“The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling had just completed his fifth and final season of the series in 1964 when he signed on to adapt Jack Finney’s bestseller “Assault on a Queen.” Serling was, of course, more than a spinner of spooky tales. He’d won three consecutive Primetime Emmys in the 1950s for writing the television dramas “Patterns,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” and “The Comedian,” and was now a Hollywood free agent.
On the surface, Serling seemed like an awful lot of writer for a goofy heist yarn about a group of high-seas bandits who commandeer a German U-boat to steal $1 million in cash from the RMS Queen Mary. But the convoluted setup had stymied previous scenarists, so Sinatra turned to one of the most highly regarded scribes in the business.
Serling gamely accepted the challenge, telling reporters who visited the film’s set that “No one had been able to ‘lick’ the Jack Finney book.” As for Serling’s feelings about his take on the material, he deferred to the Chairman. ”It had been tried several ways,” he said. “But I decided to make it a straight adventure film and it seems to have worked out pretty well. At least, Sinatra tells me he’s happy with it.”
What did critics and moviegoers think?