Directors: Lloyd Bacon and Byron Haskin
Genre(s): Drama, War
Runtime: 126 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
During World War II, Hollywood cranked out various films (that could easily be described as propaganda, though not of a malicious sort) that promoted the different services and branches of the armed forces. The U.S. Merchant Machine got Action in the North Atlantic as their recruitment ad. Who wouldn’t want to join the organization that Humphrey Bogart was apparently in? The story of the movie is about a crew of mariners, including Joe Rossi (Humphrey Bogart), who are on a dangerous journey to deliver supplies to the European theater of the Second World War.
Action in the North Atlantic may be a propaganda piece, but it’s for just about as good a cause as one could ask for. It emphasizes the international cooperation needed to overcome the vile Axis Powers, even if the totalitarian Soviet Union gets a fairly rosy portrait of itself drawn.The picture was so effective as a recruiting device that future-actor Carroll O’Connor joined the Merchant Marine after viewing it (according to the feature’s IMDb trivia page). It’s a war-time morale-booster that audiences probably needed.
This flick contains some of the best naval combat I’ve ever seen. The feature’s first action scene might actually be too good, since its fiery ferocity isn’t quite topped in the remainder of the runtime. The battles contain lots of camera-shaking explosions, impressive destruction, and special effects that still hold up. It can be difficult to tell what’s stock footage, what’s miniatures, and what (if anything) is full-scale.
In the end, Action in the North Atlantic might be a bit too long, and it might show off its best set-piece too early. The scenes on land generally aren’t anything worth writing home about (although the scene with Bogart and the loose-lipped bar patron is fun), and it’s a bit too kind to the Soviets. Despite these flaws, it’s still a watchable war film. I’m generally not a fan of war flicks set at sea (for whatever reason), but this one has more positives than negatives.
My rating is 6 outta 10.