Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Torpedo Run (1958) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

I love a good submarine movie, and TORPEDO RUN (1958), just released on DVD by the Warner Archive, is a very well-done entry in the genre.

TORPEDO RUN was released by the Archive as part of a "wave" of half a dozen Glenn Ford films. Ford plays Lt. Cmdr. Barney Doyle, whose submarine the Grey Fish has been hunting for the Japanese aircraft carrier Shinaru. In an attempt to sink the Shinaru, the Grey Fish unintentionally sinks a Japanese transport ship which was carrying prisoners of war from the Philippines -- including Doyle's wife (Diane Brewster) and little girl (Kimberly Beck).

The Shinaru gets away from that incident, but the grief-stricken Doyle proves to be relentless in his search for the carrier.

This is a very good, absorbing film, balancing psychological drama with great submarine action sequences. Doyle's wife and daughter are seen in a couple of flashback sequences, but the viewer is spared seeing them in the hands of the Japanese, which makes watching the story easier to bear. Ford is excellent in an intense role as a man juggling life and death decisions while coming to grips with personal loss.

The action sequences include an ingenious plan to escape Tokyo Bay by making the Japanese think the sub has hit a mine, and a nerve-wracking final sequence when the crew must exit their mortally wounded submarine to be rescued by the U.S. submarine Blue Fin, whose commander is played by William Schallert.

The cast is simply terrific. Ernest Borgnine plays Doyle's loyal lieutenant, who delays accepting his own command in order to continue serving under Doyle for one more trip. Dean Jones and Paul Picerni head up the other officers.

It was a particular treat for me to see one of my all-time favorite British actors, Robert Hardy, in one of his earliest screen roles. He plays a British naval lieutenant serving under Doyle in order to learn from the U.S. Navy and then take information back to the British, but he ends up teaching the Americans a thing or two as well.

Hardy also gets one of the best lines. As the submarine takes on water near the end, he's asked if he's ever felt anything that cold. Ever stiff upper lipped, he wryly responds, "Yes, Brighton in August!" His charismatic and somewhat unique character adds a great deal to the film.

Hardy was about 33 at the time this was filmed. His many acting roles have included Siegfried on ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL, Prince Albert in EDWARD THE KING, Sir John in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (1995) and Cornelius Fudge in the HARRY POTTER series. He is 88 years old and still acting.

It was also fun to see Al Freeman, Jr. pop up among the Grey Fish's integrated crew. Crew members also included Frank Gorshin, Biff Elliott (I, THE JURY), L.Q. Jones, and Fredd Wayne. I missed spotting Robert Reed. Philip Ober plays the admiral.

TORPEDO RUN was directed by Joseph Pevney, who also directed the well-done WWII film AWAY ALL BOATS (1956).

The screenplay was by Richard Sale and William Wister Haines, based on Sale's stories. The film runs 98 minutes.

The Warner Archive DVD shows off George Folsey's CinemaScope photography and the film's Oscar-nominated special effects to great effect in a beautiful print. The DVD includes the trailer.

Fans of Glenn Ford and submarine movies will especially enjoy this film, but it's a good flick which should appeal to wider audiences as well. Recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


Blogger Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

When I saw the name Robert Hardy I thought, "That can't be Sir John Middleton!" but then I saw the picture and your notes on his other roles. Sense and Sensibility is one of my top three all-time favorite movies.

Torpedo Run looks good—it sounds a little reminiscent of The Enemy Below, which I enjoyed after reading your recommendation. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

5:41 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Nice review of a worthwhile film, Laura. There was a spate of submarine movies around the late 50s, all pretty top-flight jobs with great casts. This was one of the best and Ford was terrific in it.

Glad you draw special mention for Robert Hardy. For me, his role as Siegried Farnon in "All Creatures Great And Small" was the highlight of that wonderful series. He is NEVER dull!!

7:04 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It was a real surprise to see Hardy in something from the '50s, Elisabeth! Especially in such an interesting key role. I think you'd really enjoy this movie, especially if you liked THE ENEMY BELOW -- I'm happy to know you enjoyed that one after reading about it here!

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY is certainly on my list of favorite films of the last few decades -- a post I've been meaning to write for a while now! -- and of course your comment begs the question, what are your other two favorites? :)

Thanks, Jerry! I so agree about Hardy as Siegfried. It's an inspired performance in a wonderful show.

Best wishes,

10:47 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

The other two are The Sound of Music and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre—with Rio Grande a close fourth. After that it's harder to put things in order of favorites!

12:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

THE SOUND OF MUSIC is in my top 3 as well, Elisabeth! (Along with SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS.) And RIO GRANDE is definitely way high on my list of favorite Westerns. Great choices! :) Thanks for sharing!

One of these days I need to catch up with THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, especially since Tim Holt is in the cast...maybe that's a title for next year's 10 Classics list.

Best wishes,

1:19 PM  

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