Torpedo Run (1958)

Torpedo Run (1958)

Directed by Joseph Pevney and written by William Wister Haines and Richard Sale this average World War II submarine drama stars Glenn Ford and Ernest Borgnine; Ford is the commander of a submarine and Borgnine is his first officer. Like most in this genre Ford plays a tortured determined sub captain who’s chasing a “holy grail”-like target in this case a Japanese “flat top” a new aircraft carrier named Shinaru; Borgnine’s character is also Ford’s friend who helps and/or covers for his commanding officer (C.O.). The cast includes a number of supporting actors including Diane Brewster who plays Ford’s wife in a couple of flashback sequences Dean Jones as Foley and L.Q. Jones as Benson are two members of Ford’s crew Philip Ober as Ford’s C.O. and William Schallert (uncredited) as another sub’s commander. The Japanese characters are barely seen and of course uncredited. The film’s Effects which are really nothing special received an Academy Award nomination. The story is compelling at times but is also full of the usual clichés.

Lieutenant Commander Barney Doyle (Ford) is Admiral Samuel Setton’s (Ober) best submarine captain; his “Grey Fish” has attained an impressive record of success sinking enemy targets. Barney is driven because for 10 months he hasn’t known the fate of his wife and two year old daughter who were living in Manila before Pearl Harbor and Japan’s invasion of the Philippines. When word finally surfaces that Jane (Brewster) and their daughter Dede (Kimberly Beck uncredited in her screen debut) have been found alive and well in a Japanese internment camp it’s soon followed by news that the sought after carrier Shinaru is being screened by a transport ship with 1400 prisoners-of-war likely including Doyle’s family and two destroyers dubbed “tin cans”. Naturally Barney and his crew is given the opportunity to take a crack at sinking the target but the captain despite pleas from his first officer Lieutenant Archie Sloan (Borgnine) takes an ill-advised risk and accidentally shoots the transport ship instead. Because of the destroyers who have dropped depth charges in order to destroy them and are currently lying in wait the Grey Fish is unable to rescue the survivors. Seeing this scene would later cause Barney to wrestle with his emotions about the tragedy for three days in his captain’s quarters but not before he successfully commands the sub into Tokyo Bay and destroys another tin can in lieu of the desired target. They’d had to hide among some enemy mines and blow through some sub trap netting during their escape.

Upon their ordered return to Pearl Harbor Admiral Setton questions Archie about Barney’s fitness while offering the Lieutenant a ship of his own. Archie tells the truth about Barney’s struggle but then states that he’d rather be Doyle’s subordinate on another mission to sink the Shinaru than helm his own boat. So Barney and the Grey Fish are given another chance and are accompanied by another sub dubbed the “Blue Fin”. When a suspicious Barney asks Archie about his conversation with the admiral Doyle’s paranoia causes a rift between the two friends. Later after taking another undue risk Barney causes the Grey Fish to lose its conning tower and most of its communications ability reducing their chances of sinking the Shinaru by sonar to one in eight. Now unable to using either periscope Barney decides to let Archie help make the decision to continue the quest to sink the Japanese carrier which they do despite great risk to themselves and their crew. The Grey Fish is sunk to the bottom by a Japanese destroyer which is then in turn sunk by the Blue Fin. One of the film’s most interesting and not often seen sequences follows as the crew of the Grey Fish abandons their submerged sub in order to be rescued by the Blue Fin’s crew. Their skipper Randy (Schallert) is able to show Barney that he and his crew (minus the six that died in their sinking) did successfully sink the Shinaru.

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