‘Underwater’ 1955 with Jane Russell

In one of the most ludicrous publicity stunts in film history 200 Journalists and screen personalities were flown to Silver Springs in Florida in January 1955 to attend the premiere of Howard Hugh’s film ‘Underwater’

They donned bathing suits, aqua lungs and swim fins and viewed the film 20 ft underwater at Silver Springs. Those who chose not to get wet could view the film from the portholes of six electrically powered submarines.

Some have since said that RKO should have left the film on the bottom as they said that it was quite talky and boring in the main.

It was however filmed in Technicolor and Superscope.

John Sturges directed.

Jayne Mansfield pictured here with Jane Russell at the film Premiere of ‘Underwater’ at Silver Springs Florida on 10 January 1955

Dominic Quesada (Gilbert Roland) and Johnny Gray ( Richard Egan) believe they are on to something when they find ancient artefacts scattered on the sea bed whilst diving. All they need to do is persuade Johnny’s wife Theresa (Jane Russell) to allow him to use their boat to finance their treasure hunt although Dominic manages to persuade the attractive Gloria (Lori Nelson) to join them and use her boat. Also along for the expedition is Father Cannon (Robert Keith) who believes there is a much greater treasure to be found in a life size golden Madonna. Between the danger of sharks, the galleon teetering on an under water ridge as well as some locals who are obviously not the fishermen they say they are, it is a dangerous adventure.

The film has some good under water scenes but it is really an ordinary treasure hunting story with danger from sharks, thieves and the precariously perched sunken galleon.

Lori Nelson and Gilbert Roland in Underwater! (1955)

Howard Hughes originally planned to film Underwater! in 3-D, but the craze had faded before production began. By mid-1954 Fox’s new CinemaScope format was in use by other studios as well. Some predicted that ALL feature filmmaking would soon be anamorphic

Howard Hughes instead rolled the dice with the clever Superscope format. * Rather than lining up to rent an expensive CinemaScope lens, RKO simply took a horizontal ‘stripe’ out of the middle of a normal 35mm frame. An optical printer blew it up and squeezed it so that it would yield an extra-wide image projected with a ‘scope lens. The added granularity was partly counteracted by Technicolor printing. It was a poor man’s Cinemascope

A couple of years later , SuperScope introduced SuperScope 235 which used the entire 35mm picture width, including the soundtrack area. It’s essentially the same as today’s ‘Super 35′ format, the one favoured by James Cameron in his more recent films

ABOVE – The ‘Underwater’ Premiere

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