Friday, June 25, 2021

Should be on a double bill with The Alligator People

A couple of months back, FXM put a movie into its rotation that was completely new to me: The Frogmen. It's going to be on again tomorrow at 7:50 AM and again Sunday (June 27) at 6:00 AM. So with that in mind, I went and watch the recording I had made of one of the several previous airings.

On an American ship somewhere in the Pacific theater of World War II, one group of guys is trying to relax on the top deck before the regular crew of the ship drives them off having to wash the decks. It turns out that the first group, led by Flannigan (Dana Andrews) are part of the UDT, the Underwater Demolition Team. In short, they're the titular "frogmen", whose job it is to go underwater just off shore of islands and rig things to be blown up, or do other surveillance that can't be done any other way. They're currently on a transport ship captained by Lt. Cmdr. Vincent (Gary Merrill).

From the first scene it seems like Flannigan is the frogmen's commanding officer, but that's not quite true. Their actual CO is Lt. Cmdr. Lawrence (Richard Widmark), who has only recently replaced Cassidy, who died on a mission. So there's a fair amount of enmity between Flannigan and the lower-ranking men, who all really liked Cassidy, and Cmdr. Lawrence, who's more by the books, cold and distant.

The group has three missions during the course of the movie. The first is reconnaissance to determin whether a secondary beach can be a landing point for an American assault on a Japanese-held island. Flannigan gets injured in this mission, and Lawrence thinks the mission is more important than any one man, which leads to even more enmity.

Flannigan might get a chance to prove himself to Lawrence, however. Lawrence gets an injury, having been infected through a scratch on some coral, and is in no position to actually rig the Japanese defenses to be bombed. Unfortunately, Flannigan does something really stupid, which is to have one of his men put up a sign on the beach welcoming the Marines. The man gets shot and fairly seriously injured.

But Flannigan ultimately does redeem himself when the transport ship gets hit by a torpedo that doesn't detonate. Flannigan and Lawrence are going to have to work together to defuse it, all while there's water coming into sick bay where the frogman who had gotten shot is lying, relatively immobile.

Finally, the UDT gets called over to a submarine for a super-secret mission to bomb a Japanese submarine pen. It's a much more dangerous mission, especially once the Japanese discover that the frogmen are right beneath them. One of the frogmen, played by a young Jeffrey Hunter, nearly gets killed.

There's a lot that's fairly standard in a movie like The Frogmen, starting with the whole conflict between the men who have been together a long time and their new commander. But The Frogmen tells its story well enough, with more than competent acting from the leads, and a reasonably good amount of suspense. It's not the greatest war movie made by any stretch of the imagination, but it succeeds at what it set out to do. People who want a war movie they might not have seen before would do well to catch The Frogmen..

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