What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Underwater! (1955)

Note: I know this is showing up on April Fools Day, but I can assure you my thoughts and opinions on this movie are no joke.

Now we have the 1955 movie Underwater! starring Jane Russell, Gilbert Roland, Lori Nelson and Richard Egan.

While diving in the Caribbean, Dominic Quesada (Gilbert Roland) and Johnny Grant (Richard Egan) come across a sunken ship with various artifacts. They are excited when they come up, but they quickly run into shark hunter Rico Herrera (Joseph Calleia), who grills them about what they were doing. They lie, telling him they are studying rocks. They suspect he doesn’t believe them, but he lets them go on their way. Dominic and Johnny return to port in Cuba, where they go to tell Johnny’s wife Theresa (Jane Russell) about their discovery. Theresa is reluctant to sell their boat to fund an expedition, but after she and Johnny are able to talk it out, they decide to go in on the expedition. While they discuss it, Dominic goes out looking for someone else who might be interested, and finds Gloria (Lori Nelson), a secretary whose millionaire boss has left town while owing money to a lot of people. He had left her a yacht, and Dominic convinces her to let him use the boat for the expedition. They are all joined by Father Cannon (Robert Keith), who believes they found one of the wrecks of a convoy that had fled Panama with a lot of treasure, including a statue of the Madonna. After searching the area, they are able to locate the ship with the treasure on it. They run into Rico again, who is still suspicious, but lets them keep going. However, trouble comes as Dominic falls ill while diving, the sunken ship (and some of the ground holding it up) starts falling apart when they use dynamite to open a door, Rico is sticking around, and Johnny starts getting a little too much gold fever, much to Theresa’s dismay. But can they get through all these problems and bring up the treasure?

Underwater!, although directed by John Sturges (who is probably best known as the director of The Great Escape, among other films), was as much a project for Howard Hughes, the owner of RKO Studios at that time. He used the movie not only to highlight his star Jane Russell, much as he had been doing since he introduced her to the world in The Outlaw, but he also used it to highlight the then-new invention of scuba gear. The crew tried to film some stuff near Hawaii, but the footage didn’t come out great, so they came back to RKO, where they finished it in a big underwater tank on the sound stages. Of course, the movie is as well known for the big publicity stunt for its premiere, where they provided people with the gear to actually watch the movie UNDERWATER.

Going into this movie, I will admit I hadn’t exactly been hearing great things about it, so I was quite hesitant. After watching it, I find that my worries were unfounded. Sure, it’s not the greatest movie ever made, but I did have some fun watching it! I will admit, in some ways it reminded me very much of the classic The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (except underwater). We have treasure to be found, potential bandits waiting to take it away, trouble trying to get the treasure out, one member of the group essentially getting gold fever and threatening those that get in his way, etc. Obviously, it’s not as good as that classic, and certainly the slow pacing (no doubt the result of trying to show off the underwater photography) might turn a few off. But, in spite of the fact that I’m not a diver myself, I was fascinated with all the underwater footage, which made the movie entertaining enough for me. I wouldn’t suggest going in expecting a big classic or great movie, but it’s certainly enough fun that I would recommend it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. Warner Archive has been able to do a 4K scan here of the original camera negative, and oh, what a picture! The underwater photography looks amazing here in HD (and of course, the above-water footage looks even better), and I enjoy seeing a fun movie that hasn’t seen a release on DVD (yet) being given such wonderful treatment on home video! Certainly a recommended release! The movie is one hour, thirty-nine minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Son Of Paleface (1952) – Jane Russell – The Tall Men (1955)

Coming Up Shorts! with… Wigwam Whoopee (1948)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 3 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!

(Length: 7 minutes, 12 seconds)

Following right behind the Mayflower, Popeye runs into Indian princess Olive, while dealing with an Indian chief who also has designs on her. With the chief essentially standing in for Bluto, this short was still fun. Admittedly, not a very politically correct cartoon, with many Indian stereotypes being used. Still, it had a few fun moments, including Olive singing the song “By A Waterfall” (from the 1933 film Footlight Parade)!

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring more of Popeye (and the eventual post on the entire 1940s Volume 3 set), along with other shorts!

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