The Enemy Below appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A mix of highs and lows resulted in a picture that seemed slightly above average for its era.
Some of the main problems came from definition, which appeared moderately weak much of the time. The movie often came across as somewhat soft and without much clarity. Sharpness never became atrocious, but it also usually failed to seem very distinctive. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed some mild to moderate edge enhancement through much of the movie. On the positive side, the print used was quite clean. A few specks cropped up, but these remained very minor for a movie of this one’s vintage.
While I didn’t expect a lively palette for this sort of war drama, I did anticipate colors that would come across as more dynamic than the ones seen here. Blue and gray dominate the movie, and those tones usually looked moderately drab and bland. They mostly remained within the realm of acceptability, but they did appear flatter than I’d like. Blacks seemed fine, however, as the dark tones were reasonably well-defined, and most low-light situations presented fairly good clarity. A few “day for night” shots demonstrated mild opacity, but the majority of shadows were acceptably smooth. Overall, Below seemed fairly satisfying, but this wasn’t a great transfer.
The Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack of The Enemy Below held up pretty well. The soundfield seemed more ambitious than usual for a film of its generation. It featured a lot of directional dialogue, which became a strength and a weakness. Most of the time, the speech came from the appropriate places and moved accurately from one spot to another, but more than a few exceptions occurred. Some lines bled between channels, and others popped up on the wrong side. For example, occasionally speech from a character on the left would emanate from the right speaker. Overall, the localization worked fine, but these exceptions caused distractions.
Otherwise, music demonstrated moderately clean stereo imaging. The definition was a little mushy at times, but it remained better than average for the era. Effects appeared accurately placed. They blended neatly, though they did tend to favor monaural localization much of the time. Surround usage remained virtually non-existent. If the rear speakers came into play, I didn’t notice them; they added nothing prominent to the package.
Audio quality was acceptable. Speech sounded a little thin but usually was nicely clear and natural. No issues with intelligibility or edginess occurred. Music was generally full and distinct. Highs sounded pretty bright, and lows came across as fairly deep. Effects seemed but they generally were tight and accurate. Depth charges presented good low-end, and the elements lacked notable distortion. However, more hiss than usual showed up during the film. The audio for Below was flawed but ambitious, and it seemed satisfying enough to earn a “B”.
Only a few minor supplements fill out the DVD. In addition to the movie’s theatrical trailer, the Fox War Classics area includes ads for a few other releases. We find promos for 13 Rue Madeleine, The Blue Max, The Desert Fox, Heaven Knows, Mister Allison, and Sink the Bismarck!
When we go to the Movietone News area, we locate three newsreels. These include “The War Situation”, “U-Boat Capture By Biplane”, and “Inside the German U-Boat Base at Lorient, France”. Each of these provides some short looks at historical situations related to the movie. Despite their brevity, they’re useful pieces.
One of the earliest submarine warfare movies, The Enemy Below remains one of the best. It fills its short running time with all meat and no filler, as it gets to the heart of its subject efficiently. The DVD presents pretty positive picture and audio but skimps on extras. Despite that, the movie remains strong enough for my recommendation, especially given the DVD’s low list price of just $14.98.