“Torpedo Run” was directed by Joseph Pevney who had been in the Signal Corps in WWII. His other war movie was “Away All Boats”. The Navy cooperated with the movie and the technical adviser was Adm. Charles Lockwood (commander of Submarine Force Pacific). He should have been ashamed of the product he advised on. The movie was unbelievably nominated for an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
The movie opens in the South Pacific in 1942. Lt. Commander Doyle (Glenn Ford) of the Grayfish is morose over the fact that his family was in the Philippines when it fell. He later finds out they are alive. That’s the good news. The bad news is they are on a transport that is screening an aircraft carrier named the Shinaru. The Shinaru led the attack on Pearl Harbor and is the number one target for any submarine. Even though he knows his family is on the transport (don’t ask), Doyle decides to take the shot despite the reasonable admonitions of his exec and best friend Sloan (Ernest Borgnine). It will take an amazing shot to hit the aircraft carrier instead of the innocent civilian-laden transport. He does not pull it off. Sloan consoles Doyle by telling him “Jane would have wanted you to try”. Yeah, right. Of course, this fits the cinematic Navy where skippers always put their job ahead of family. He can’t bring his family back, but Doyle can get revenge against the carrier. The rest of the movie covers his quest against his great white whale. Sloan is along for the ride even though he questions Doyle’s obsession. In fact, he turns down his own boat to stay with Doyle. This is the same Doyle who considers him to be a back-stabber. Awkward!
Dear Admiral Lockwood, what the hell were you doing during the production of this movie? Did you feel it was a good idea to approve a script where an obviously mentally unstable skipper is allowed to take a sub out again? Hey Admiral, would a captain risk killing a transport full of civilians? Sure. Would a sub sink a net tender, thus alerting every destroyer in a harbor? Sure. Could a sub fire a torpedo into an anti-sub net and then negotiate the hole? Sure. Would a sub negotiate a mine field by sheer luck? Sure. Could a Japanese destroyer block all six torpedoes heading for a carrier? Sure.
“Torpedo Run’ is a two man show. Glenn Ford plays an a**hole. I’m not sure if that was the intention, but let’s face it. And this guy has a loyal best friend, an unquestioning crew, clueless superiors, and a dead family. I’m a big Ford fan, but he is terrible in this film. He pouts and smirks his way through the film. Ernest Borgnine is better, but he has to play the saintly Sloan. No one else in the cast makes an impression. Nor do they get a chance. The movie could not care less about the crew. It could also not care less about reality. This is one aggravating and anti-intellectual war movie. The plot is chock full of implausibilities. The tactics are laughable, as I tried to point out to Adm. Lockwood. As far as the special effects, it must have been a pretty uncompetitive year at the Academy Awards. Fake miniatures in a swimming pool are not very impressive. Even in glorious technicolor.
How does this movie get made in 1958? In my recent Submarine Movies Tournament, it was the ninth sub movie to be released. Not only does it not improve on the previous movies, it is possibly the worst. It does manage to avoid most of the established clichés, but it substitutes incidents that are inane and poorly executed.