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Film / Assault on a Queen

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Assault on a Queen is an American action-adventure film directed by Jack Donohue, starring Frank Sinatra and Virna Lisi. Based on a 1959 novel by Jack Finney, it was adapted for the screen by Rod Serling and released by Paramount Pictures on June 15, 1966.

When treasure hunters in the Caribbean come across a sunken World War II-era submarine, they also find that it was scuttled by its captain and is more or less intact. German Eric Lauffnauer is a former U-Boat captain, while American Mark Brittain served on subs in the Pacific. Lauffner proposes that they give up their treasure hunt and instead turn to piracy: in a few days' time the RMS Queen Mary will be in the area with millions of dollars' worth of cash, gold and jewels in its strong room.

Tropes found in Assault on a Queen include:

  • Alliterative Name: Linc Langley
  • Bloodless Carnage: No blood appears on any of the characters who get shot.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Linc coaches Victor in speaking with a British accent to allow him to impersonate a British naval officer. Victor nearly gives himself away when he pronounces 'lieutenant' as 'lou-tenant' rather than 'left-tenant'. Fortunately for him, the captain assumes he is Canadian.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: the Submarine Pirates plan to rob the Queen Mary of a shipment of gold bullion, but run into an unexpected hitch when the crates prove too heavy to be carried unassisted. The Queen Mary's crew naturally refuse to help, so the robbers have to drag the crates past gaping passengers who until now had no idea a robbery was in progress.
  • Brandishment Bluff: The submarine fires a torpedo with a dummy warhead at the Queen Mary, and informs the captain that the next torpedo will be live. The captain suspects that they are bluffing but can't take the risk. Turns out there are live torpedoes on the submarine.
  • The Caper: A group of morally dubious treasure hunters turn Submarine Pirates when they salvage an sunken U-boat and plan to use it to rob the RMS Queen Mary mid-ocean.
  • Coast Guard: A U.S. Coast Guard cutter comes to investigate why the RMS Queen Mary has come to a dead stop in the water, and winds up fighting Submarine Pirates.
  • Criminal Procedural: A lot of thought has been put into the mechanics of using a small submarine to rob an ocean liner at sea, and the characters are showing discovering the issues involved and working out ways round them. Even then, they acknowledge that the plan is risky and relies heavily on the fact that ships officers are trained to be cautious and take no unnecessary risks.
  • Death by Materialism: Despite the fact that he is already dragging two boxes of gold bullion, Victor attempts to steal an enormous diamond ring from one the passengers. Seeing him attack a passenger, the master-at-arms shoots him.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: The morning after he sleeps with Rosa, the normally grumpy Mark arrives at the sub whistling merrily. No one says anything, but it does draw odd looks from the rest of the crew.
  • Downer Ending: Half the crew are dead, the sub has been sunk, the survivors have nothing to show for their efforts, and are stranded in a raft attempting to paddle to South America, where they'll have to spend the rest of their lives, because if they return to American or British territory, they'll be arrested for piracy.
  • The Drunken Sailor: Linc Langley appears to be borderline alcoholic: often seen with a drink in his hand, and usually perma-buzzed if alcohol is available. At one point, Victor says he does not relish being cooped up in a tin can with 'a caramel lush'.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: One the officers of the RMS Queen Mary signals a Coast Guard by flashing a message with a hand lantern. Justified, as in 1966, ships officers and Coast Guard crew were required to know Morse code. Also done realistically, as the cutter's radio operator jots the message down on a pad before reading it out. The Coast Guard captain then asks for the officer to repeat the message, because it is so odd.
  • Fatal Flaw: Victor is obsessed with jewels. This ultimately gets him killed when he is attempting to escape and spots a massive diamond on the finger of one of the passengers. He breaks off his getaway and attempts to take the ring off her.
  • Going Down with the Ship: The treasure hunters find the body of the U-boat captain still at the periscope. Eric explains that he would have ordered the crew off and then submerged the sub and blown the ballast tanks to keep it out of enemy hands.
  • Gun Struggle: Eric pulls a gun on Mark when he orders Tony to torpedo the cutter. Rosa jumps Eric and knocks his gun arm aside which allows Mark to tackle him. Eric and Mark struggle over the gun, which results in Tony getting shot.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Several—interspersed with plot relevant dialogue scenes—depicting the protagonists repairing and refitting of the derelict submarine.
  • Hollywood Density: Averted; the thieves have to drag the crates of gold along the Queen Mary's decks to the submarine, as the crew have no intention of helping them.
  • Grease Monkey: Tony Moreno is an ex-Navy marine mechanic brought in to get the sub's engine's operational again. Eric describes him as a whiz with anything marine mechanical; able to fix anything from a yacht to a liner.
  • Houseboat Hero: Mark Brittain and Linc Langley live on their fishing charter boat. When the owner the marina threatens to impound their boat for nonpayment of fees, Mark agrees to sign on to Rosa's expedition as diver.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Victor is casually racist and sexist; directing a lot of derogatory comments towards Linc, and treating Rosa like his personal property. Interestingly, Eric, who is former U-boat captain, has no issues working with Linc, who is black.
  • Ramming Always Works: At the end of the film, the sub surfaces too close to the Coast Guard cutter for them to use their main guns. Instead the captain orders the cutter to ram the sub.
  • Shipshape Shipwreck: Largely justified. The protagonists find a sunken German U-boat while hunting for treasure. Eric, a former U-boat captain, explains that the captain would have sent the crew off and then scuttled the sub by filling the ballast tanks and letting it sink to the bottom; Going Down with the Ship. As the U-boat is designed to operate underwater, it has suffered little damage from sitting on the seabed; although they do comment that they were lucky none of the valves had failed and flooded the boat. By emptying the ballast tanks, they are able to refloat the U-boat and tow it to shore, where they spend considerable time cleaning barnacles and other crud off the hull and replacing all the components (gaskets, batteries, etc.) that have perished in the last 20 years.
  • Submarine Pirates: A group of treasure hunters discover a derelict U-boat. Refloating it, they plan to use it to launch an assault on the Queen Mary.
  • Villain Protagonist: The film is about a group of morally dubious treasure hunters who salvage a German U-boat and use it to become Submarine Pirates: staging an assault on the RMS Queen Mary. Several of the characters get cold feet and express doubts about the plan, but none of them actually pull out.
  • Wrench Whack: Tony was dishonorably discharged from the US Navy for hitting his superior officer with a wrench.