Thursday, July 21, 2016


Good underwater photography and the presence of the beautiful Jane Russell can't save UNDERWATER! (1955), an utterly routine RKO adventure film produced by Howard Hughes. The story concerns two couples, Jane Russell and Richard Egan are one, Gilbert Roland and Lori Nelson are the other, trying to recover sunken treasure from a shipwreck in the Caribbean. They are kinda-sorta menaced by some Mexican shark hunters but there's almost no tension or conflict throughout the proceedings. Roland gets the bends while diving. This will surely become a plot point. Nope, he's diving again before you know it. Roland gets trapped when part of the ship collapses upon him. A tense rescue sequence should follow. Nah, Egan and Russell dig him out in about five seconds.

UNDERWATER! combines underwater sequences shot on location and in a huge tank constructed at the RKO studios. These scenes are fairly well done. However, when the action shifts back to the surface, the sail boat that the team is working from is clearly also a set in a studio with a painted backdrop of sky and clouds. The juxtaposition is jarring and only serves to reinforce the fact that this is just a movie (and not a very good one at that).

Director John Sturges went on to direct much better films but here he's learning the ropes and paying his dues. Russell gets top billing  and she's clearly the star of the film. I'm sure Howard Hughes had much to do with that. She does the best she can with the material (Robert B. Bailey and Hugh King wrote the screenplay) but what's there is pretty dull, standard stuff. Lori Nelson has very little to do here other than look good. She followed up UNDERWATER! with a more impressive genre film, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955). Oddly enough, Ricard Egan (who, for some bizarre reason, reminds me of Mickey Mantle), was at one point attached to play none other than Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, in a proposed live action television series. That would have been something to see!

There's really nothing here to see kids (except Jane Russell). Unless you're a die hard fan of hers, move along.

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