Underwater! was an odd entry in film history. No, it’s not the Kristen Stewart movie that you slept on in January. This one is a late in the heyday RKO film presented by Howard Hughes and headlined by Jane Russell. She’s married to Richard Egan and they’re both scuba diving for treasure. When a local pirate discovers their booty, it’s not long before 1950s style fisticuffs breaks out.
RKO didn’t get to do a lot of Cinemascope movies. However, they couldn’t have picked a better film than this to whip out the Superscope process. It’s a flatter 2.00:1 ratio presentation that plays a lot similar to what Storaro would later use on films for Coppola and Beatty. It gives the scenes much more room to breathe, but the spectacle of a scope presentation isn’t there.
Shark hunting, saucy 1950s dance music and Jane Russell being herself abound throughout the picture. Ultimately, it’s a lot of noise with little substance. The film looks gorgeous on this Warner Archive Blu-ray, but I would have loved to have had some special features. The Hughes productions with Jane Russell never get enough attention.
The Blu-ray comes with one of my favorite Warner Archive transfers ever. Just check out those screenshots. I’ll throw a gallery at the bottom of the review for you to see a few more shots. But, can we talk about the most memorable thing from the film? A concise little ditty shared with conservative 1950s America entitled Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White.
Just listen to it! It has so much 1950s style to it that Martin Scorsese is going to retroactively insert it into The Irishman. The direction is decent enough, it’s an early John Sturges jobber that ultimately paid off with much bigger films. However, I was left wondering something. Why wasn’t this film bigger?
I think it boils down to what happens to a lot of our bigger modern fare. You can get the talent, you can get the premise and the spectacle abounds. The catch is it takes the right mix of people to make it rise off the page and onto the screen. That never quite happens for Underwater, but it is such a noble effort.