Original Soundtrack

The Enemy Below

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

This release is a source of amazement as well as delight, coming as it does directly on the heels of the nearly one-year-delayed DVD issue of The Enemy Below. Arguably the best submarine movie ever made -- and certainly in the top three of such movies -- the Dick Powell-directed feature film has long had a special place in the hearts of movie buffs and World War II enthusiasts. The music also turns out to be rather special; the Leigh Harline score had always seemed relatively simple and straightforward, but as a listen to this CD reveals, it exists on a level of complexity infinitely more challenging than the film's plot. Harline's leitmotifs, associated with the escort destroyer Haynes and the U-Boat she is pursuing, the sub in threat mode, and the destroyer searching and attacking, present a fascinating array of thematic material, tonal yet often dissonant. The producers were fortunate -- uniquely so, it seems -- to find the stereo music masters for the 1958 movie in perfect condition, so that the entire score is represented sequentially, and in state-of-the-art digital audio that's a match for any recording of its vintage. The themes intersect with the styles and influences of Vaughan Williams and Richard Strauss, among others -- yet Harline also wove in music representing the presence of electronic pulses and equipment, and what makes it all the more impressive is that it works as just plain music; oh, it helps to know the movie, but it's not essential -- this is 40 minutes of substantial listening. What's more, the producers of the disc have even retrieved the German drinking songs used in the movie by the U-Boat captain to raise his crew's spirits. Actually, those tracks were disconcerting, as this reviewer found the songs rousing, even compelling, despite the occasional political reference to Nazism; it speaks volumes about the German knack for writing good drinking songs. The annotation is exceptionally good and thorough, and anyone intrigued by this release should grab it. Part of Intrada Records' Special Collection series, it is limited to 1,000 copies pressed.