Tuesday, August 15, 2017

SEMI-FINALS


VS.

#2  Run Silent, Run Deep  vs.  #3  Hunt for Red October

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:   “Run Silent, Run Deep” is in many ways a two man show.  It has the classic command dysfunction dynamic we see in several sub movies.  It set the template for that.  Richardson and Bledsoe are well developed.  In fact, Richardson is perhaps too well developed as he comes off as insane with his obsession with Bungo Pete.  The movie includes a scene where he is desk-bound but continually war gaming revenge against his Japanese nemesis.    Bledsoe is clearly upset that he is not promoted to command the Nerka and justifiably so.  The movie also develops two crew members.  Mueller (Jack Warren) is Richardson’s toadie and Cartwright (Brad Dexter) is the boat’s blowhard.  There is little development of the enlisted men.    GRADE  =  B

“The Hunt for Red October” revolves around two men also.  CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) gets a back-story of being a family man.  We know he is an intellectual and a neophyte when it comes to international crises.  Soviet skipper Ramius (Sean Connery) is a bit more enigmatic.  The movie is unclear as to his motivations.  It floats the idea that he is upset with his wife’s death.  He is obviously very highly respected, but it is unclear why his officers have decided to risk execution for him.  The script does an excellent job developing the sonar operator Jones (Courtney Vance) and there are several other memorable characters.  GRADE  =  B

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Run Silent  =  8
                                             Red October  =  8

REALISM:  The biggest flaw in “Run Silent” is its lack of realism.  This starts with the opening scene.  Richardson’s boat is sunk and the next thing we see is he is in a lifeboat.  Where did the lifeboat come from?  He is given a desk job and (with apparently no psychological review) a new boat over the obviously more qualified Bledsoe.  Then the Navy tells this Ahab not to go after Bungo Pete!  His whole tactic of working for a bow shot on a destroyer is ridiculous.  The crew’s chicken reaction to being sent to a dangerous patrol area is demeaning.  Richardson’s death and burial at sea is just bizarre.  One the plus side, the firing procedures are well done.  It’s a movie that can be picked apart if you want.  GRADE  =  D

“Red October” tries to be realistic within the parameters of an action thriller that is totally fictional.  However, if you are going to make a crowd-pleasing blockbuster set on a submarine, logic will have to take a back seat.  The whole defection scenario would be unbelievable if set in the US Navy, much less the Soviet Navy.  The sub chasing and cat-and-mouse elements are brain cell reducing.  A lowly CIA analyst becoming an action hero could only happen in Hollywood.  And the big finish is rousing, but laughable.  GRADE  =  D

HALFTIME SCORE:  Run Silent  =  13
                                   Red October  =  13

SAILOR BEHAVIOR:  My big problem with the behavior of the crew in “Run Silent” is their reaction to word that they are being sent to Area 7.  They are uniformly upset about the news.  It seems to me that at this stage of the war they would at least pretend to be tough guys.  When Richardson declines to attack a convoy, there are rumblings of discontent which change to hero-worship when he sinks a destroyer.  Later, they are happy when the sub is going to return to Pearl Harbor with almost a full load of torpedoes.  This makes little sense.  The decision of Bledsoe, supported by the other officers, to depose Richardson is believable given the situation posited by the plot.  GRADE  =  C

“Red October” is very shaky when it comes to the behavior of the Soviet officers.  It defies reason that they would all (aside from the doctor and the political officer) go along with Ramius’ suicidal plan.  The movie has little time for the crews of either sub.  Jones is the only enlisted on the Dallas that gets any significant screen time, but he does represent the modern Navy’s recruitment of the video game generation.  GRADE  =  C

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Run Silent  =  19
                                              Red October  =  19

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:   “Run Silent” has two superstars going head-to-head.  This is almost enough to overcome the numerous clichés and ridiculous plot twists.  For the time it was released, it was crackerjack entertainment, but it does not hold up very well when compared to the entire subgenre.  A modern remake would fit in well in our current movie mentality since we now expect the kitchen sink approach to plotting.  You get the clash of alpha types, the mutiny, and several combat scenes for your viewing pleasure.  Unless you are a stickler for logic, it’s entertaining.  GRADE  =  B

“Red October” is based on a best-seller and has an all-star cast.  It is just as implausible as “Run Silent”, but not as laughably so.  It is more edge of your seat than the earlier film.  The hopping between various locales keeps things moving at a rapid clip.  It manages to aid chase elements to a thriller plot.  Unfortunately, in its attempt at a big finish, it ends with a preposterous sub on sub on sub encounter that exemplifies the worst of the modern Hollywood action pictures.  GRADE  =  B

FINAL SCORE:  Run Silent  =  27
                           Red October  =  27


ANALYSIS:  “Run Silent” is a classic and was appropriately seeded at #2.  Most would say it is second only to “Das Boot” in the canon of submarine warfare movies. But clear-eyed analysis can’t help but reveal that it has significant flaws.  If it would have been made with any other actors in the lead roles, its reputation would be much lower.  it is also helped by its attachment to the most famous submarine novel.  However, it is not an accurate rendering of Beach’s book.  “Red October” is modern updating of the submarine film.  Hollywood’s attempt to revive the sub film within the action movie genre was successful.  It has possibly the best cast of any sub movie and all the bells and whistles you can get with modern cinematic technology and a huge budget.  Both movies are a product of their times and reflect what was expected in a sub movie from its era.  I personally think neither is a very good movie.  Since we ended with a tie, I am going to advance “Run Silent” because it is more of a traditional sub movie.

Monday, August 14, 2017

#1 Das Boot vs. #9 Above Us the Waves


VS.



DIALOGUE:  “Das Boot” has a good mixture of dialogue and action.  The dialogue is divided between the officers and the crew.  The officers are a heterogeneous lot and their conversations offer a variety of takes.  The captain in particular offers a cynical, war-weary view of the war.  When he observes the men carousing before they go on patrol, he says:  “Scared f***ers.  They need sex as much as the infantry needs alcohol.”  He is not a man of many words, however.  His facial expressions do his talking for him.  The sailor banter is crude as you would expect.  GRADE  =  B

There is nothing special about the dialogue in “Above Us the Waves”.  It’s a very British movie so the dialogue is sparse.  There are no speeches and little exposition.  There is some humor of the British ilk.  Very dry.  GRADE  =  C

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Das Boot  =  8
                                             Above Us the Waves  =  6

SPECIAL EFFECTS:  “Das Boot” is not famous because of it special effects.  There is little undersea footage.  The depth charge scenes eschew the descending cans imagery.  The explosions themselves are well-done and the effects on the sub interior are the best of any sub movie.  The sound effects are also the acme.  The effects for the burning tanker are awesome and there is a bomb laden final scene that saved the best pyrotechnics for last.  GRADE  =  B

“Above Us the Waves” has some fine underwater camerawork.  It was obviously done in a pool in daylight, but I am fine with that considering when it was made and for how much.  These shots include a sequence that includes the cutting of a submarine net, going under a torpedo net, and then placing some limpet mines on the hull of a ship.  However, the scene where one of the subs gets trapped under the Tirpitz is underwhelming.   GRADE  =  C+

HALFTIME SCORE:  Das Boot  =  16
                                   Above Us the Waves  =  13

ACTION:   One of the things that makes “Das Boot” so realistic is that it is not nonstop action.  There are long stretches where the sub sees no action.  It is frustrating for them, but not for us.  The reaction of the officers and crew are fascinating.  The action we get is pretty much confined to depth chargings and the efforts of the crew dealing with the damages from them.  GRADE  =  C

 “Above Us the Waves” is light on action.  It’s more of a claustrophobic thriller. It’s as slow moving as the mini-subs.  But no one advertised it as an adrenalin rush.  It does build well to the attack on the Tirpitz.  GRADE  =  C

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Das Boot  =  22
                                              Above Us the Waves  =  19

ACCURACY:  It is hard to judge the accuracy of “Das Boot” because it is based on a novel that is based on an actual u-boat patrol.  The movie is more realistic than accurate.  It gets the details and vibe right.  The attitudes and behavior of the submariners are authentic.  It lays the frustration and cynicism on a bit thick considering this was not the low moment in the war for the u-boats.  There was an actual u-boat and the book author is represented by the naval correspondent Werner.  However, the actual U-96 did not experience the incidents covered in the movie.  Since it does not claim to be a true story, I am going to grade it mainly on its accuracy in depicting life on a u-boat.  GRADE  =  B

“Above Us the Waves” is based on Operation Source which was the attempt by Royal Navy mini-subs to sink the German battleship Tirpitz at its anchorage in Norway.  It also covers the original plan which was to try to use Chariot manned torpedoes to attach mines.  That mission failed as depicted in the film.  The action by the X-craft is pretty close to what happened.  One of the subs was lost mysteriously, probably to fire from the Tirpitz.  The other two placed their side cargoes under the warship and two of them exploded causing significant damage that put it out of action for six months.  The two successful craft tried to escape, but were taken under fire and had to surrender.  Six men were captured and two were lost.  GRADE  =  A

FINAL SCORE:  Das Boot  =  30
                           Above Us the Waves =  28 


ANALYSIS:   “Above Us the Waves” is not a traditional sub movie.  It might not have made the tournament if I could have found another movie where a torpedo was fired.  I’m glad I did this tournament because I might not have run across this little gem.  And it is admirably accurate in dramatizing an operation that I had not been familiar with.  Still, it’s hard to pit it against possibly the most acclaimed sub movie.  The categories this round did not really play into the strengths of “Das Boot”.  It is no doubt the better of the two movies so it deserves to move on.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

#4 Crimson Tide vs. #12 Hell and High Water


VS.



DIALOGUE:  The dialogue in “Crimson Tide” is not flowery.  It does lack in sailor jargon since the movie concentrates on the officers.  There are some philosophical discussions between Ramsey (Gene Hackman) and Hunter (Denzel Washington) on topics like Hiroshima and von Clausewitz.  The confrontations between the two mutineers (that’s right, each leads a mutiny) are pretty intense.  Quentin Tarantino was brought in to add pop cultural references to the script.  GRADE  =  A 

“Hell and High Water” puts a scientist and his comely assistant on board a boat with a motley crew and a hard-boiled skipper.  Much of the dialogue pits science against the military mind.  There are no memorable lines, but the actors are not forced to embarrass themselves by what comes out of their mouths.  GRADE  =  C

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Crimson Tide  =  9
                                             Hell and High Water  =  7

SPECIAL EFFECTS:  “Crimson Tide” had the benefit of cutting edge technology and a big budget.  It did not have the cooperation of the US Navy.  It tends to frown on plots involving mutinies.  The director did manage to film the actual USS Alabama at sea and submerging.  Everything else was CGI.  There is a duel between subs that is better than in “The Hunt for Red October”.  The movie manages to get a fire into a sub movie.  This is truly a Hollywood production.  The sound effects were worthy of an Academy Award nomination.  GRADE  =  A

“Hell and High Water” had a budget of less than $2 million. Denzel Washington was paid $7 million to make “Crimson Tide”.  Not exactly a level playing field.  The littler movie did well with what it had.  The underwater scenes are better than average and the film was nominated for Best Effects.  GRADE  =  B

HALFTIME SCORE:  Crimson Tide  =  18
                                   Hell and High Water  =  15

ACTION:  “Crimson Tide” has a galley fire and a sub duel, but it’s mostly the threat of violence that dominates the latter part of the film.  The level of action would have gone off the meter if all those guns had been used in the final confrontation between the opposing sides.  As it is, we had to be content with verbal fisticuffs.  The movie is more of a thriller than an action movie.  GRADE  =  C

“Hell and High Water” has a tangle with a Chinese sub and two shore landings.  In the sub encounter, they ram the enemy under the water.  Well, that’s different.  The first commando raid is your typical blow things up type.  The second gives the sexy female scientist the chance to shoot a guard.  That is also something you don’t see in every sub movie.  Oh, and they shoot down a B-29.  GRADE  =  B

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Crimson Tide  =  24
                                              Hell and High Water  =  23

ACCURACY:  “Crimson Tide” posits a doomsday scenario that cannot be judged for accuracy.  However, the way the sub handles the crisis can be judged based on American nuclear doctrine and procedures.  The scenario involves Russian rebels getting control of some ICBMs and possibly firing them at the U.S.  The clock-ticking nature of Hollywood thrillers requires the missiles to be fueled up before launched when in reality they would be ready to go immediately.  The biggest artistic license is with the central issue of the exec refusing to concur with the launch because he feels a second incomplete message is likely a cancel order.  In reality, the exec has only the power to confirm the authenticity of the message, not stop its implementation.  There were sub veterans, including the technical adviser who had skippered the real Alabama, who insisted the movie was essentially accurate.  A political adviser might have been nice since American nuclear doctrine is against a preemptive strike.  Not that a President might not violate that rule.  (Who are you picturing right now?)  All of the inaccuracies were classic artistic license to enhance the drama.  GRADE  =  C

“Hell and High Water” is totally fictitious.  It is very much a product of the early Cold War.  Although entertaining, it is totally preposterous.  The Red Chinese have a plan to use a purloined B-29 to drop an atomic bomb and blame it on the U.S.  International scientists hire a rogue sub to stop the bad guys.  Surely you read of this in your history textbook.  And a woman scientist in 1954 – come on!   As Capt. Jones says:  “So tell me Professor, what makes a girl who looks like that get mixed up in science?”  GRADE  =  D

FINAL SCORE:  Crimson Tide  =  30
                           Hell and High Water  =  28


ANALYSIS:  I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about war movies, but I have to admit I had never heard of “Hell and High Water” before starting work on this tournament.  When I began to hunt for 16 sub movies that fit my criteria I ran into it.  It almost did not make the cut because I was unsure that I would be able to get a copy.  It is not a well-known movie.  I am glad it worked out because it was an enjoyable movie to watch.  This matchup was one between an obscure B-movie and a blockbuster.  “Crimson Tide” could not be more different.  It is the better movie, but mainly because of all the resources available to it.  Still, “Hell and High Water” put up a good fight and hopefully its performance will encourage others to seek it out.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

#2 Run Silent, Run Deep vs. #10 Operation Pacific


VS.




DIALOGUE:  “Run Silent, Run Deep” gave us the famous line “dive, dive!” which Richardson repeats numerous times during drills.  The dialogue is good and there are some tense exchanges between the two superstar actors.  The crew banter is fine and is helped by the debut of Don Rickles.  He probably wrote some of his lines.  In spite of his involvement, the movie lacks a sense of humor.  There are few memorable lines, but it’s a manly movie and doesn’t need any.  GRADE  =  B

“Operation Pacific” has an awkward romance and the dialogue that goes with it.  There is little on sailor behavior so we don’t get much banter.   This is a very officer-centric film.  The only notable lines are some shots at the movie they watch on board – “Destination Tokyo”.  The movie is not overtly patriotic in its dialogue.  GRADE  =  C

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Run Silent  =  8
                                             Operation Pacific  =  6

ACTION:  “Run Silent” has three convoy attacks, two destroyer sinkings, a sub duel, and two airplane attacks.  And a brewing mutiny.  There is plenty of action, even if much of it is ridiculous.  GRADE  =  B

“Operation Pacific” has an average amount of action.  The love triangle and the torpedo testing takes up a good amount of the plot.  There is an encounter with a Q-ship, a brief encounter with an enemy sub, and a convoy battle.  None of it is believable.  GRADE  =  D

HALFTIME SCORE:  Run Silent  =  16
                                   Operation Pacific  =  11

SPECIAL EFFECTS:  “Run Silent” has some decent effects.  The Navy assisted in the production (surprising due to the mutinous plot) so there are a lot of surface shots of subs.  For the rare times that the USS Nerka is submerged, the model in a swimming pool technique is used.  The depth chargings are typical of the genre.  As usual, they are too accurate.  In WWII Pacific submarine movies, Japanese escorts never miss by much, but seldom sink their prey.  The sound effects are noteworthily outstanding.  GRADE  =  B

“Operation Pacific” has cheesy special effects.  The underwater shots are very fake and there are some hilarious shots of torpedoes boinking off ship hulls.  The sub looks like a model in an aquarium.  In fact, the Pacific Ocean looks about as deep as an aquarium.  GRADE  =  D

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Run Silent  =  24
                                               Operation Pacific  =  16

ACCURACY:  “Run Silent” has some of the most accurate firing sequence scenes in sub movie history.  This includes use of the Target Bearing Transmitter for surface attacks.  While being technically accurate, the movie comes up short in historical accuracy.  “Down the throat” shots that the movie is predicated on were rarely accomplished (or attempted) in the war.  Subs fighting each other submerged is virtually unheard of.  The legendary ability of Bungo Pete flies in the face of the established ineptitude of Japanese escorts.  GRADE  =  C

“Operation Pacific” deserves credit for depicting two historical incidents.  There was a significant problem with the Mark 14 torpedoes.  The torpedoes frustrated the submarine effort for the first two years of the war.  There was a problem with both the magnetic detonator and the firing pin of the contact detonator.  The movie highlights the solution to the firing pin problem.  The torpedoes were tested by dropping them from a crane as depicted by the movie, but this was not done by a sub crew.  It is instructive of how Hollywood deals with submarine warfare that most Pacific war movies do not allude to the torpedo problems.  In most films, every shot is deadly.  The death of Commander Perry (Ward Bond) is based on the death of Commander Howard Gilmore (probably the most famous submariner loss for the US Navy).  The USS Growler was making a surface attack when a patrol vessel attempted to ram.  The Growler rammed it instead, possibly in its attempt to avoid being rammed.  Gilmore was wounded by machine gun fire from the wounded escort and famously ordered “take her down!” to save the boat.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.   The sighting of the Japanese fleet may have been inspired by the efforts of the Dace and Darter in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.  When the Thunderfish picks up downed fliers (although this is done purely to facilitate the lame love triangle), it accurately reflects a role subs played in the war in the Pacific.   GRADE  =  A

FINAL SCORE:  Run Silent  =  30
                           Operation Pacific  =  25


ANALYSIS:  “Run Silent” is considered the greatest American submarine movie.  Although overrated, it is certainly better than a movie that relies on John Wayne to make a splash.  “Operation Pacific” may do a service to the silent service by bringing to light a significant problem and a laud-worthy hero, but it is done in the guise of a “Destination Tokyo” wannabe.  “Run Silent” has two John Wayne’s and the tension between them.  It is even more far-fetched than “Operation Pacific”, but more entertaining.

Friday, August 11, 2017

#3 Hunt for Red October vs. #6 We Dive at Dawn

QUARTERFINALS

 #3  Hunt for Red October  vs.  #6  We Dive at Dawn

DIALOGUE:  The dialogue in “Red October” is above average, but it is mainly an action fature, so exposition is not key.  One interesting note on dialogue is that Sean Connery insisted on Ramius’ dialogue be rewritten to make it more clear that he is a “good Russian” who wants to end the Cold War.  GRADE  =  B

 “We Dive at Dawn” has decent dialogue, but there is too much of it.  There is a lot of sailor talk and it feels right.  It is very British, so use your British/English dictionary.  When the crew finds out they had sunk the German battleship, one of them exclaims “blimey!”  GRADE  =  B

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  8
                                             We Dive at Dawn  =  8 

SPECIAL EFFECTS:  “Red October” has a technology advantage over “We Dive” since it was made 47 years later.  The underwater scenes are very good.  Almost good enough to achieve the goal of making it an undersea “Fast and Furious”.  I refer to the underwater chase scenes between the subs.  Unfortunately, the CGI allows for some ridiculously close sub action.  GRADE  =  B

“We Dive at Dawn” was released in 1943, so no CGI.  It is not big on effects.  There is little underwater action.  Maybe this is to the good since modelwork back then tended to look very fake.  Better to leave it to the imagination.  GRADE  =  C

HALFTIME SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  16
                                   We Dive at Dawn  =  15

ACTION:  “Red October” has quite a bit of action.  Maybe too much considering some of it is reality-challenged.  It may have more action than any other movie in the tournament.  And this is done without a commando raid!  But it is done with a gun battle on a submarine. There is lots of chasing.  Subs chasing other subs.  Torpedoes chasing subs.  GRADE  =  A

“We Dive” closes with a nice set piece in a harbor as the sub has to steal fuel under the noses of the Germans.  This is not accomplished without copious expenditure of bullets.  It is one of the better commando type scenes you see so often in sub movies.  However, the quantity of action is pretty low in the film.  GRADE  =  C

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  25
                                              We Dive at Dawn  =  21

ACCURACY:  Surprisingly, there was a seed of truth to Clancy’s novel.  He was inspired by an article about the attempted defection of a Soviet anti-sub frigate named the Storozhevoy (Sentry).  The political officer named Sablin planned the defection on his own.  He was upset with the corruption of the Brezhnev government and wanted to start a revolution.  His plan was to sail to Leningrad, take over a radio station, and broadcast a call to arms!  The plot was discovered after he took over the ship and convinced most of the officers and crew to go along with him.  The ship fled the harbor and almost made it to international waters before it was halted by a hit from a Soviet bomber.  The loyal officers regained control and the mutiny was over.  Not much like the movie, but at least there is a seed of truth to the claim “based on a true story”.  GRADE  =  C

“We Dive at Dawn” does not claim to be based on a true story.  No German battleship was sunk by a submarine in WWII.  The movie does feature one historical accuracy in its portrayal of a German rescue buoy from which the sub picks up three German airmen.  The Germans put these buoys far offshore to be used by downed air crews.  They could provide accommodations and supplies for several days until the men were rescued.  GRADE  =  C

FINAL SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  31
                           We Dive at Dawn  =  27

ANALYSIS:  If you look at the interiors of the HMS Sea Tiger and the USS Dallas, you can tell a lot about this matchup.  “We Dive at Dawn” is a nice little British sub movie made during the war.  It deserved to win, but the tournaments are not always fair.  The categories tended to favor the behemoth.  “Red October” outpointed it due to it being an action movie doing its thing competently and its CGI which facilitated that action.  In both categories quantity bludgeoned “We Dive”.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

THE BEST DUNKIRK MOVIE: Dunkirk (1958)



I promise I will get to the second round of the Submarine Movie Tournament soon, but I just felt I needed to post this now since it is topical.

                As some are aware, based on my recent review, I was not impressed with Christopher Nolan’s new “Dunkirk”.  I had waited for months for the movie’s release and although skeptical at first, I gradually bought into the buzz and expected to like it.  It was a huge disappointment.  I found myself in the distinct minority of viewers who were not impressed by it.  The movie has gotten rave reviews from most and made a ton of money.  There are critics who feel the movie is one of the best of this year. Some have talked of Academy Award nominations.  At least one reviewer has called it the best war movie ever made.  If I had not been doing war movie reviewing for the last seven years, I might have questioned my sanity.  However, I am comfortable in my assessment, partly because I have seen a better movie about Dunkirk.

                Before going to see Nolan’s movie, I reacquainted myself with the 1958 version directed by Leslie Norman (“The Long and the Short and the Tall”).  I had not seen it since the early months of my blog.  The film was #89 on Military History magazines “100 Greatest War Movies” list.  Although I read two histories of Dunkirk in preparation for seeing Nolan’s movie, rewatching the 1958 movie also helped with refreshing my memory of what happened in Operation Dynamo.  Little did I know that this classic black and white movie would contribute to my disappointment when I left the IMAX.

                “Dunkirk” covers the period from May 26 – June 4, 1940.  It opens as though you are in a London theater watching a newsreel chronicling the “Phoney War” situation.  One theme that is established is that the British public was in denial about the German threat.  The movie juxtapositions footage of the Nazi war machine (accompanied by martial music) with shots of smiling British soldiers (to the tune of harmonica music).  If that is too subtle for you, two British vaudevillians (Flanagan and Allen playing themselves) sing “We’re Going to Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line” intercut with an animated map showing the German invasion of France.

                The movie has two storylines – civilian and military.  The civilian perspective is portrayed by Charles Foreman (Bernard Lee) and John Holden (Richard Attenborough).  Foreman is a journalist who represents those voices in the wilderness that tried to warn the public of the dangers of unpreparedness.  Holden is a small business owner who is benefitting from war contracts, but is confident the war will not affect anything but his bottom line.  The military component is a small section (the British equivalent of an American squad) that are on the run after being separated from their unit.  Led by Corporal Binns (John Mills), they eventually make their way into the Dunkirk perimeter.  This “lost patrol” witnesses refugees being strafed and moves on to find succor from an artillery battery.  When they leave, they see the effect of Stukas on a last ditch stand.

                While Binns and his comrades are avoiding the Germans and working their way to Dunkirk, Operation Dynamo is put into action.  A call for “small boats” to aid in the evacuation nets the patriotic Foreman and the peer-pressured Holden.  Holden is reluctant to go, not just because he feels his buckle business is crucial to the war effort (and his boat is six inches too short), but because he has a wife who insists his place is at home with her and their new baby.  She’s never seen a war movie, so she expects him to choose her over his bros.  It’s a small war (and a shrinking perimeter) so these two storylines are bound to intersect on the beach of Dunkirk.

                Each of the storylines features a character arc.  Holden evolves from a milquetoast collaborator-in-waiting to a heroic yachtsman.  Binns is your cinematic soldier who has leadership thrust upon him.  Already chafing at wearing the stripes of a corporal, Binns is reluctant to shoulder the leadership of his small band.  He will be forced to go from being one of the grumblers to being of the brass. Both arcs are simplistic and predictable, but necessary for the picture’s goals.  The goals included reminding a Cold War audience of the dangers of underestimating an enemy and the need for teamwork in the face of an existential threat.  A reference to 1930s Britain choosing butter over guns is an obvious plea to 1950s Britain to not make the same mistake.  These goals will naturally be reached with the signature British traits of stoicism and stiff upper lips.  Traits required in 1950s British war films.

                Unlike Nolan’s film, Norman foregoes the RAF component and limits himself to the small boats and the small unit.  (He does manage to thrown in the canard that the RAF did little to defend the beach and mole.)  However, he does include tastes of the bigger picture.  There are scenes where the camera pulls back to show the decision makers.  For instance, we see Gen. Gort making the decision to evacuate in spite of French wishes.  Adm. Ramsey demands the Royal Navy rescind its orders pulling most of the destroyers out. (A scene filmed in the actual command bunker in Dover.)

                The movie is well made.  It makes use of the British war movie repertory cast.  Mills is solid in an unchallenging role.  Foreman and Attenborough are adept at playing the two strains of British civilians.  Holden’s transformation is a bit pat and were the movie to be remade, he would stay a villain.  But this was the 1950s, not the 1960s.  No one else is given much of a chance to shine.  Binns’ section is pretty generic, but Robert Urquhart is fine as Binns’ nagging mate.  You have the stripes – lead!  The cinematography stands out.  The interior scenes feature a lot of deep focus.  The exterior scenes blend in actual footage, not quite seamlessly, but well enough to prevent any wish that CGI would have been available.  The best effects are in the area of sound.  There is a lot of realistic aerial and artillery bombardment and the noise that goes with them.  This is especially true of the harassment of the beach.  The extras do a good job reacting to death from above.

                While the plot does not break any new ground and the movie has a stodgy agenda, it does avoid overt patriotism and propaganda.  Most importantly, it is strong historically.  It makes an excellent companion to Nolan’s picture.  It is best to see it first.  Where Nolan made the decision to concentrate on personal storylines exclusively, screenwriter David Divine gives both a micro and macro view.  His personal stories may not have the visceral impact of Nolan’s, but he has a better balance in telling the story of Operation Dynamo. (It is noteworthy that the name of the operation is not mention in Nolan’s film.)  On the other hand, Norman’s film could easily have been named “Operation Dynamo”.  Where you can glean the basics of Dunkirk from Nolan, Norman is more tutorial.  Binns’ men represent the “odds and sods” who were cut off from their units in the chaos of the German penetration of the Ardennes Forest.  The artillery battery stands in for all the units who made suicidal stands to buy time.  Binns and the others first attempt to escape via the mole, but end up on the beach relying on a small boat to pick them up.  Foreman and Holden exemplify all of the small boat captains that risked their lives to cross the Channel.  Their actions were typical.  The movie also throws in some anecdotal morsels like the leaflets encouraging the British to give up and the medical personnel drawing lots to see who would stay with the wounded.  Divine can be criticized for omitting any references to the French, but I have no real problem with that.  If the French wanted to be lionized, they should have been more supportive of the operation.  (I am aware they did the lion’s share of defending the perimeter towards the end, but to me that was more along the lines of surrendering with a fight than an act of sacrifice for an ally.)

                “Dunkirk” is not a great movie.  It is too inside the box to achieve that accolade.  It is, however, a classic that holds up well and deserves the renewed interest that should come its way.  (You can see it on You Tube for $1.99.)  I do not normally prefer older movies over modern war films.  The classics were constrained by technology and censorship which made realism a bigger challenge than with modern efforts.   While “Dunkirk” falls into the Old School, it manages to not be obsolete because it is historically sound and still tells an entertaining story well.  It’s this fidelity to history that gives it its main edge over Nolan’s film. 


GRADE  =  B+  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

SEVENTH ANNIVERSARY!



                In August of 2010, I started this blog.  I was inspired by a confluence of three things.  First, I had seen the movie “Julie and Julia”.  In that movie, Julie decides to blog about her experience of cooking all the recipes in Julia Child’s classic cook book.  Second, around that same time I ran into a Military History magazine issue on the “100 Greatest War Movies” and it gave me the idea of starting a blog where I would watch one movie per week and review it.  I figured it would take two years to work my way from #100 to #1.  It actually took a lot longer, partly because early on I decided to branch out and review movies that were not on the list.  Thirdly, there was this thing called Netflix that I found out about.  Netflix made it possible to watch most of the 100 Greatest and a whole lot of other war movies.  (I soon found out there are a hell of a lot of war movies.)  And there were options beyond Netflix like You Tube and buying the DVD from Amazon - which is always my cheap-ass last resort. For a baby boomer who grew up waiting yearly for the annual showing of “The Great Escape” on TV, this was paradise and I dove in deep.  And never regretted it.  You would think that after seven years and over 400 movies, there would be little left to do.  However, there are still a lot of movies on my TBW list.  Plus, I still have to do my 100 Best War Movies list. Coming soon.  (But don’t hold your breath.)

                My journey has taken me to movies I would never have watched otherwise.  Before starting the blog, I was already watching a lot of movies.  And not just war movies.  But I was not going out of my comfort zone.  I think the only non-English film I had seen in my life was “Seven Samurai”.  In the last seven years, I have seen more foreign films than the average American will see in several lifetimes.  I have also greatly exceeded my American quota of silent films.  And then there are the movies that I never would have encountered in a regular life.  So here is my list of the top ten movies I have seen in the last seven years that I would not have seen if I were not doing this blog.

                10.  Scipio Africanus -  I am a huge Scipio Africanus fan, but there is no way I would have watched this Italian silent movie commissioned by Mussolini.  I sure as heck would not have bought a DVD copy of it.  The film is epic in scale and is famous for its reenactment of the Battle of Zama, including Hannibal’s elephants (some of whom did not survive the filming).  It is surprisingly accurate.  It is certainly in the top ten of silent war movies.
   
                9.  Stalingrad: Dogs, Do You Want to Live Forever?  -  I am a military history nut and even taught a History of Warfare course.  For that reason, I looked forward to reviewing the #23 Greatest War Movie “Stalingrad” (1993), but was not impressed. Then I ran across this little gem on You Tube.  It is a small unit movie set in the siege of Stalingrad.  The movie is a German production and is remarkably unbiased.  It was not made to make Germans feel good about the disaster.  It is the best of several Stalingrad movies.

                8.  Army of Crime -  In my pre-blog life, I had not watched a lot of WWII resistance movies.  They were just not my thing.  I have watched a lot since.  One of the first was “Army of Shadows” which is considered by many to be the best of the lot.  This was one of the movies that showed me that I was not going to always agree with the “experts” as I was definitely left cold.  Soon after, I saw “Army of Crime” and it encouraged me to make up my own mind as far as what a good war movie was.  This is a French film based on the activities of the communist resistance in Paris.  There is lots of action of the terrorist variety.  I guess terrorists can be good guys if the terrorees are worse.

                7.  The Brest Fortress -  This is a Russian film about the Soviet equivalent of the Alamo early in the German invasion of 1941.  It covers the defense of the fortress and the people within, which included the civilian families.  This movie has a high quantity and quality of violence.  The characters are strong and you empathize with them as they try to survive against the Nazi juggernaut. 

                6.  Theirs Is the Glory -   “Theirs Is the Glory” is a unique war movie.  It reenacts the British participation in Operation Market Garden.  It was produced entirely without the use of studio sets or actors.  Every incident was either experienced or witnessed by the people who appear in the film.”  Everyone in the 200 person cast was either a British soldier who participated in Operation Market Garden or a Dutch civilian who lived through the battle.  This is an excellent companion to “A Bridge Too Far”.

                5.  City of Life and Death  -  This Chinese movie is about the infamous “Rape of Nanking”.  It concentrates on the Chinese civilians who take refuge in the Safety Zone.  The main Japanese character is a soldier who is a controversially sympathetic figure.  The movie also has roles for John Rabe and Minnie Vautrin – two foreigner who attempted to save as many innocent Chinese as possible. It highlights the plight of the “Comfort Women” and the terrible atrocities committed by the Japanese army.  There is a nice balance of drama and combat.  The cast is excellent and the acting is stellar.  This is a must-see about a must-know-about event in history.

                4.  The Dawns Here Are Quiet  -  I had seen several of the lauded Soviet WWII films before I stumbled upon this movie.  It turned out to be the best of them all.  It is the story of an all-female anti-aircraft unit led by a male officer.  A small group ends up in a “who will survive?” scenario.  Each woman gets flashbacks to develop their character.  The cinematography is a standout and the acting is excellent.  This is a special movie.

                3.   Oh! What a Lovely War  -  I am not big on musicals so I doubt I would have seen this movie if I had not started my blog.  It is like no other war movie.  This British film covers the Great War in series of vignettes that feature period songs sung by the characters.  The movie covers not just the politicians and the brass, but a family that contributes several soldiers to the British Army.  It is one of the most anti-war movie ever made.  It is as good as you will get for an entertaining tutorial on the British experience in WWI.

                2.  Taegukgi  -  “The Brotherhood of War” was the first South Korean war movie that I saw in my life.  It was a seminal event in my reviewing career.  I have been a huge fan of the subgenre ever since.  Nobody makes war movies like the South Koreans.  It you want over the top violence, they are the best.  This was South Korea’s answer to “Saving Private Ryan”.  It is the tale of two brothers, one of whom switches sides to become a communist Rambo.  The battles are epic and adrenalin-fueled.  This is still the best South Korean war movie I have seen and that is saying a lot.


                1.  Waltz With Bashir  -  This is the most remarkable film I have seen since starting this blog.  "Waltz With Bashir" is an Israeli film released in 2008.  It covers the Israeli experience in the Lebanon War of 1982.  The movie blew me away because it hit several of my buttons.  It is historically accurate, I learned about an event that I knew little about, it is realistic in its depiction of the military and combat, and it is striking in its cinematography.  The director described it as an "animated documentary" and although I found the animation fascinating, it is not for everyone.  But if you are a war movie lover and you want to see something totally outside the box, see this movie.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

#1 Das Boot vs. #16 The Enemy Below



PLOT:  “Das Boot” is the story of a u-boat patrol in 1941.  It coincides with the downturn in u-boat fortunes.  The movie is based on the novel by a military correspondent who went on a patrol.  The U-96 leaves from a French harbor to hunt convoys.  It will be an eventful patrol, but not because of sinkings.  The plot covers everything bad that might happen to a u-boat.  But it’s not a kitchen sink movie.  It is realistic in depicting life on a u-boat.  The crew goes through some shit, including boredom.  All of it is believable and very instructional.  No movie does a better job putting you on a submarine for a war patrol.  GRADE  =  A

“The Enemy Below” is an odd duck.  It tries to tell both sides of the story -  the escort and the submarine.  A destroyer escort captained by Robert Mitchum plays cat and mouse with a u-boat skippered by Kurt Jurgens.  The plot jumps between the ship and the boat effectively.  Since the movie was released well into the Cold War, it takes into consideration that West Germany was now our ally so the movie has no villains.  Jurgens is a worthy adversary and far from a Nazi.  The fact that the two captains are interchangeable makes the movie a bit trite.  It is the rare war movie that ends in crowd pleasing (but hardly believable) tie.  GRADE  =  B

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Das Boot  =  9
                                             The Enemy Below  =  8

ACTING:   I don’t really know how good the cast of “Das Boot” is considering I am not German and would not recognize the actors.  I do know they are outstanding in this movie.  Having seen a lot of submarine movies, I can attest to the difficulty of fleshing out more than a few of the crew.  Usually the movie concentrates on the officers.  “Das Boot” creates a large number of indelible characters and this is due mainly to the uniformly great acting.  GRADE  =  A+

“The Enemy Below” is a two man show.  Mitchum and Jurgens dominate.  They are as solid as you would expect.  However, since their characters are flawless, they don’t have to display much acting chops.  The supporting cast is low rent, but capable.    GRADE  =  C 

HALFTIME SCORE:  Das Boot  =  19
                                   The Enemy Below  =  14

TACTICS:  “Das Boot” is tactically sound, with one major exception.  U-96 relies on radiograms to put it in contact with convoys.  The boat is submerged when it should be and on the surface when it makes sense (aside from that exception).  It makes a night surface attack on a convoy and marvel at the lack of escorts and then get surprised when a destroyer shows up.  Next time you wonder about why things are so easy, try scanning better.  The Captain refuses to pick up survivors of a tanker which would have been per doctrine.  The cat and mouse moves the Captain makes are realistic.  The movie (or maybe I should just blame the Captain) goes off the rails when the Captain decides to run the heavily defended Strait of Gibraltar on the surface.  Even at night, this is very questionable and has expected results.  GRADE  =  B

Tactically, “The Enemy Below” is more about anti-submarine warfare than submarine warfare.  To be fair, let’s concentrate on the tactics used by the USS Haynes.  The use of sonar to track the sub and depth charges to attack it are depicted in detail.  It’s a tutorial.  The ramming of the sub is also something that is realistic.  The problem is that the destroyer escort relies mainly on a captain who is an escort savant.  Murrell can guess exactly what the German will do and when he will do it.  He knows exactly when to feather torpedoes he lured von Solberg into firing at him.  Below the surface, von Stolberg is portrayed as a master tactician and yet he travels on the surface during daylight allowing a destroyer escort to sneak up on his boat and then later comes to the surface to finish the predator off with a torpedo.  But then, how would we end up with a tie if he did the safer thing?  There is also something about the sub emitting some substance that acts as a countermeasure to sonar.  That was a new one for me.  How else would the sub escape the relentless pinging?    GRADE  =  C

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Das Boot  =  27
                                               The Enemy Below  =  20

CLICHES:  “Das Boot” has every opportunity to ladle on the clichés and you might have expected a German equivalent to “U-571”.  However, it is admirably original for a sub movie released in 1981.  U-96 does go way below crush depth, but that is surprisingly not a common cliché.  There is a depth charging that is amazingly accurate, although the movie avoids showing the depth charges floating down.  It has the emergency repair trope.  Actually, repairs plural.  Hell, virtually everything on the boat has to be repaired!  GRADE  =  B

Once again, I must remind that “The Enemy Below” is more of a destroyer escort movie than a submarine movie, so it does not have a full 1:37 to fit in clichés.  Kudos for getting a black mess mate onto the USS Hayne.  We do get a depth charging from the sub perspective.  There is some minor jostling and some easily sealed leaks.  They go below crush depth to rest on the bottom, but it’s not suspenseful.  GRADE  =  B

FINAL SCORE:  Das Boot  =  35
                           The Enemy Below  =  28

ANALYSIS:  “The Enemy Below” is a good movie that manages to be fair to both the sub and the destroyer escort pursuing it.  It is different than all the other sub movies in this respect.  It is also significant that it depicts the u-boat captain as being as heroic and honorable as the ship captain.  This makes the movie entertaining, but too simplistic.  Interestingly, von Stolberg (“The Enemy Below”) and Lehmann-Willenbrock (“Das Boot”) are similar in their cynicism, but the latter is much more realistically war-weary.  And so is his boat.  After you watch “Das Boot”, it is hard to watch the interior views in “The Enemy Below” without shaking your head.  The interior of the u-boat in “The Enemy Below” could not be more different than the U-96.  It is pristine and spacious.  This is one sub movie that eschews claustrophobia.  It makes you realize just how realistic “Das Boot” is.     

Friday, August 4, 2017

#2 Run Silent, Run Deep vs. Hellcats of the Navy


VS.



PLOT:  “Run Silent, Run Deep” is a movie based on the most famous submarine novel.  The author was a sub skipper named Edward Beach, Jr.  He was not happy with the adaptation of his novel.  Commander Richardson (Clark Gable) is obsessed with getting revenge on a Japanese escort destroyer called “Bungo Pete”.  He is given command of the Nerka which is awkward because its exec named Bledsoe (and the crew) was expecting him to be promoted to commander.  Richardson drills the crew on a crash dive and shot up the bow on his great white whale.  When Richardson reinterprets their orders and heads for Bungo Strait, he butts heads with his exec.  Mutiny is in the air.  The plot took a great novel and ruined it.  There is little in the movie that makes sense even for fiction.  Richardson (Gable) is supposed to be your classic crazy like a fox, but he is just crazy, if you know submarine warfare.  Critics and audiences don’t.  GRADE  =  C

If “Run Silent” is dumb, “Hellcats” is dumber.  It has a similar command dysfunction theme.  Commander Abbott (Ronald Reagan) abandons a frogman when a Japanese destroyer comes along.  His exec Lt. Cmdr. Landon has a problem with that decision and because he is a wimp, Abbott puts the kibosh on him getting his own boat.  They stay together for the next patrol so we can have some tension.  They go on a mission to land commandoes to blow up stuff on a Japanese island.  Later, they are part of a wolfpack (the Navy called them Hellcats) sent to Japanese waters.  As though the plot is not bad enough with its ridiculous developments, the script throws in a clumsy romance between the future President and First Lady.  GRADE  =  F

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Run Silent  =  6
                                             Hellcats  =  4

ACTING:  “Run Silent” is overrated mainly because of the casting of Gable and Lancaster.  And the script gives them the conflict you want from two alpha males.  Both are great and the supporting cast is fine.  Don Rickles made his film debut and brings some comedy relief.  Jack Warden and Brad Dexter are also on board and have their own conflict going on as surrogates for Richardson and Bledsoe.  GRADE  =  A

“Hellcats” has B-List actors doing their thing.  Reagan was on the downhill of his career and it shows.  He is wooden and his scenes with Nancy are excruciating.   He does manage to keep a straight face through scenes like where he (as the freaking captain) goes over the side to clear a net from the propeller and proceeds to get caught in the net.  If you drink enough, the movie has its hilarious moments.  GRADE  =  D

HALFTIME SCORE:  Run Silent  =  15
                                   Hellcats  =  9

TACTICS:  For the definitive American WWII submarine movie, “Run Sllent” is surprisingly bad on tactics.  This is mainly because Richardson is bat-shit crazy.  His “move” is to bait a destroyer into charging at his sub, then crash diving and shooting at the destroyer’s bow.  Why would you wait to crash dive?  Because it’s exciting, I guess.  Hell, the dude stays on the surface even when radar picks up aircraft.  The director obviously did not know how to film after dark because the Nerka does all its attacking on the surface.  As an equal opportunity offender, the movie also screws up the Japanese tactics.  They have a sub doing escort duty.  The Japanese actually pigheadedly insisted on concentrating their subs on going after capital ships.  The movie features the very rare duel between two subs.  They both submerge and when the Nerka comes back up, the Japanese boat does too!  To top it off, the Nerka sinks the enemy boat by firing under a Japanese freighter!  That was one deep draft sub!  GRADE  =  F

“Hellcats” is equally head-scratching, but it has the excuse of “what do you expect?”  To tell the truth I expect better from a movie that had Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood (the initiator of the Hellcat wolfpacks) as technical adviser.  He must have been asleep on the set.  Abbott sneaks into a Japanese harbor and then surfaces during the day time.  Sound familiar?  Stick around.  A Japanese sub surfaces to fire at him.  Later, Landon dives and sinks a destroyer.  I guess he should have been the captain all along.  GRADE  =  D

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Run Silent  =  19
                                              Hellcats  =  14

CLICHES:  “Run Silent” set the standard for the command dysfunction.  Not only does the exec resent the outsider coming in over his rightful promotion, but they disagree on philosophy and tactics.  A mutiny results.  A crew member is left on deck during a dive.  There is a black mess mate.  During a depth charging, they release debris and bodies.  The depth charges are incredibly accurate.  A destroyer is sunk by a bow shot.  The crew listens to “Tokyo Rose”.  GRADE  =  D

“Hellcats” also has a crew member left behind in a dive.  This actually happens twice!  The command dysfunction is of the type where the captain blackballs his exec (like in “Torpedo Run”).  There is a commando raid.  The Starfish follows a freighter through a mine field.  Later, they go through another mine field and have a mine cable scrape their side.  A depth charging is very accurate.  Landon sinks a destroyer with a bow shot.  GRADE  =  D

FINAL SCORE:  Run Silent, Run Deep  =  24
                           Hellcats of the Navy  =  19

ANALYSIS:  As you can tell, I am not a big fan of “Run Silent”.  I am a big fan of the book, but the movie is full of clichés and flaky tactics.  The central conflict between Richardson and Bledsoe is entertaining, but its resolution is unsatisfactory.  While “Hellcats” has several truncated scenes, “Run Silent” has a bizarrely abrupt ending.  In many ways the movies are similar with “Run Silent” having the advantage of star power and a bigger budget.  “Hellcats” looks cheap in every aspect.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

#3 The Hunt for Red October vs. Submarine Command


VS.



PLOT:  “The Hunt for Red October” is an big budget action feature based on a Tom Clancey best seller.  A renowned Soviet sub commander Ramius (Sean Connery) decides to defect to the West taking his state of the art sub with him.  The Red October has a revolutionary new propulsion system that allows it to run quietly.  It also has a boat-load of nuclear missiles.  When the entire Soviet navy is mobilized to chase it, a CIA analyst named Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) convinces the US Navy to facilitate the defection.  He goes aboard an American attack sub to try to make contact with the traitorous Soviet before a Soviet attack sub can end his plan to bring peace and harmony to the world.  If this plot sounds unrealistic, you have not even heard the details necessary to make a sub movie into a thrill ride.  The dominoes drop at an increasingly ludicrous rate.  GRADE  =  C

Submarine Command” starts in WWII and ends in Korea.  An exec (William Holden) is forced to dive leaving his wounded skipper topside.  This incident, on the last day of the war, leaves White with a guilt trip that makes him a gloomy Gus and hard to be married to.  What he needs is a redemptive war and along comes Korea.  The Tiger Shark is brought out of moth balls for a commando raid that is crucial to our war effort.  This is more of a character study than a sub movie and the character is not interesting.  It has a lot of soap opera in it and it’s a very small world for the main characters.  And these characters are put in some unbelievable situations.  GRADE  =  D

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  6
                                             Submarine Command  =  5

ACTING:  “Red October” has an all-star cast and they come through.  Kudos for keeping straight faces through the shenanigans.  Alec Baldwin was the first Jack Ryan and does a good job as the reluctant action hero.  Connery is the unflappable Soviet captain who is godlike.  Acting honors go to Courtney Vance as the ace sonar man who happens to be black.  No biggie in the modern US Navy.   GRADE  =  A

“Submarine Command” has a decent cast of recognizable actors if you are a baby boomer.  Unfortunately, they mostly phone it in. Holden is wooden in a schmaltzy role that requires him to whine like a beaten puppy.  The cast includes William Bendix who is forced to play a man who illogically hates White for “sacrificing” the captain.  Like he’s never seen a sub movie before.  And we get Don Taylor playing his usual flirtatious flyboy.  GRADE  =  C

HALFTIME SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  15
                                   Submarine Command  =  11

TACTICS:  There is some crazy shit that happens in “Red October”.  Significantly, the movie credits did not include a technical adviser.  Some of the things Ramius does with the Red October indicate he is either insanely confident or he read the script.  The other officers are constantly looking at him like he is going to get them all killed - which he would have if the movie was based on reality.  That boat can turn on a dime as it races through an undersea canyon.  Lucky for him that his protégé can’t hit a stationary sub.  GRADE  =  C

“Submarine Command” does not spend a lot of time at sea, but when it does it is shaky.  We do get to see the Tiger Fish rescue a downed pilot.  That is a nice touch and a sub job that is seldom seen in movies.  The attack on the convoy occurs at night and the boat submerges before firing.  That is a bit timid for that late in the war, but not tactically unsound.  Then they surface to pick up survivors with no concern for escorts or aircraft.  That is harder to justify and gets the CO killed.  The movie really mucks it up in the closing act.  The sub comes fully to the surface to send a message and gets hit by a shore battery.  Stupid.  GRADE  =  D

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  21
                                               Submarine Command  =  16

CLICHES:  In “Red October” the USS Dallas is sent on a secret mission to make contact with the Red October.  It has a black on board, but he is not a steward.  There is a very brief conflict between Ramius and the political officer.  Since it is not a typical sub movie, it avoids most of the clichés.  GRADE  =  A

“Submarine Command” does not spend a lot of time at sea, but it makes up for it with some classic clichés.  The captain is left on deck.  The Tiger Shark is sent on a special mission that involves landing commandoes.  The sub goes through a mine field and a mine cable scrapes its side.  
GRADE  =  C

FINAL SCORE:  Hunt for Red October  =  30
                           Submarine Command  =  22

ANALYSIS:  “Submarine Command” is a terrible movie so this outcome is no surprise.  There is a lot of stupid in it.  It is either ashore for a lame soap opera of asea for clicheish developments that lack suspense or believability.  “The Hunt for Red October” is probably more preposterous, but at least it is all in.  It wins handily, but that does not make it a great sub movie.  It has too much action blockbuster in it.  It’s audience is not war movie lovers and it shows, especially in the ludicrous finale that would be silly even in a sci-fi movie.