A curious forerunner to Irwin Allen’s better-known 1961 feature Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (which spawned a long-running 1960s TV series), The Atomic Submarine rises above its cheesy acting, bargain basement special effects (even for the 1950s) and silly one-eyed monster – it’ll remind you of Kang and Kodos from the Halloween Simpsons episodes – and is actually a decent, heartily-entertaining wander down the less-travelled back roads of black-and-white monster movies.
The supersub SS Tigershark is sent on an exploratory mission, but when shipping in the busy Arctic Circle trading routes comes under mysterious attack. Despite personality clashes – there’s a pesky pacifist scientist on board, which leads to some unexpectedly sophisticated discussions about the horror of war and the benefits of peace – the crew rub along well enough, until they arrive at their destination and find that the attacks are the work of a flying saucer (quite literally) lurking underwater. Conventional missiles have no effect on the UFO, so the ship’s Captain Dick Wendover (Foran) has no choice but to ram the sub straight into the alien craft. A boarding party enters the extra-terrestrial vessel and stumbles upon a malevolent – and only slightly silly – alien presence, which explains that its purpose on Earth is to take human specimens back to its home planet for examination, to allow its race to return to take over the Earth. Crikey!
The Atomic Submarine is brisk, no-nonsense stuff, a cheap independent movie whose ambition is clearly way beyond its meagre budget. In amongst the stock footage, there’s some laudable if unconvincing model work (and a couple of surprisingly-graphic death sequences), and the cast generally consists of slightly over-the-hill, paunchy, middle-aged actors who mercifully don’t spend too much time mooning over much younger girls, often the case in 1950s B-Movies whose financial resources couldn’t stretch to hiring more appropriate younger up-and-coming talent. Running to just 73 minutes, there’s no time for the pace to flag and whilst The Atomic Submarine is hardly a classic of its era or its genre, it’s an engagingly-naïve yarn, which is unlikely to tax your patience and will, if nothing else, provide a few laughs at its low-rent production and over-earnest performances.
THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE (1959) / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: SPENCER GORDON BENNET / SCREENPLAY: ORVILLE H HAMPTON / STARRING: ARTHUR FRANZ, DICK FORAN, BRETT HALSEY, PAUL DOBOV, BOB STEELE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW