Movie Review: The Enemy Below (1957)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1957 war movie starring Robert Mitchum and Curd Jurgens.

Synopsis: An American destroyer on duty in the South Atlantic during World War II encounters a German U-boat commanded by an experienced and cunning captain. The two ships engage in a deadly game of cat and mouse as their equally-matched commanders try to find a way to gain an advantage over each other.


I came across the end of this film some time ago while flipping through some of our movie channels and, while I didn't really know what it was about at the time, thought it looked interesting. So, when I saw the movie was available on Netflix, I decided to take the time to watch the film in its entirety. And, as it turns out, it was actually a pretty decent movie.

I think the thing that really stood out for me when it came to this movie was the way it told the story of the conflict both from the American perspective and the German perspective. A lot of films in this genre don't do that and, if they are even remotely similar to other films, aren't overly memorable as a result. 

Adding to that was the way the film actually has two main heroes. While, as an American, it was easy to root for Capt. Murrell (Mitchum), the U-boat captain, Von Stolberg (Jurgens) also had things about him that were surprisingly likable. This was something that was actually a bit unexpected considering this movie was made not that long after World War II ended. But, it also was a good thing because it humanized both sides of the conflict to the point it was hard to cheer for either side to perish.

The fact the captains were equally matched was also entertaining because it did keep the movie from becoming predictable. In fact, to tell you the truth, had I not previously seen how this movie ended, I probably would never have guessed. And, with the benefit of hindsight, I also can't think of a better way for such a fantastic, well-written conflict to end. That's not something I can say about a lot of movies, both in this genre and others.

The Enemy Below

It's Mitchum vs. Jurgens as the commanders of an American destroyer and a German U-boat play a deadly game of cat and mouse.

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Final Opinion

I don't watch war movies all that often and, when I do, I rarely am impressed with them. This one, however, is one of the few films I did find I enjoyed watching and one I would recommend taking the time to watch if you have never seen it before.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 11/09/2015, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/29/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for product lines, pretty pictures and practical information.
The library system here does have The Enemy Below among its Blu-ray and DVD collections. So I expect to be looking at it sometime soon, after the end of Lent.

What would you think of a colorized reboot or remake, and who would you think nowadays would best interpret the Jurgens and Mitchum roles?

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