Inspired by the true story detailed in the bestseller The Terrible Hours by Peter Maas (“Serpico,” “The Valachi Papers”), “Submerged” vividly re-creates the moment-by-moment account of the sinking and rescue of the Squalus, then America’s newest submarine, on the eve of World War II.
In May of 1939 the U.S.S. Squalus was out on a routine test dive. But soon something went horribly wrong and the aft of the sub flooded, killing 29 men. The 140-foot submarine sank like a rock to the bottom of the Atlantic. The 33 survivors huddled in the cold, wet, steel hull praying that someone might find them. That someone was Navy Colonel Charles “Swede” Momsen. Momsen was known in navy circles as the “Jules Verne” of the Atlantic. His wacky inventions, like the “Momsen Lung” (which is the forerunner of modern scuba gear), were viewed as the work of an eccentric. But, when the Squalus went down, he was their only hope. He had invented a dive bell that could sink down to the hull of the sub and attach to the forward escape hatch. However, it had never been tried and no sub crew had ever been rescued from the bottom. NBC will air “Submerged” Sunday, 5/20/01 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Executive producer Stanley M. Brooks proves that an action-thriller can be gripping, convincing and insightful without bombarding the viewer with exploitation or vulgarity. Brooks’ company, Once Upon A Time Films, is determined to make quality entertainment films. He understands the bottom line for any action film must be a compelling story, not just explosions and special effects.
Perhaps not as complex in plot as “Hunt for Red October” or as meticulous in character development as “Das Boot,” “Submerged” nevertheless rivets the viewer to the small screen with its taut direction and intense ensemble. With the help of the small screen’s intimacy, director James Keach (winner of the Humanitas Prize for “A Winner Never Quits”), places us in the cramped quarters of the downed sub and makes us feel the emotions, fears and resolves of men facing death’s certainty. And the film’s star, Sam Neill (“Reilly, Ace of Spies,” “One Against the Wind”), gives another solid performance. Now, this is Must See TV.