The Frogmen (1951)
Widmark's Men of Honour
I'll be honest, the chances are you will watch "The Frogmen" probably enjoy it but I doubt you will remember it that long after you watched it. And the reason being is that whilst efficient in doing a few things such as delivering a look at the danger that divers faced during WWII and showing how camaraderie and respect between them is formed there is nothing stand out about it, no great performance or moment of memorable action to remember it by.
Following the death of their superior the men of the UDT - Underwater Demolition Team find life under Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence (Richard Widmark - Death of a Gunfighter) difficult as he is a by the book officer who tightens up on the teams discipline. But his strict ways end up causing a mini mutiny as one after another of his team request transfers to another team that is until he can prove himself to be more than their superior when he risks his life for them.
"The Frogmen" appears to be one of those wartime movies which tries to show the public of the 1950s, when it was released, what contribution the Underwater Demolition Team made to WWII. As such like other movies which basically show what a group of people did there are various different story threads going on. The first of these is to look at how these men operated be it reconnaissance missions or actually laying explosives it gives a brief glimpse of what dangers they faced. And at the same time you see how they would get in and out of the water quickly, make notes whilst on reconnaissance and so on. As such it has this almost educational quality in showing how the UDT operated.
Alongside this educational aspect you get various missions which these men undertook, recreated in such a way that several separate incidents are drawn together. So we get the men scouting out the Japanese under water sea defences, trying to blow up a submarine in a harbour as well as a drama which threatens their ship. Now unless you know what is true and what isn't these various missions and events could be just a made up storyline to give this look at the UDT an entertainment factor. But the thing is these various dramas may have seemed reasonably fresh back in 1951 watching "The Frogmen" now many of them seem familiar used in other movies about divers and submarines in WWII.
And then we get a look at how the team bond, how having a new officer in command is no fun for either the men who find his ways too strict to the officer finding himself having to compete with the legacy of the one he has replaced. As such we watch how the men of the UDT don't get on with Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence and find his by the book ways alien compared tot heir previous Lt. who they respected as one of their own. Of course this story inevitably has Lawrence earning the men's respect as he proves himself not such a by the book officer.
But the thing is that whilst all of these elements combine to give us a look at what the men of the UDT did, how they grew close to each other whilst weaving together various real stories to create a story for the movie none of it is memorable. The action scenes end up functionary as does the occasional moment of humour and whilst Richard Widmark is solid as Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence it's not a memorable performance. The same can be said of the rest of the cast which includes Dana Andrews, Jeffrey Hunter and Robert Wagner as there is not a bad performance in the entire movie but yet none of them really stand out or deliver more than just an average character.
What this all boils down to is that from an educational aspect "The Frogmen" does a reasonable job of showing what the men of the UDT did during WWII, we get to appreciate both the danger they put themselves in and how they became close, risking their lives for each other. But there is nothing stand out about it, just an interesting but average war movie.
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