Monday, May 27, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Run Silent Run Deep (1958)

I chose to watch the WWII film RUN SILENT RUN DEEP in honor of Memorial Day. I'd never seen it before, despite my fondness for submarine films, and I found it tense -- as is the case with many submarine films! -- but also quite enjoyable.

It's 1943, and Commander Richardson (Clark Gable) has been on a desk job at Pearl Harbor since losing his submarine the year before. He's finally given command of another sub, the Nerka, but the crew members are unhappy as they'd expected Lt. Jim Bledsoe (Burt Lancaster) to be promoted to captain.

Richardson is obsessed with getting back to the Bungo Strait off Japan and taking out the ship that sank his previous sub, even if it means defying orders regarding the Nerka's course. As part of his plan, Richardson endlessly drills his men until they can fire torpedoes straight at a ship's bow and then dive with great speed.

The crew threatens rebellion over some of Richardson's unorthodox methods, but Bledsoe backs the captain despite personal misgivings. There's more conflict ahead between the two men, but ultimately Richardson and Bledsoe influence each other, leading to a final battle with the Japanese in the Bungo Strait.

RUN SILENT RUN DEEP is both an fascinating character study, of two disparate men trying to work together under the pressures of war, as well as a very good submarine film, filled with interesting details about life and survival on a sub.  Fellow movie fans who share my love for "Dive! Dive!" should definitely check out this film.

The last Gable film I watched was IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934) a few weeks ago, and seeing him in these two very different films, made nearly a quarter of a century apart, emphasized anew was a very special talent he was. He's absolutely outstanding, and rather fearless playing a character who isn't always sympathetic; Gable at least makes him understandable, and ultimately he earns the audience's respect, just as he earns the respect of Lancaster and the crew.

I don't think Lancaster will ever be one of my personal favorites, but he's fine in the role, and I have to give him his due, he certainly appeared in many excellent movies. He also worked on this film behind the scenes as one of the producers of Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions.

There's a very good supporting cast, particularly Jack Warden as a crew member who is sympathetic to Richardson and Brad Dexter as an officer who at one point suggests Bledsoe relieve Richardson of command for unnecessarily endangering the crew.

Other crew members are played by Don Rickles, Nick Cravat, Joe Maross, and Jimmy Bates. Bates plays one of the youngest crew members; some fun trivia is that a decade before, he was the little boy with the stuffed rabbit in Fred Astaire's "Drum Crazy" number in EASTER PARADE.

A location side note: In one of the film's earliest scenes, Bledsoe takes a taxi to Richardson's home in Hawaii, which faces the ocean. Having worked on Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach for a number of years, I suspected that was where the scene was filmed, and sure enough, I found confirmation online that the scene was filmed at 3421 Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach.

For those such as myself who notice such things, RUN SILENT RUN DEEP doesn't have a comma in the movie's title card, although the comma appears in the title card at the end of the trailer, seen above, and in posters, not to mention the DVD box.

The movie was directed by the great Robert Wise and filmed in widescreen black and white by Russell Harlan. The John Gay script is based on a novel by Edward L. Beach. Franz Waxman composed the score.

This movie has had a release on DVD. It's no longer available from Netflix, but it can be rented from ClassicFlix.

It was also released on VHS.

RUN SILENT RUN DEEP is periodically shown on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is here.


Blogger Crocheted Lace said...

Gable seems way too old for the Captain. That's actually my only problem with the film.
I just watched "Command Decision" a few times, and I think Gable was well cast in that one. Of course, it's a much different story - all dialogue, very thoughtful, and thought provokng.

10:01 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I think you are mistaken. Gable was fifty-seven when the film was shot. Not too old at all.

6:43 AM  

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