A few words about…™ Underwater! – in Blu-ray

The quality - which gives us the full beauty of early 5248 Eastman Color, albeit cropped and anamorphosized, yet very accurate to what was on screen in early 1955, as produced in dye transfer prints. 4 Stars

Underwater probably has more interest historically than as a film. It wasn’t very good in 1955, and hasn’t exactly turned Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White over the ensuing decades.

It’s a very minor work for director John Sturges, who had the ability (The Great Escape) to create films that did stand the test of time.

Historically, it was created under the aegis of Howard Hughes (same guy behind The Outlaw), now using a different tack to show off Jane Russell’s breasts, which actually aren’t the stars of the film. And this was done better in The Deep, anyway.

When RKO made their big push into wide screen, they did it in the cheapest way possible – SuperScope. Films shot flat, and optically converted, ie cropped to a 2:1 aspect ratio, and presented in anamorphic format.

Here’s how it fits into the studio release history.

Cattle Queen of Montana – 11/18/54
Underwater! – 2/9/55
Escape to Burma – 4/9/55
Son of Sinbad – 5/31/55
Pearl of the South Pacific – 7/24/55
Bengazi – 9/14/55
Tennessee Partner – 9/21/55
Treasure of Pancho Villa – 10/19/55
Texas Lady – 11/23/55

RKO continued with a handful of titles into 1956.

In my teens, I used to confuse this with the Fox scope production Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, which isn’t a much better film.

So what’s good about this new Warner Archive release?

The quality – which gives us the full beauty of early 5248 Eastman Color, albeit cropped and anamorphosized, yet very accurate to what was on screen in early 1955, as produced in dye transfer prints. Skin tonalities are gorgeous. Grain structure, perfect. It’s a glossy, beautiful presentation.

For those seeking an example for their libraries of SuperScope, this is a gorgeous release, although there are better SS productions, such as Vera Cruz.

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Was this ever released on DVD?

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

18 Comments

  1. Robert Harris

    Underwater probably has more interest historically than as a film. It wasn't very good in 1955, and hasn't exactly turned Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White over the ensuing decades.

    It's a very minor work for director John Sturges, who had the ability (The Great Escape) to create films that did stand the test of time.

    Historically, it was created under the aegis of Howard Hughes (same guy behind The Outlaw), now using a different tack to show off Jane Russell's breasts, which actually aren't the stars of the film. And this was done better in The Deep, anyway.

    When RKO made their big push into wide screen, they did it in the cheapest way possible – SuperScope. Films shot flat, and optically converted, ie cropped to a 2:1 aspect ratio, and presented in anamorphic format.

    Here's how it fits into the studio release history.

    Cattle Queen of Montana – 11/18/54
    Underwater! – 2/9/55
    Escape to Burma – 4/9/55
    Son of Sinbad – 5/31/55
    Pearl of the South Pacific – 7/24/55
    Bengazi – 9/14/55
    Tennessee Partner – 9/21/55
    Treasure of Pancho Villa – 10/19/55
    Texas Lady – 11/23/55

    RKO continued with a handful of titles into 1956.

    In my teens, I used to confuse this with the Fox scope production Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, which isn't a much better film.

    So what's good about this new Warner Archive release?

    The quality – which gives us the full beauty of early 5248 Eastman Color, albeit cropped and anamorphosized, yet very accurate to what was on screen in early 1955, as produced in dye transfer prints. Skin tonalities are gorgeous. Grain structure, perfect. It's a glossy, beautiful presentation.

    For those seeking an example for their libraries of SuperScope, this is a gorgeous release, although there are better SS productions, such as Vera Cruz.

    Image – 5

    Audio – 5

    Pass / Fail – Pass

    Upgrade from DVD – Was this ever released on DVD?

    RAH

    It was never released on DVD. I have no memory of ever seeing this movie so this will be a blind buy for me. Thanks for the review.

  2. Keith Cobby

    One of the handful of RKO 1956 Superscope films is Slightly Scarlet, which is one of my most wanted titles. It's getting closer!

    I stand to be corrected but I believe the rights to the RKO Allan Dwan films are not part of the Warners library. VCI has released Dwan's RKO output from the mid 1950s on DVD: In addition to Slightly Scarlet, there's also Tennessee's Partner, Cattle Queen Of Montana, Silver Lode, Pearl Of The South Pacific, Passion and Escape To Burma. All in need of major restoration work if the VCI transfers are any indication.

  3. atcolomb

    Have the excellent book Slow Fade to Black, The Decline of RKO Radio Pictures by Richard B Jewell which the author talks about what Howard Hughes did to RKO.

    RKO is one of my three favorite studios from the Golden Age of Hollywood era. It should have been a crime what Hughes did to that studio.

  4. Thomas T

    I stand to be corrected but I believe the rights to the RKO Allan Dwan films are not part of the Warners library. VCI has released Dwan's RKO output from the mid 1950s on DVD: In addition to Slightly Scarlet, there's also Tennessee's Partner, Cattle Queen Of Montana, Silver Lode, Pearl Of The South Pacific, Passion and Escape To Burma. All in need of major restoration work if the VCI transfers are any indication.

    Oh dear! VCI vs Warner Archive! Which is likely to produce better results? The most one-sided contest in history!

  5. I am not sure if this is the right post to ask this, but I saw a poster for one of the very last RKO releases, THE GIRL MOST LIKELY. It says it is in RKO Scope. Is that SuperScope?

    As for UNDERWATER, I always liked its poster with Russell submerged and the tag line "Aqualung Thrills'!

  6. Jim*Tod

    I am not sure if this is the right post to ask this, but I saw a poster for one of the very last RKO releases, THE GIRL MOST LIKELY. It says it is in RKO Scope. Is that SuperScope?

    As for UNDERWATER, I always liked its poster with Russell submerged and the tag line "Aqualung Thrills'!

    Superscope, Superscope 200, Superscope 235, Superscope 255 and RKO Scope were filmed in 1.33 and then cropped at various aspect ratios.

  7. I was concerned that the review would start with: “After establishing in 1953’s ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ that Jane Russell couldn’t drown…”, but was glad to see you took the high road. 😆

  8. This was one of my favorite movies on TV (in 4:3 black & white) as a kid. Anything underwater was cool for me as my dad was a SCUBA instructor for the YMCA. My interest in Jane Russell came later 🙂
    Great to see now in Technicolor and "widescreen"! There are some soft scenes, but for the most part the picture is beautiful. Even the underwater photography is better than I expected.

  9. John Hermes

    I watched Underwater! tonight on my projector and 106" screen…very nice job by Warner. I am a big fan of 1950s films and actors and enjoyed it very much.

    My copy hasn't arrived yet but I'm looking forward to it. I'm a fan of '50s movies too.

  10. John Hermes

    I watched Underwater! tonight on my projector and 106" screen…very nice job by Warner. I am a big fan of 1950s films and actors and enjoyed it very much.

    I have now watched it and I agree with you. An excellent presentation of this film.

  11. Robert Crawford

    RKO is one of my three favorite studios from the Golden Age of Hollywood era. It should have been a crime what Hughes did to that studio.

    You and I are on the same page there. Hughes didn't seem to give a shit about the longevity of his studio or the quality of the films RKO spit out during his tenure, aside from the those he personally helmed or those with which he was trying to create a huge female star (Faith Domergue, etc.). RKO is also one of my favorites for 40's-50's film output. Their noirs, Val Lewton's, Orson Welles films, screwball comedies, the Astaire/Rogers musicals…such a wealth of excellence, pretty much run into the ground by that weird gazillionaire who had very little artistic skill but who simply sank into self-isolation and took the studio with him. Terrible waste.

    So, thanks, Warner Bros and other labels for getting the best of RKO classic titles to us on often stunning Blu-rays. Lots left to go (I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, GUNGA DIN, etc.), but I now own superlative transfers of dozens of my favorites.

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