RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP (1958) is yet another film that I have a partial memory of from seeing it on NBC's SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES at a very young age in the early 1960s. The only thing I remember about that broadcast is a scene in which a torpedo rolls out of its' launching berth in a submarine and lands on top of a screaming sailor, crushing him to death. That scene made quite a memorable impression on me at the time but for years, it was the only thing about the film that I could recall.
I watched the movie again the other day and it holds up quite well. It's a game of "quien mas macho?" between two of the manliest men that ever graced the silver screen: Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. They square off aboard a submarine loaded with testosterone in this Robert Wise directed WWII actioner which is very loosely based on the book of the same name by Commander Edward L. Beach, Jr.
Gable was near the end of his career (and life) when he made RUN SILENT. He only made four films after this one, including his final movie, THE MISFITS in 1961. Lancaster's star was on the rise at the time and the film was produced by his production company.
At the beginning of the film, Gable is in command of a U.S. submarine that is sunk by the Japanese. He and most of his crew survive but he's relegated to desk duty. Lancaster is an up and coming Naval officer who finally gets command of his own sub, only to have Gable replace him as skipper at the last moment, with Lancaster demoted to first officer. He goes along with it and follows orders but he and the crew soon begin to doubt Gable's ability to command. He puts the ship and the men through endless drills focusing on diving and launching torpedoes in shorter and shorter periods of time but when the sub encounters a Japanese ship, he orders the crew to stand down and back off.
Gable's endless drilling is finally put to good use when the sub encounters a killer Japanese submarine in the same waters where Gable's previous sub was sunk. They use his battle tactics to destroy both Japanese surface ships as well as the submarine after a tense cat and mouse game where both subs "run silent, run deep." At the end of the film, everyone has new respect for skipper Gable who meets his death during the battle.
In addition to Gable and Lancaster, the film features supporting actors Brad (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) Dexter, Jack Warden and, in his movie debut, comedian Don Rickles. A digression: Judy and I have seen Don Rickles perform live twice. Once, at the legendary (and now gone) Stardust hotel and casino in Las Vegas and the second time, at Austin's Paramount Theatre. He's one of my favorite comedians of all time and even though he did essentially the same show both times we saw him, I loved every minute of both performances. I laughed like a jackass.
RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP isn't the greatest war movie ever made but it's certainly worth seeing once if only to bask in the bigger-than-life, macho, tough guy screen personas of Gable and Lancaster. Thumbs up.