ABOVE US THE WAVES(Rank, 1955)—War. Director: Ralph Thomas; Producer: William MacQuitty; Script: Robin Estridge, based on a novel by Charles Esme Thornton Warren and James Benson; Cinematography: Ernest Steward; Music: Arthur Benjamin; Cast: John Mills (Commander Fraser), John Gregson (Lieutenant Alec Duffy), Donald Sinden (Lieutenant Tom Corbett), James Robertson Justice (Admiral Ryder), Michael Medwin (Smart), James Kenney (Abercrombie), O. E. Hasse (Captain of the Tirpitz), Lee Patterson (Cox), Anthony Newley (Engineer), and John Horsley (Lieutenant Anderson).
Near the end of Above Us the Waves, the captain of the German battleship Tirpitz surveys the extensive damage to his ship caused by explosives planted by the British sailors, who were led by Commodore Fraser. Expecting the worst, the captured sailors brace themselves for a violent reaction from the German who has just lost one of the prized vessels of the German navy. Instead, the German captain congratulates them and salutes their bravery. This scene is typical of the difference between British war films made during World War II and the characteristic presentation of the enemy in the mid-1950s' revival where the Germans were no longer the ruthless sadists of the 1940s films but men, like their British counterparts, sent out to do a job. Simple contrasts in ideology and excessive outpourings of moral outrage were no longer preeminent aspects of the story line, which was much more concerned with celebrating the bravery of the British officer class. A similar structure is evident in The Colditz Story* (1955), where the German Kommandant is distressed at the prospect of British casualties.
The low-key ending in Above Us the Waves, which concludes with a survey of the forlorn faces of the British sailors as they realize that one of their companion midget submarines has been lost in a Norwegian fjord, is typical of the entire film that traces the training of a small group of men. Their mission is to sink the Tirpitz, a gigantic German battleship, which has been terrorizing the British navy in the North Atlantic. When their first attempt fails, the men are forced to seek