Submarine movies are almost always fun to watch. Everyone crowded together, sweating, all that obsolete technology, sliding down ladders, hatches clanging shut, the popping rivet, the depth charges, the man left on deck as the sub plunges beneath the waves, the wisecracking crew, and the commands -- "Rig for silent running." "Rig for Depth Charge." "Crash Dive!" "Take her down to fifty feet." "Open outer doors one and two." "After torpedo room, report damage." "Come right to course one five zero." It's like going to mass.
"Run Silent, Run Deep" thankfully has no romantic side interest. The special effects are echt-1950s -- back projections, rather obvious model work. But it's fairly well done, for its kind. The major conflict is between Captain Gable (looking puffy-eyed, as if just coming down from battery acid) and Exec Lancaster, who was deprived of the command through direct intervention by Gable, who has his own agenda.
Gable's first boat was sunk in the Bungo Straits. Now he intends to disobey orders and take his new boat back to the same spot, kind of obsessed with revenging his lost shipmates. The crew come to think of him as just as mad as Captain Ahab following HIS obsession. Gable drills the crew over and over in order to get them to dive in exactly 32 seconds. (Thirty-seven won't do.) He does other odd things without explanation. He ignores a Japanese sub, ignores a convoy. He sinks a Momo destroyer with "a shot that isn't even in the books." The purpose of all this odd behavior is to sink the Akakaze, the destroyer that apparently got his last boat, as well as three or four others in the Bungo Straits. Let us simply say that in the end, Gable enters his house justified, or in this case his ocean.
There's a lot of tension aboard the boat, of course, what with the captain keeping his plans all to himself. The problem is that the story itself doesn't really make any sense. Here, presented in no particular order, are some questions that kept nagging at me.
1. Gable sinks the Momo destroyer with a down-the-throat shot as practice for pulling the same stunt with the Akakaze destroyer. "The Akakaze is no Momo," someone points out, "The Akakaze never misses." What's the difference between a Momo and an Akakaze? Why does one serve merely for target practice, while the other never misses? How can you tell one individual destroyer from another individual destroyer through a submarine's periscope? We're never told the answer.
2. Gable's plan involves attracting the destroyer, steaming on the surface as the destroyer approaches, firing at the sub, submerging in 32 seconds, then firing a head-on shot at the destroyer. Why thirty-two seconds? What's so great about 32 seconds? Why not dive five seconds earlier and let the process take 37 seconds? Answer: as far as we can tell, it makes no difference at all, except that shaving off the additional 5 seconds enhances the alienation of the crew from the captain. This is known as a "plot device."
3. The boat and the Akakaze finally meet, and the Akakaze turns head-on as planned, but the boat comes under air attack. At this point, Gable, alone on the bridge, hollers down the hatch, "We'll have to make this a surface attack." Why? Why doesn't he follow through with his original plan to submerge? The boat would be protected against air attack and the original plan could be followed without modification. (As it is, the surface attack fails.) Why does being attacked from the air compel a submarine to remain on the surface? Answer: Only Gable knows, and he took his secret with him.
4. After each destroyer attack -- whether the destroyer is sunk or not -- some mysterious morse code comes in on the radio. It turns out to be coming from a nearby Japanese submarine whose presence is unexpected. Why is the Japanese submarine betraying its presence by using its radio, since its effectiveness depends on its remaining hidden? Answer: They really ARE inscrutable?
5. Just after sinking a freighter and the Momo destroyer, Captain Gable avoids firing at a Japanese convoy they encounter because he doesn't want to give away his position. What's the point? He has just torpedoed and sunk two Japanese ships. The second ship, the Momo, had ample time to signal that he was under torpedo attack and that, therefore, there was an enemy submarine around. Answer: No excuse, sir.
6. At the end, after they have sunk the Akakaze, they hear radio signals that seem to come out of nowhere. A radioman asks, "What is that, sir. I can't make that out." Are they all stupid? The signals are in nice clear CW, although the message is just a jumble of random letters and numbers, nicely transmitted. Any competent operator would know that they were coming from an antenna that was close by. If you have a loud transmission coming from a nearby antenna in the middle of the ocean and you sweep the horizon and there are no surface ships, what conclusion is logically forced upon you? Answer: seagulls.
7. The crew has been driven nuts by all those practice dives designed to prune their time to submerge down to 32 seconds. At the end, with the Akakaze steaming head-on as planned, although they have plenty of time to dive, they take her in on the surface and launch torpedoes at the prearranged distance. The plan works and the Akakaze is blown to bits. What was the purpose of all those demanding practice dives? Why was the original plan discarded? Again, nobody knows.
Nick Cravatt, Lancaster's old circus buddy, is in this film too. He is even given a speaking part, mostly comic. He was better in those parts where, like Harpo, he was mute. His ingenuous overacting was endearing. Lancaster's performance is toned down. We don't get to see that mile-wide grin filled with gleaming ivory tombstones.
16 out of 28 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.