.Written by
The events seen in this movie are based on a true story of an attack by Italian "human torpedoes", which successfully blew up the "Queen Elizabeth" and the "Valiant" on December 18, 1941. The real Bianchi was not shot, but lost his grip on the torpedo when it dove, making it impossible for his commander de la Penne on his own to attach the machine physically to the ship's hull as they had intended. (He later explained that his refusal to talk had been because the British could have saved their ship very simply if they had realized the true nature of the "mine", which was simply lying on the bottom of the harbor) The two men were imprisoned in the bottom of the warship as depicted here, and finally five minutes before the explosion was due, de la Penne sent a warning to Captain Morgan, enabling him to muster the crew safely on the top deck (although not to abandon ship). Neither of the Italians was injured in the explosion. The British did successfully conceal from Italian espionage the damage to both warships for months. See more »
In the film, the Italians are seen to be given away by the bubbles rising from their breathing apparatus; during the war, the Italian frogmen used pure oxygen 'pendulum' breathing sets, in which exhaled gas is returned to the tank via a carbon dioxide filter, rather than the compressed-air apparatus used in peacetime - precisely in order to avoid the problem of a tell-tale string of bubbles. See more »
This was one of a number of Italian WWII-set collaborations with English-speaking countries, a couple of which I watched recently namely THE CAPTIVE CITY (1962) and TORPEDO BAY (1963). While the handling is fairly dull, the film's main plot develops into a sustained suspense situation as a British vessel (commandeered by stiff-upper-lipped John Mills) is planted with explosive charges by Italian naval officer Ettore Manni and his (wounded) companion, who are then imprisoned on the ship itself after refusing to give details of their mission including the whereabouts of the bomb itself.
An underwater search at night fails to reap the desired results and Mills with the help of officer Robert Shaw (who's married to an Italian girl) determines to retrieve the necessary information which could save the ship and the life of more than a thousand men on it. Doctor Liam Redmond opposes his treatment of the P.O.W.s, but remains on board to cure the injured man even after the vessel has been evacuated. The explosion eventually occurs early the next morning when the ship was scheduled to set sail for war duty; the film, then, ends with Mills awarding Manni for his integrity and loyalty to his cause three years after the fact.
As I said, the film is generally interesting (like the same director's DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK , it's mostly confined to a single setting) though the interrogation/confrontation scenes do get repetitive; it's also bogged down by resistible comic relief provided by two marines appointed to guard the saboteurs.
P.S. I'd love to revisit Mills' previous effort with Baker (in all, they worked six times together) i.e. the eccentric psychological Western THE SINGER NOT THE SONG (1961) which I acquired some time ago.
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