Apologies all around for not posting last Wednesday. It was a busy week.
Once again a movie with sterling production qualities, but I still intend to pick at it. It’s Run Silent, Run Deep, and it stars Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. There are other notables, whom I will mention. It’s from Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions, released through United Artists in 1958. I wasn’t able to catch this one on Turner Classic Movies, so I purchased the DVD from Amazon. The screen shots are from the DVD, and details are from Wikipedia.
The movie opens badly for Commander P.J. “Rich” Richardson (Gable). It’s World War Two, and in 1942 we see his submarine engaging Japanese shipping in the Bungo Straits near Japan. The result is his boat on the bottom of the ocean and his crew hanging around to be rescued. And they have not even run the titles yet.
Rescued and stationed back at Pearl Harbor, Commander Richardson gets another sea assignment after waiting a year. His new executive officer is Lieutenant Jim Bledsoe (Lancaster), who is not pleased. He was supposed to get a new command, and he accepts second place grudgingly.
The USS Nerka sets off on a combat mission in the same area as before, and we see Captain Richardson training the crew hard for bow-on attack against destroyers. Richardson has some idea of how to avoid previous mistakes. Did I promise you familiar faces. Here is Don Rickles in a straight role, his first appearance in a movie.
I have only experienced a brief walk-through of this type boat, and my impression is that the producers got the atmosphere right. Things are cramped, and every bit of available space is jammed with machinery to run the boat and to make war. It’s no small wonder the details are correct. The movie is based on the book by the same name by “Commander (later Captain) Edward L. Beach Jr.”
Other aspects of the production are less realistic. This is supposed to be a view of the Nerka in an attack on the surface by a Japanese destroyer. Water surface tension gives away the fact that what we are seeing is a model just inches long.
Back in the Bungo Straits an attack by Japanese forces leaves three dead and Richardson mortally injured by a loose torpedo. Lieutenant Bledsoe takes command of the boat, and events begin to turn around. A broadcast by Japanese propagandist “Tokyo Rose” reveals the Japanese believe the Nerka has been sunk.
Bledsoe takes the Nerka back into the Straits and resumes the attack on Japanese shipping. The dying Richardson, listening to the action from his bunk, realizes they are being stalked by a Japanese submarine, likely the same one that sank his previous command. With this information Lieutenant Bledsoe stalks and defeats the Japanese submarine. Captain Richardson is buried at sea, and that’s the end of the movie.
In addition to the failure of the scale model submarine, the accident with the torpedo appears contrived. The torpedo is strapped to its carriage, when, for reasons not apparent, the latch comes unlatched, and the torpedo rolls off the carriage, crushing a seaman and mortally injuring Richardson. Additionally it is never explained how the crew of the sunken boat got rescued that close to the Japanese mainland in 1942, when the United States had almost no forces in the area.
We see a number of torpedoes being fired during the movie. “Fire number one. Fire number two.” Underwater shots show torpedoes leaving their launch tubes. The problems is, it always seems to be the same launch tube. Always on the port side of the boat. I’m thinking the Navy provided the producers with a single film clip from one of their tests, and that clip got used for every torpedo launch.
Captain Beach regretted the producers only purchased the title of the book and then proceeded to make a movie leaving out principal ideas of his. If you watch the movie you will not find the phrase “run silent, run deep” mentioned anywhere.
Follow the Nerka link. Construction of the boat was authorized, but it was not built, likely due to the conclusion of hostilities in 1945.
Gable died two years after the movie was released. He was an actual hero of World War Two, volunteering for the Army past the age of 40 and serving as an aerial gunnery instructor and flying several combat mission over Germany as a gunner.