Friday, August 4, 2017

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


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.  

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