The Atomic Submarine (1959) – Friday Night At The Home Drive-In

Poster for The Atomic Submarine (1959)The Atomic Submarine (1959) by #SpencerGordonBennet
#ArthurFranz #DickForan #BrettHalsey #JoiLansing

A nuclear submarine near the Arctic Circle encounters electrical storms, a UFO and lots of hairy tentacles.

“The Screen’s Spectacular Inferno of the Battle for Civilization!”
“When U.S.A. Killer Subs meet a ruthless power in the icy depths of a Polar Sea!”

#SciFi #Thriller

When I first came across The Atomic Submarine (1959), I was afraid that it might just be a simple story of a submarine crew that runs into technical trouble under the ocean somewhere. Not that this couldn’t be a compelling movie, but when I program an all night marathon at the home drive-in, I’m hoping to see some monsters or aliens, or something like that. Thankfully, The Atomic Submarine is about an alien invasion of sorts. This one doesn’t come from the skies, however. – it comes from under the water…

Aliens don’t live under the water, do they?

As far as I could understand, the aliens in The Atomic Submarine came from another planet, but they set up a base of operations under the Arctic Ocean. They plan to study human beings, and somehow adapt themselves to be more like human beings and then return to colonize the Earth. Or something like that…

Who directed The Atomic Submarine?

Spencer Gordon Bennet was an American film producer and director who specialized in   film serials – you know, those things that came in 10 or 12 parts – each one ending in a cliffhanger? Some of them were ridiculous, like the characters are seen dying in a plane crash at the end of part 2 – but at the beginning of part 3, they are shown jumping out of the plane just before it crashes – even though they clearly hadn’t done that week before. I don’t know if Spencer Gordon Bennet’s serials were like that, but apparently he directed more film serials than any other director. And because of this, he was dubbed the “King of Serial Directors”

Who’s that girl?

Perhaps to make up for the fact that once we are inside the submarine, the movie becomes an old fashioned sausage-fest, there is a scene early on in which one of our heroes is on a date with a beautiful blonde woman. She is striking, and instantly recognizable – even if you can’t put a name to her. She is, in fact, Joi Lansing.

Joi Lansing pin-up photoJoi Lansing was an American model, actress, and nightclub singer. Some may remember her as Gladys Flatt on The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–1971), but she appeared on many other TV shows as well. A popular pin-up girl, she also appeared in many B-movies, such as Hot Cars (1956) and Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967).

She often played characters similar to those played by fellow blonde bombshells Mamie Van Doren and Jayne Mansfield. Apparently, she was in the running for the role of Miss Casswell in All About Eve (1950), which ended up going to another blonde bombshell, Marilyn Monroe. She had the distinction of twice being directed by Orson Welles. She plays a stripper in Touch of Evil (1958) and an actress in Fountain of Youth (1958).

Unfortunately, Joi Lansing died far too young, of breast cancer, at age 43.

Needless to say, she was a welcome addition to The Atomic Submarine, but her part was all too brief. If only they could have found a way to smuggle her onto the submarine, they might have had a four star classic on their hands…

So does The Atomic Submarine sink or swim?

I really enjoyed The Atomic Submarine (1959). I found it to be entertaining, original, and compelling. It was somehow operating on a higher level than the average B-monster movie. That’s not to say that it’s better than movies like Tarantula (1955) or The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). It’s not. But it’s better than a lot of the crap that you wind up sitting through hoping to find another Tarantula or The Incredible Shrinking Man. Fans of underwater adventures, or alien invasions (albeit subtle alien invasions hiding beneath the surface, literally) will definitely want too check this one out. Give it a shot on your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.