1980s Das Boot (1981, Director's Cut)

Published on January 8th, 2008 | by Chris


Das Boot (1981, Director’s Cut)

Reviewed by:
On January 8, 2008
Last modified:October 6, 2012


If I ever feel comfortable in compiling a list of the best World War II movies (I've still got a lot to see!) Das Boot will be on that list, probably somewhere near the top.

Das Boot (1981, Director's Cut)Oh man, I can't believe I've never found the time to see Das Boot until now.  I mean, what was I thinking?!  If ever there was the definitive "submarine" war movie, this is it, hands down.  I think in my younger years I was put off by the length of it, but no more.

The plot follows the crew of the German U-Boat, U-96 as they set out into the Atlantic to attack convoys heading for Britain.  The problem is that by this time, the Royal Navy has figured out how to fight the underwater menace, and has left the U-Boat fleet sparse and spread out.

That doesn't keep U-96 out of danger, however.  On numerous occasions they must avoid being destroyed by depth charges, and they manage to pull it off, mostly due to the commanding presence of their Captain, Willenbrock (Jürgen Prochnow.)

But the combat isn't the great part of this film.  Consider that, apart from about three short episodes, one at the beginning, one at the end, and one about two-thirds in, the entire film takes place on board the sub.  All three and a half hours.  Now, that might sound tedious and dull to some, but director Wolfang Petersen turns this into an incredible story of human survival and spirit.

The crew goes from being full of enthusiasm and the proverbial piss-and-vinegar, to a band of haggard and battle-wearied men over the course of the film.  This slow and eventual degradation culminates with them sitting at the bottom of the Straits of Gibraltar, having been hit by a night-time air patrol.  They sit at a depth that should be impossible, with the boat creaking and falling apart around them.  They somehow manage to overcome and make enough repairs to get them back underway.

With a lot of renewed spirit, yet still weary and beaten, they sail back into port to a "heroes welcome", which none of them seem too interested in receiving, and the film ends on a note that you just have to say, "that figures."

Prochnow and the entire cast is absolutely phenomenal.  Prochnow especially has a stare about him that is riveting.  I don't think there was one time I cringed at the acting.  It is really just that good all around.

The only real problems I think that hurt Das Boot, are the 80's soundtrack, and some of the special effects, neither of which have enough of a presence to really detract very much.  The soundtrack is only heard a few times, and then only when the sub surfaces in a "marching ahead" fashion.  It's that sort of typical early-80's classical-keyboard hybrid thing that (thank god!) died out a long time ago.  Today it just doesn't hold up.  The external special effects also have some issues, as its quite obvious you're looking at a model, or a set piece with a projected background... and there is one scene where they're on the bridge against a purplish background which is just plain weird looking, with the characters having a "halo" around them that just looks strange.  But like I said, none of this gets much time, and it was a product of the era the film was made, so I can't take too much away for it.

The entire direction on board the sub is just amazing, the crampedness of it, the claustrophobic nature is just so in your face its ridiculous.  Technically I can't say much about it, but it all looked so perfect that I have to say well done.

I have not seen the complete "uncut" version which comes from the original television mini-series.  I've read that it differs in a few ways, in that this version has a longer beginning with the crew at the "club" and before they take to sea, where the uncut deals even more with the men on board....  I will have to find a copy of that to compare this version to.

If I ever feel comfortable in compiling a list of the best World War II movies (I've still got a lot to see!) Das Boot will be on that list, probably somewhere near the top.

It should also be noted that I watched this DVD with the German langauge audio with English subtitles.  I suggest that you do the same, with any foreign language movie actually.  There's no substitute for the original delivery of the lines.  Bad overdubs are just a peeve of mine, and I'd rather listen to the original intent of the dialog and read its meaning than listen to someone else's interpretation of it.

Das Boot - The Director's Cut Das Boot - The Director's Cut
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This is the restored, 209-minute director's cut of Wolfgang Petersen's harrowing and claustrophobic U-boat thriller, which was theatrically rereleased in 1997. Originally made as a five-hour miniseries, this version devotes more time to getting to know the crew before they and their stoic captain (Jürgen Prochnow) get aboard their U-boat and find themselves stranded at the bottom of the sea...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Manufacturer: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Original Release Date:
  • Herbert Gronemeyer
  • Jürgen Prochnow
  • Klaus Wennemann


  • Factory sealed DVD


Customer reviews
Average Customer Review

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best WWII movies, July 2, 2015
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This is an excellent movie. I have watched this several times. I had it on VHS, but since I no longer have a VCR player, I purchased it on DVD. The DVD had English subtitles or you could select "English" as the language of the DVD. I highly recommend just using the English Subtitles. The German language is a beautiful language to listen to (I dont' speak or understand German) and I think to get the full effect of this movie, you need to listen to it in German. If you have problem watching a movie with subtitles and being able to follow along , then as stated, you have the option of listening to it in English. The movie follows a WWII U-boat on one of it's patrols. The director did an excellent job of making you "feel" like you were on the sub. You can sense and feel, the dirt, the sweat, the claustrophobia, the fear as depth charges are dropped, the loneliness. You come to know the sailors, their lives, their emotions . I will not spoil the end for you ,... Read more

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Realistic, gripping, and heartbeaking, February 3, 2017
Swedesdottir (Annapolis, MD, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Das Boot (Amazon Video)
I happened to watch this recently, after many years. It's the story of a German U-boat and its crew in WWII. This is a riveting saga of the lives of those who served underneath the sea during that conflict and the conditions, hazards, and sacrifices of those seamen. I can't reveal the plot without spoiling the movie, but for a realistic, in-depth (sorry!) understanding of what it was like to live and die as a German Submariner in WWII, this is the sine qua non. It's riveting. realistic, and heartbreaking.
As a side note, my father served in WWII as a Navy pilot, and one of his early assignments was piloting subhunter PBY aircraft out of Iceland and Newfoundland. His letters attest to the dangers he faced, flying mere feet over treacherous North Atlantic seas, carrying torpedos and depth charges, where a gust of wind could send the aircraft, him and his crew into the water at any time. He wrote that all the pilots were more afraid of the weather than the enemy, but they flew... Read more

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars STARTLINGLY REALISTIC, December 18, 2013
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This review is from: Das Boot - The Director's Cut (DVD)
As a young German officer, Lothar-Gûnther Buchheim was assigned to join a U-boat patrol in the Atlantic and write a morale-boosting account of its mission. This experience provided the basis for his 1973 novel, Das Boot, which inspired this film. Buchheim also wrote a trilogy of non-fiction books about the Battle of the Atlantic, the first of which is available in English translation ( U-Boat War [1986]).

In its day, Das Boot was one of the most expensive films ever produced. Most of the money went into the sets. Especially noteworthy is the set for the U-boat's interior, which was carefully constructed to replicate all the equipment of a real submarine, and mounted on a gimbal that could impart movements to simulate waves, dives, and depth charges. The set was engineered so that water could rush in and fire could break out in... Read more

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Das Boot (1981, Director’s Cut) Chris

Summary: If I ever feel comfortable in compiling a list of the best World War II movies (I've still got a lot to see!) Das Boot will be on that list, probably somewhere near the top.


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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.

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