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Run Silent, Run Deep

Drama
1958 / 93 minutes
RATING: 8/10

After a Japanese destroyer, the Akrikaze, sinks his submarine, Commander P.J. Richardson is assigned desk duty, giving him plenty of time to think over how he could turn the tables, if ever given the chance. When the Akrikaze sinks three more US subs, Richardson gets his wish – he’s given another submarine command, and told to patrol the same section the Akrikaze was last seen.

But to get command again, Richardson had to step on the toes of the sub’s executive officer, Jim Bledsoe, who was expecting to become captain himself. The crew isn’t happy, particularly when Richardson starts drilling them hard. When he ignores Japanese transports sailing past the crew starts wondering, is their new captain a coward?

Sometimes when my girls are playing with the neighbors I’ll watch a movie I know they won’t be interested in because I don’t want to tempt them to join me and interrupt their fun. That was my intent this time around –  what kid wants to watch a black and white film about submarine warfare?

Well, as it turns out, all of them.

The attraction? This wasn’t like anything they’d seen before, with about 90 percent taking place in the close quarters of the USS Nerka. It also helped that both stars – Burt Lancaster as second-in command Bledsoe, and Clark Gable as Captain Richardson – have quite the onscreen presence.

And it helped that they had their dad along to explain some of the basics of World War II submarine warfare. Like how a submarine’s best defense was to hide underwater, but to go on offense it had to surface to be able to see the ships it was shooting at. I had to explain what depth charges were and how, when a submarine dived, the enemy’s destroyers would drop depth charges all around its last location, just hoping one would explode near enough to cause some damage.

I had to explain who Tokyo Rose was – when the crew listens to the radio, every now and again the music is interrupted by a pleasant sounding woman who provides updates on the war, but with a very anti-American slant. The broadcast was coming from Japan, the music an enticement to stay around for the propaganda. And apparently US commanders didn’t care if their troops tuned in, because everyone knew better than to believe anything Tokyo Rose said.

Cautions

While there’s no warnings needed for adult viewing, if your kids are watching too then there are a couple of concerns.

First, we see a young sailor who we’ve gotten to know die when a loose torpedo drops from its rack and lands on him. We see the torpedo dropping through his eyes, coming towards the camera and then everything cuts to black, so it isn’t graphic.

The other caution concerns a pin-up picture – the typical World War II sort, the woman clothed but wearing short shorts – hanging in the mess hall/ The crew gives her a pat on her butt as they run to their battle stations. The weirdness of this practice really comes out when you try explaining it to your kids.

Conclusion

I’ve rated this an 8, in large part because that was what my girls gave it. I’d give it an 8 myself, but often tone down my ratings, knowing that most folks don’t appreciate a black and white film quite as much as I do. But if these three – aged 10 through 14 – think it’s an 8 too, then I’m going to run with that.

It is a classic for a reason, with a great running conflict between the captain and his passed-over second-in-command, but both of whom are eager to take down the Akrikaze. The crew has their own divided loyalties, even as they stay dedicated to their mission. And the biggest selling feature: loads of action!

SPOILER ALERT: While I’ve included the trailer below, this is one of those old -fashioned trailers that sum up the whole movie and doesn’t worry about giving things away. There’s a whole whack of spoilers here, so I’m quite glad I didn’t watch the trailer before I saw the movie. I’ll also add, the film is quite a bit better than this makes it look, which is one more reason you might want to give the trailer a miss.

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Drama, Movie Reviews

The Silver Fleet

Drama / Black and White / War 1943 / 88 minutes RATING: 7/10 This is a well-done, almost unknown World War II film told from the Dutch perspective. As the occupation begins the Nazis ask Dutchman Jaap van Leyden whether he would like to continue on in his job as shipyard manager. They want him to complete work on two half-built submarines that were originally intended for the Dutch navy. When he decides to accept the position both his workers and his wife question his patriotism – why was he willing to be a collaborator? But while van Leyden may not have the courage to stand up to the Nazis, someone else does. The workmen have started receiving anonymous messages outlining a daring sabotage plan. The notes are all signed "Piet Hein," a historical Dutch hero from the 17th century, and stirred by the memory of Hein's great deeds done long ago, and their own strong love of country, the workmen are happy to help this mysterious figure. Cautions Silver Fleet doesn't fully explore why these men were willing to risk their lives. Their love of country is the expressed motivation, but for Christian viewers, who know that our country can do nothing for us after death, patriotism should strike us as a wholly insufficient reason to risk one's life. But while God is not mentioned in the film, we know that it was their love of God that prompted our Dutch grandparents and great grandparents to take the risks that they did. So, with that in mind, Silver Fleet can be enjoyed as a secular tribute to the bravery of Dutch men who, whether the directors cared to acknowledge it or not, were willing to risk their lives for love of God and country... in that order. Conclusion The Nazis are at times more buffoonish than threatening, but overall the acting is quite good. The Silver Fleet is a solid World War II film that I would recommend to any 1940s film enthusiast, as well as anyone who wants to learn more about the War from the Dutch perspective. There seem to be no trailers available for The Silver Fleet, but the 3-minute clip below gives a feel for the film. While it doesn't seem to be streaming anywhere online, cheap copies on DVD are readily available. ...