DirectorWilliam Fairchild Music directorWilliam Alwyn Duration LanguageEnglish
Release date1958 Based onCommander Crabb
by Marshall Pugh WriterMarshall Pugh (book), William Fairchild (screenplay) CastLaurence Harvey (Lieutenant "Buster" Crabb, R.N.V.R.), Michael Craig (Leading Seaman Knowles), Dawn Addams (Third Officer Jill Masters, W.R.N.S), John Clements (The Admiral), Sid James (Chief Petty Officer Thorpe (as Sidney James)), Alec McCowen (Able Seaman Morgan) Similar moviesFury, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, Too Late the Hero, Hell Is for Heroes
The Silent Enemy is a 1958 action film directed by William Fairchild. It stars Laurence Harvey as Lionel "Buster" Crabb and describes his exploits during World War II. Based on Marshall Pugh's book Commander Crabb, it was made following the publicity created by Crabb's mysterious disappearance and likely death during a Cold War incident a year earlier.
The film depicts events in Gibraltar harbour during the World War II Italian frogman and manned torpedo attacks, although the film's depiction of those events is highly fictionalised.
The story begins with a dramatisation of the Italian manned torpedo raid on Alexandria (1941) in which two British battleships were damaged. The British are worried that this new Italian tactic will give the enemy naval supremacy in the Mediterranean. From Spain, an Italian expert on underwater operations is secretly watching the British base in Gibraltar and planning new attacks.
Bomb disposal expert Lionel Crabb is posted to Gibraltar to head the British response. He creates an (initially very small) team of divers to intercept the Italian attacks and defuse the bombs.
The Italians plan a major attack on a British convoy, but Crabb and another diver manage to infiltrate the Spanish docks from which the Italians are planning the attack, identifying the ship (the Olterra) which the Italians attack from.
Crabb leads an unauthorised pre-emptive strike on the ship carrying the torpedoes and destroys it, winning the George Medal.
The British divers are shown as using Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus.
This film does not represent real events accurately:-
In particular, in the reality there was no attack on the Olterra, and no underwater hand-to-hand battle between Italian and British frogmen.
The breathing sets used by the film's actors representing the Italian frogmen are British naval type rebreathers (with fullface masks with oval windows like an eyes-and-nose mask's, and not with large rectangular windows as used by British frogmen and naval divers more recently and not authentic Italian rebreathers, because the Italian frogmen were acted by British naval divers, riding British-type manned torpedoes representing Italian maiali.
In the film Crabb dives on the wreck of a recently crashed B-24 Liberator that had gone into the sea just after taking off from Gibraltar Airport. This scene was based on the accident in 1943 in which Polish general Władysław Sikorski was killed. In the film the submerged wreck of a Lockheed P2V is used as a stand-in for the Liberator.
The part in the film showing the Liberator crashing into the sea is at Camp Bay. The crash actually happened off the eastern end of the runway crashing into the Mediterranean Sea.