The Battle of Bungo
If you see "Run Silent Run Deep" listed on the TV schedule and dismiss it as just another submarine movie think again because this is a movie about 2 men, 2 actors and a mixture of respect and animosity. It is said that Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, the stars of "Run Silent Run Deep", didn't get on during production but that is exactly what the movie needed an acting legend past his prime with a handsome younger star destined for greatness giving us that tension to make their on screen confrontations come to life. In fact whilst the storyline to "Run Silent Run Deep" is not that special as from various submarine scenes to the animosity between a captain and his 2nd in command has been done before and since it is those performances which brings it alive.
A year after his submarine is destroyed and most of his crew killed in an encounter with Japanese destroyer Akikaze, Cmdr. 'Rich' Richardson (Clark Gable - The Tall Men) is stuck behind a desk and is desperate to get command of another sub leading him to usurp Lt. Jim Bledsoe (Burt Lancaster - Gunfight at the O.K. Corral) who is due to take his first command. Jim unimpressed by being forced to act as Rich's No. 2 is even less thrilled by the way he has the men drill time and again whilst not going after some sitting ducks as they head to area 7 and the Bungo Strait. It is then that Jim realises exactly what is going on, Rich wants revenge and is going after the Akikaze and in doing so disobeying the mission orders.
Watching "Run Silent Run Deep" now it all feels quite familiar especially the battle between the Captain and his No. 2 which amongst other movies was done in "Crimson Tide". But that tension between senior officers over the mission is not the only familiar element as being a submarine movie we have some typical scenes. There is a close encounter with another sub, narrowly missing torpedoes and of course what seems an obligatory scene where they lay motionless near the sea bed as they play possum with the enemy. Having said that there are also some different scenes and one which sees a member of the crew on deck when the sub dives is a brief but exciting scene.
But in truth the various dramas which come from attacking the enemy and running drills is only the embellishments because "Run Silent Run Deep" is all about the tension between Rich and Jim and also Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. You can sense that whilst Gable and Lancaster respected each other as actors there was that sense that Gable was threatened by the younger Lancaster whilst if you believe the rumours Lancaster made fun of Gable being older and past it. But that makes it perfect because that tension between them manifests itself in their characters so Rich is threatened by his more popular No. 2 whilst Jim doesn't like the way Rich operates and what his motives are. Yet that sense of respect between two seamen comes through so whilst they may not like the way each other operates they won't lock horns.
As such whilst "Run Silent Run Deep" also features a good supporting cast which alongside Brad Dexter and Jack Warden also sees Don Rickles making his movie debut it is the atmosphere between Gable and Lancaster which makes the movie come to life. And in truth it is that atmosphere which also helps you ignore the fact that scenes of the subs in water is obviously scale models which even when you take into account the movies age still sadly look false.
What this all boils down to is that "Run Silent Run Deep" is an entertaining movie but not because it is a war movie on a submarine but because of the tension between characters and actors. It is that tension, that air of dislike but also respect between Gable and Lancaster which makes "Run Silent Run Deep" spark and in truth the only reason to watch it.