Dive Dive Dive Review: The Submarine Oscars

May 1, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

DIVE DIVE DIVE: Monday 3rd May, BBC4, 9pm ALERT ME

With the debate over renewing Britain’s nuclear submarines high on the agenda during this election campaign, the BBC are clearly looking to capitalise with a documentary charting the history of submarine’s on screen.

Last seen on the beeb as Kryten in Red Dwarf, Robert Lewellyn has made himself a career presenting machine-heavy programmes on other channels, so his role here isn’t surprising; although it does tend to lend the programme a rather cheap, Channel 5 feel.

This isn’t helped by the fact that the show’s content is essentially an hour’s worth of clips from films involving submarines. It begins with a look at a couple of the most recent US blockbuster attempts at the so called ‘genre’ – The Hunt for the Red October and Crimson Tide – focusing on how the former received support from the US Navy, while the latter’s portrayal of mutiny lost it official help.

The idea of such films being used as positive publicity for navy submariners is continued with the British films starring John Mills made during World War Two, which gives Lewellyn the excuse to ask whether he could do what the soldiers did. This prompts the one piece of near-educational material in the whole documentary; an interview with two ex-British submarine serviceman talking about the appalling survival rates.

This serious point is quickly lost though, as Bond’s submersible car in The Spy Who Loved Me gets just as much time dedicated to it, before finally the one truly great submarine film, Das Boot, is examined. The literal and psychological pressure during the film is assessed, with rent-a-psychologist, Prof. Geoffrey Beattie lending some obvious conclusions about the levels of fear in such a situation.

The programme wraps up with a brief appraisal of James Cameron’s boundary pushing CGI-fest, The Abyss, before contemplating the future for submarine films; which the majority of talking heads see as fairly bleak unless Cameron et al. decide to bring the genre into the 3D age.