Dir: Ralph A. Villani
Starring: Tim Large, Jeremy King, Robb Maus, Steve Roth
USS Seaviper is a movie set during the Second World War and primarily takes place on the united states U-boat USS Seaviper. Now most people would be aware of some rather successful submarine movies in recent years, namely The Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide directed by the late Tony Scott. Both Movies I rank up there as my all time favourites of the genre along with Das Boot. Sadly the only similarity between this movie and the others is the fact they are both set on a submarine and that’s where it ends.
USS Seaviper starts out in Kiel, Germany where a mystery crate branded with a swastika and some form of code number. Ok so at this point I am intrigued to know what’s in the crate. Is it a nuclear weapon? What? Will this be some plot point that continually teases us during the film much like the silver case in Ronin? Short answer is no sadly.
We cut to a recon plane flying over a pacific island observing what appears to be a submarine in port. Is it the same submarine? Well at least from what comes later I believe it to be so, so why the opening scene in Germany at the beginning? It kind of just doesn’t make sense if we are going to cut to a scene with a German submarine in port just in another country. Why not just start there for heaven sake and save some production dollars for the poorly written dialogue in the script. Well At this point I am scratching my head as if I am missing something. Regardless we move on and said plane is shot down. Cut to a new scene where we are introduced to two new characters whom we don’t know but apparently there is some tension between the two of them over a gold watch that was lost in a previous card game. This serves as the main cause of tension between these two that end up being the two main characters for the rest of the film. I know what you’re thinking. I am way ahead of you… Is this the best that they can do?
We move onto the obligatory Captain meets Admiral to receive his orders. It’s interesting to see exactly how low budget this movie is in that the captain of the Seaviper turns up for a meeting with a 3 star admiral in a supposed US Navy dress white summer uniform with absolutely no rank, no pins, no service ribbons. In fact the only aspect of his uniform that actually said navy was the hat that he was wearing. It’s strange given that the rest of the uniforms in the movie had some form of navy insignias. The Navy then dispatch the USS Seaviper to rescue the downed aircrew and retrieve the recon information.
So said submarine arrives at the island where the plane went down in an attempt to rescue the downed aircrew from the Japanese and the Germans. Now the first thing the captain does is seek to engage in a battle with some enemy ships in the area. I am sorry, but this is supposed to be submarine warfare not a game of battle ship. What would happen is they would wait for the dark of night and then send a landing party to collect the downed aircrew. The concept is to go in there, get back to the boat and slip out without anyone knowing. On top of which, the Captain of a submarine would never lead a landing party ashore in the middle of a combat situation. So the Captain has left the XO in command and miraculously he becomes incapacitated due to an injury sustained from another scuffle between the submarine and the enemy surface ships.
This then paves the way for one of the two characters introduced at the beginning of the film at the card game to take command of the submarine while the other becomes his second in command. Ok can anyone smell the forced coincidence yet? Basically the writer has concocted some random series of events in order to have the two characters with pre-instilled tension take charge and fight over how the submarine should be operated whilst dealing with an enemy surface fleet. Sounds somewhat familiar? Uhm yes. Crimson Tide did that, but it was executed far more intelligently than what this film does.
So fast-forward past some more boring artificial tension bits and a little more sub action and all of a sudden we have the captain back on board with the downed aircrew and we’re headed home where supposedly the Americans have captured the mystery crate that was on the German Submarine and are in possession of some all important recon photos. If this doesn’t make sense, I don’t blame you. I watched this movie twice and I still can’t make sense of it.
I am not expecting production value of the likes of my afore mentioned favourite submarine movies, however I still think that you can create some sort of coherent story line even with a miniscule budget. After all, if you are filming on board a submarine for the majority of your movie, the money you save on sets and location shooting could be used to tweak the script and edit the film properly. Submarine movies are an interesting genre in that they offer for a cheap production due to filming on a set, however when it comes to story, character etc you really need to make the stuff work and fit together nicely. You can have all the explosions in the world, but unless you draw the audience into the submarine to ride along side your actors then that real sense of tension is just not there.
I honestly can’t find any redeeming feature about this movie. I am not sure I can even say that it was a valiant effort on their part to create some form of portrayal of life on a WWII submarine because it wasn’t. If you need to see how that is done, then you need look no farther than Das Boot. An interesting side note is that the submarine in Raiders of the Lost Ark was the same as the one used for Das Boot. Overall, the whole thing felt like a mash of potentially excellent ideas executed in the poorest way possible. The best thing that could be done is to scuttle this one to the bottom of the ocean where it belongs.
The Australian DVD:
The DVD reviewed was a screener, no comment can be made on Picture/Audio quality.
Review written by Dan McIntosh
DVD details here.
Thanks to Bill, care of Eagle Entertainment for the copy.