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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Silent Enemy (1958)
(2022 Restoration)


Starring: Laurence Harvey, Dawn Addams, John Clements, Michael Craig and Sid James
Distributor: StudioCanal


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 11 April 2022

StudioCanal release a newly-restored version of the classic WW2 Naval thriller, The Silent Enemy. The film is based on the heroic wartime exploits of Lionel 'Buster' Crabb, who would famously disappear in mysterious circumstances several years after the end of the war, during a reconnaissance mission for the MI6. In 1941, the Italians have created a new form of warfare - Frogmen - an intrepid band of men who travel astride small torpedo-type vessels, and attach explosive charges to the hulls of enemy ships, below their waterline. The young Naval Lieutenant, 'Buster' Crabb, an expert in mine and bomb disposal, is sent to Gibraltar to try and combat this new threat. Never having dived before, he sets to work to master the technique of underwater operations, and soon he and his team are able to locate many of the frogmen's charges and render them harmless. But with an invasion of North Africa imminent, time is not on the allies' side...

Directed by William Fairchild The Silent Enemy is notable for its pioneering underwater action sequences as well as being credited as inspiration for Ian Fleming to write Thunderball.

When you strip the film down to its bare bones there's not a lot of story here. Man out of water (sorry, couldn't resist) learns to dive so that he can check the underside of naval ships (which are being target by mysterious explosions). He discovers that the enemy are placing mines on the ships, but how are they doing it?

While it might be short on plot, this isn't really a problem as the movie relies on the audience investing in the characters as they battle against a hidden enemy and a head scratching mystery.

The usual stiff upper lip Britishness of the time period comes into play. The acting is uniformly superb and it's nice to see Sidney James playing a straight role (oo-er) as most people nowadays know him from his roles in the Carry On franchise.

Extras include: The Real Commander Crabb: Interview with Author Tim Binding (29 min feature that sees Binding separating the real Crabb from his portrayal in the movie); Commander Crabb Mystery (1956) (2 min, 10 second British Pathé news item from 1956 on the missing Crabb) and Behind the Scenes Stills Gallery (40 sec).

The movie has been beautifully restored and is a must own for lovers of classic war movies.


Darren Rea

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