The Atomic Submarine


Rating 1

Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet

Written by Orville H Hampton, from a story by Irving Black and Jack Rubin

Starring Arthur Franz (Cmdr Richard ‘Reef’ Holloway), Dick Foran (Cmdr Dan Wendover), Brett Halsey (Dr Carl Neilson Jr), Paul Duboy (Lt David Milburn), Bob Steele (CPO Grif Griffin), Victor Varconi (Dr Clifford Kent), Tom Conway (Sir Ian Hunt), Richard Tyler (Frogman Carney), Kenneth Becker (Frogman Powell), Jean Moorhead (Helen Milburn) and Joi Lansing (Julie)

The US Navy atomic submarine Tigershark is sent to the Arctic Circle with a team of scientists onboard to investigate a series of mysterious incidents, including the disappearance of several vessels, and encounters an aquatic flying saucer.


‘The Atomic Submarine’ was released in 1959, five years after the US Navy launched the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, and one year after the Soviet Union successfully launched its first nuclear submarine. The film is, effectively, a simplistic advertisement for the power of the nuclear deterrent, in which the counter-argument, calling for an end to armed conflict and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, is put forward by the young scientist Carl Neilson, until his wholesale change of ideology at the end of the film after he has seen at firsthand the threat posed by the “alien”.

The special effects don’t impress, although the minimalist interior of the alien craft is quite effective, stock footage is used throughout and the interior of the submarine is laughable – but this is a film made very quickly with minimal budget during the period when drive-in theatres were at the peak of their popularity. The acting is stilted but passable and the story is filled with so many gaping holes that it becomes one gigantic chasm. Having said that, despite the increasingly irritating voiceover, the film is solid and it has a certain charm as a curiosity of the period.

Director Spencer Gordon Bennet was known as the “King of the Serial Directors” and during his long career, dating from 1921 to 1974, he directed the first ‘Superman’ serial, in 1948, and its sequel ‘Atom Man vs Superman’ in 1950. Actor Tom Conway was the brother of the rather more famous George Sanders. Brett Halsey, who plays Carl Neilson, has had a long career in films and television and most recently appeared in a 2008 episode of the CBS network police procedural ‘Cold Case’.

Review posted on 23 November 2009



Nikolay said...

nice film. nice review, tnh

alienlanes said...

Thank you. Although I only gave the film one star, I am glad to have had the chance to watch it and think it’s worthwhile for anyone with an interest in 1950s sc-fi and horror.