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The Hunley [VHS]
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Product Description

Produced for Turner Network Television and originally broadcast in the summer of 1999, The Hunley is a straightforward, engrossing historical drama focusing on a little-known chapter of the Civil War: the introduction of the submarine into American naval warfare off the shore of war-torn Charleston, South Carolina, in 1864. Writer-director John Gray had previously helmed the 1998 TV movie The Day Lincoln Was Shot, and he has a knack for capturing the Civil War era with a heightened sense of authenticity, allowing for the dramatic license of mainstream television. Armand Assante plays Lieutenant Dixon, a traumatized soldier and grieving widower with just the right mixture of bravado and nihilism to skipper the C.S.S. Hunley--essentially an iron boiler cobbled into a hand-powered submersible weapon--with a volunteer crew of nine men who propel the crude sub in an effort to break the Union's coastal blockade. Donald Sutherland is superbly cast as Dixon's Confederate commander, General Beauregard, and the film's best scenes are those between Assante and Sutherland, playing two weary warriors with one final chance for victory. Otherwise, this is a very conventional film made with integrity but no particular flair, faithfully adhering to historical fact while establishing a solid supporting cast. Assante is guilty of moderate overacting, but he compensates with enough charisma to make his ill-fated command dramatically involving. Most effective is the sense of sheer bravery in the pioneering effort to prove the Hunley as a viable tool of war; the final scene within the sub is both haunting and dramatically intense. (Historical note: The C.S.S. Hunley--named after the drowned captain of a previous test vessel--was discovered intact off the coast of Charleston in 1995; efforts were later made to raise and restore this relic of naval history.) --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews:

  • Important events don't need a "theme"
    This movie shows the first ever successful use of a true submarine in naval combat. Human history (for the literally the entire planet) was changed thereby. The one small drawback of this work may be that the truly profound implications of submarine warfare are not given nearly enough emphasis. Instead the events of the Hunley are sometimes forced to take a back seat to run of the mill movie themes: Dixon's love of his "Queenie", the Politics of Military generals, etc. Be that as it may, I loved this movie and highly recommend it. Five out of five stars!...more info
  • Great naval history
    Good movie! By coincidence this movie first aired the Sunday after a trip I took to Charleston S.C. I have always been a civil war buff but had never heard of the Hunley before my trip. I loved the historical accuracy of this movie and the acting by Donald Sutherland. Armand Assante is accused of overacting a little. I think he over acted a lot. I would say he hammed it up even! If you like this movie you should check out the Sea Hunters by Clive Cussler. He is the author/undersea archeologist that discovered the wreck of the Hunley in 1995. This book tells about the work finding the wreck....more info
  • Great telling of a little-known piece of naval history
    The Hunley was the name of a human-powered experimental submersible developed and employed by the Confederacy during the American Civil War (or "War Between the States"). This movie does an excellent job of explaining the mechanics of the Hunley, but, more importantly, it delves into the minds and souls of men like those who may have actually manned her. As another reviewer aptly pointed out, this movie not only did that, but presented the southern sailors who manned the Hunley as brave men rather than as some kind of villains.

    The cast is headed by Armand Assante, the captain of a crew that mans the Hunley, and Donald Sutherland who is the general in overall command of the project.

    Be prepared for a look into the conflicted and tormented mind of Assante's character -- a consequence of the loss of his beloved wife. Assante works as a man driven, and, at that same time, as one who has nothing to lose. The supporting cast does a great job in moving character and story-line development along.

    This is a far superior movie to another period made-for-TV movie, "Ironclads". "The Hunley" is better in its story development, drama, and acting. But, if you are a naval history buff, you should also give "Ironclads" a look.

    As for "The Hunley"...5 stars, an excellent offering, especially for a made-for-TV movie.

    Alan Holyoak...more info

  • Hunley History
    The Hunley, not many people know this but the Hunley was the first prototype submarine in the civil war, that's right the civil war. This is a true story and This movie should be shown in all schools throught out the world. a real eye-opener and a must see movie. we have watched it at least 8 times....more info
  • A must have for submarine and Civil War buffs
    As an H.L. Hunley / submarine buff, I thoroughly enjoyed this TNT orignal motion picture. I thought Armand Assante was a credible (if somewhat long in the tooth) Lt. Geo. Dixon. (The real Dixon was in his late 20s) Assante has an odd puckering facial expression that is a bit distracting and his southern accent is only fair. As always, Donald Sutherland was a joy to watch in his portrayal of the interesting and moody General P.T. Beauregard. The ending was a bit maudlin, due to the nature of what really happened, but it wasn't a big distraction for me.
    The "official" review by Amazon is off base in saying that the sub was named after the captain of a previous vessel. In actuality, Horace Lawson Hunley was a wealthy cotton broker who helped finance the building of the Hunley. He drowned when he made a fatal error in operating the Hunley as did the other seven men on board the boat.

    I have watched this film at least five times and will again soon. The soundtrack album is excellent as well!...more info

  • Confederate Naval History Revisited
    Being a native of South Carolina, I was deeply touched by this film largely about a chapter in S.C.'s history during the Civil War. It was an accurate depiction of the facts as they related to the Union blockades, and the subsequent effects that have been diligently recorded by historians, of those blockades. The Hunley was indeed a remarkable fete of engineering for the time, and I am proud of fact that it was moored in my native state. Thank you for making a film that did not make Southerners out to be a bunch of dirty, illiterate losers, like most films have in the past. I appreciate the lack of stereotyping involved in the telling of this historical drama. As always, Donald Sutherland did a magnificent job of portraying Gen.Beauregard. Armand Assante did an adequate job as Lt.Dixon; however his southern accent tended to drift into something else. Perhaps his Odyseus accent. This is a film, however, that is well worth any good southerner's time to watch; and even if you're not southern, but a Civil War history buff, you will appreciate the historical relevance of this remarkable story....more info
  • Great movie
    I really enjoyed this movie. Is it ever going to come out on DVD?...more info
  • Historically accurate, for the most part.
    Historically accurate, for the most part.For once a Civil War movie that does not vilify the South. These were brave men, pioneers in naval warfare defending their homeland. Must see for Civil War Buffs,...more info
  • Forget historical accuracy - this movie was spectacular
    The performances given in this movie were some of the most moving I have witnessed. I felt as if I were there watching that crew train, fight one another, band together as a team and give everything they had to bring the CSS Hunley to life.

    The historical accuracy of this movie is merely icing on the cake for me. Knowing it is accurate though also makes the ending that much more gut-wrenching.

    I have been waiting for this movie to come out so I could see it again, I only wish it had been released on DVD.

    Only two words can describe this movie -

    INCREDIBLE. :>)...more info

  • When's it coming on DVD?
    This movie deserves to be released on DVD!...more info
  • The Hunley rises again
    The movie was good but it was done before the sub was raised and more details of the sub became available. The story followed the actual event fairly well and was accurate incomparison to usual Hollywood movies. The acting was spotty and at times corny. The special effects were very good. It gave a good depiction on the bravery it took to operate this machine. It is worth viewing, but not a source for history but entertainment...more info
  • Way to go
    The Hunley really did a good job in bringing that part of submarine history alive for me. The movie may be a bit crude, but that made it seem all the more realistic: the trouble finding a good crew, with every sailor knowing the boat's history; the perserverance of Lieutenant Dixon, who knew the Hunley had some redeeming value; the fears and danger that came with living in Charleston; the difficluties and problems with being stuck in a tiny iron prison that would make anyone claustrophobic with guys who really wished You weren't there; then, bonding with them, working with them, even dying with them. The humor lines are good, the acting well done, and the story line is the best part because it was basically true. It's an excellent movie if I've ever seen one....more info
  • Civil War equivalent to Das Boot.
    Turner Network Television once again brings us a true story of the Civil War, and like the previous efforts Gettysburg and Andersonville, this movie is a winner. When the subject of Civil War naval exploits is examined the battle between the Ironclads Merrimack and Monitor is the first thing that comes to mind, this film brings us another no less revolutionary story. Truth is indeed stranger (and more entertaining) than fiction, this is the story of the Confederate effort to build and deploy a submersible weapon of war to break the Union blockade of the South Carolina coast. The original name of this vessel was The David (as in David and Goliath) but after the training death of a young office named Hunley the sub was renamed. The opening scene of the training accident will put the hook in you, this is not a boring film. The special effects are very good, the studio built what looks to be a realistic copy of the Hunley, if you are claustrophobic this film will disturb you, even if you are not claustrophobic it will make you squimish. The technical description of the subs operating procedures (and it's torpedo) by Lt. Dixon are painfully easy to understand, the explaination of Union Naval tactics are very clear as well. There is some computer animation used in the special effects but most of what you see has a very realistic flavor to it, the Union shelling of Ft. Sumter and Charleston are good examples of that. Donald Sutherland portraying Gen. Beauregard has a sinister air about him until he explains his wife's death in childbirth "now there is a test for you" he says. Armand Assante does a fine job, you may notice some folks complaining about the accent, don't worry about it, it does not detract from the film, this may be his best work to date. I would have given 5 stars except for the "Hollywoodization" of the scene about the final plunge. Good combat scenes, drunken fist fighting, no sex, this would be about a PG-13 film I'd say. Seeing southern soldiers being cast as the "good guys" will remind sub movie affectionados of Das Boot. In this era of PC where Confederate battle flags are removed, Confederate monuments are vandalized and Southern heritage is viewed as akin to being a skinhead it is refreshing that TNT brought us this truly facinating and entertaining story. I would have bought it on DVD but it was only available on VHS cassette, which is of fine quality. Top notch production quality. Take it from me, I like historically accurate war films, this is one of them....more info