After "Attack on the Iron Coast" (1968), the second of producer John Champion's WWII diptych, "Submarine X-1" regurgitates the tried and true formula of a hated commander who earns the respect of his men. His cold discipline means director William Graham gets to indulge in the usual training montages before the finale, although it's hard to believe Graham's bland, almost disinterested approach in "Submarine X-1" would be offset decades later by his superior work in the TV mini-series, "The Hunt for the Unicorn Killer" (1999), and in TV shows like "The X-Files."
Producer Champion had a short career conceptualizing and producing minor war actioners over a twenty-year period, and while "X-1" is notable for headlining James Caan, the actor's comportment is an ocean removed from his British fellow actors. (Caan would further his leading man position that same year in Robert Altman's anti-space exploration epic, "Countdown," so "X-1" should be seen as a very minor stepping stone before the actor's full range blossomed in films like "The Godfather.")
MGM's transfer is made from a really good print, and the mono mix is a straightforward balance of the usual cacophonic elements, backed by Ron Goodwin's generically heroic score.
In spite of Caan (and future "Space: 1999" actor Nick Tate) in the cast, "X-1" on its own may have a tougher time finding its audience; high-profile productions such as "The Battle of Britain" tend to grab the limelight (and set the action benchmark, in terms of production value) away from these B pictures, and "Submarine X-1" could have been double-billed on DVD with Champion's other programmer, "Assault on the Iron Coast," for a fun late-night marathon of diminutive war films.
© 2005 Mark R. Hasan
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