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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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I finally saw Run Silent, Run Deep—thanks TiVO—the last in my submarine flick click. I guess I still have to watch K-19: The Widowmaker for completeness's sake, but that can wait.

RSRD is a story about a submarine commander relieved of his command after losing his submarine. He's given a desk job and goes stir crazy, a normal condition for those used to the cramped quarters of a sub. An opportunity for another command arises and the captain, played by Clark Gable, seizes the chance to insert himself at its helm. Unfortunately, the XO had assumed that he would take charge of the sub and shows his resentment over the situation at every turn.

It gradually comes out that the captain plans to use the submarine and its crew to avenge his old boat by taking it right back to the straits where the previous one was sunk. He wants to attack the destroyer that he thinks sunk his ship. The still-XO, played by Burt Lancaster, catches on to his scheme and fears that the same end will befall his boat. After fomenting some discord among a crew embittered by a pitched battle that nearly sinks them, Lancaster deposes Gable and states his intention of returning to Pearl Harbor.

Events prove that Gable wasn't as unstable as Lancaster et al considered and he returns to fight the destroyer. Sinking it, he encounters the true menace of the straits: a Japanese submarine. The story unfolds as one would expect and the opposing submarine is sunk with the captain's help.

The special effects were probably advanced for its time but pale miserably in comparison to any more modern submarine movie. However, if the dive sequences and scale models were accurate to World War II realities, then it makes the achievements of the WWII submariners even more amazing because of the primitive nature of their tools. I think that that is the best part of the movie, the unintended realism of its cheesy effects.

In some ways, RSRD is formulaic and follows a predictable pattern. However, this was one of the first movies to examine life under the sea. Crimson Tide and The Caine Mutiny tread ground that it broke. The imminence of death and underwater entombment makes every move, every action of paramount importance. You get the sense that usurping the captain's authority is not undertaken lightly, for it too might have incalculable consequences.

This is definitely a movie to watch at least once. I don't think I'll be buying it, but I will watch it whenever it comes on television and I will definitely think about it when I watch its descendants.