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Dive into suspense: “Run Silent, Run Deep”


Right, Clark Gable - “The King of Hollywood” - plays Commander P.J. “Rich” Richardson, and co-star Burt Lancaster plays Lieutenant Jim Bledsoe in the World War II submarine thriller.

(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)



Blu-ray; 1958; Not Rated


Best extra: New commentary by Filmmaker/Historian Steve Mitchell and Steven Jay Rubin, author of “Combat Films: American Realism”


TENSION IS REAL in “Run Silent, Run Deep,” a World War II film set inside a submarine, directed by Robert Wise (“Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” “West Side Story”), and starring Clark Gable (“Gone with the Wind,” “It Happened One Night”) and Burt Lancaster (“The Train,” “The List of Adrian Messenger,” “Birdman of Alcatraz,” “Elmer Gantry,” “The Rainmaker”). It holds up very well today and this MGM/UA Classic looks great on the new Kino Lorber release.


The deep-sea adventure begins when Commander P.J. “Rich” Richardson’s (Gable) sub is destroyed in the Bungo Straits by the infamous Japanese commander of the destroyer Akikaze. Richardson is one of the survivors, now obsessed with revenge, which he attempts to hide when he takes command of a new vessel, the USS Nerka.


The position should have gone to Jim Bledsoe (Lancaster), the efficient and well-liked former captain of the crew set to man the Nerka, but politics place Richardson at the helm. During the ship’s maiden voyage, Richardson relentlessly trains the crew to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. Bledsoe warns the captain that he should take better care of his men, but is completely stonewalled. Eventually, Bledsoe and the crew realize Richardson is maneuvering the Nerka to the Bungo Straits, a dangerous area where they’ve been forbidden to go. As heavy training persists, Richardson attacks risky targets, one in which crew members are killed and Richardson is gravely injured.

(1-4) During the early months of WWII, Commander Richardson’s submarine is destroyed in the Bungo Straits off the coast of Japan by the infamous Japanese commander of the destroyer Akikaze. Surviving crewmembers found debris to float with and were eventually picked up by the U.S. Navy.


Bledsoe takes command, but there’s no turning back from the course Richardson has set. The Nerka finds itself in the Straights, facing down the Akikaze as well as a hidden sub ghosting their trail. All the while, captain and crew are taunted by Japanese propaganda artist Tokyo Rose, who, on the radio, knows a lot of their personal information and addresses them by name.  


It's spooky and palm-sweating stuff, loosely based on the book by Edward L. Beach. Be aware that the lead characters are likable and capable, a hallmark of good film storytelling. Richardson and Bledsoe could have been friends if obsession had not got in the way.



This release was sourced from a 2K master used 10 years ago for the KL Studio Classics 2014 Blu-ray that was encoded at 19 GB onto a 20-gigabyte disc. The new version gets more breathing room encoded at 34 GB onto a 50 GB disc and provides better video output and grain structure, as well as space for the new commentary track. Some parts are from the original negative, and others from a second, and maybe third print. The true aspect ratio is 1.66.1 instead of the 1.85:1 shown on the box.


Filmed with the US Navy’s cooperation, archival footage was also used with Russell Harlan’s outstanding black and white cinematography. Harlan was the cinematographer for many classics, including “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Witness for the Prosecution,” “Hatari!,” and “The Great Race.”


The picture is clear, with occasional second-gen and archival blur. Facial expressions, textures, and objects look good, with good contrast and black-levels. Use of shadows is especially nice in the underwater sequences, as torpedoes and depth charges soar, drift and create explosions, and damage inside the sub.


As Mitchell and Rubin point out, there’s a lot of activity going on inside this cramped and claustrophobic vessel, while noting the large presence of Gable and Lancaster. Having been inside a sub, I can affirm that space is a concern.

(1-3) A year later, Cmdr. Richardson has a desk job at Pearl Harbor, with his assistant Yeoman First Class Mueller (Jack Warden). (4&5) Lt. Bledsoe expects to get his own submarine with the retirement of Captain Blunt (John Gibson).



Dialogue is clean and front-centered in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track. Dialogue, effects and score by the amazing Franz Waxman are well-balanced. Waxman, a former bank teller saved his earnings to study music; his parents did not approve of this career choice. Yet Waxman continued his pursuit, creating memorable scores for Hitchcock’s “Rebecca,” the original “Sunset Blvd.,” “Cimarron,” and “The Bride of Frankenstein.” English subtitles are available.



We get a great commentary from Mitchell and Rubin, and a trailer. Don’t skip the commentary – it’s loaded with info delivered with enthusiasm and detail.


The battle between Kirk and Khan in “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” was inspired by “Run Silent, Run Deep.” Mitchell and Rubin bring this up frequently, and even point out duplicate shots during battle scenes.


There’s a lot to learn. Acerbic comedian/actor Don Rickles (“Toy Story” films) made his film debut, when Frank Gorshin didn’t show. Gorshin didn’t like to fly, preferring to drive to California. An accident put him in the hospital and Rickles got the part. Lancaster’s buddy and film cohort Nick Cravat (“The Crimson Pirate”) has a small, speaking role as part of the crew. Because of his thick, Brooklyn accent, he usually played a mute in the historical films he shared with Lancaster. They met as acrobats performing together in the circus. Also find the memorable Brad Dexter, one of “The Magnificent Seven,” and Jack Warden of “12 Angry Men.”

(1&2) Cmdr. Richardson finally gets orders to command the new USS Nerka, with Lt. Bledsoe as his “Exec,” as they prepare the crew for action. (3&4) A Japanese destroyer spots the Nerka, as the submarine continues above the surface under shell bombardments. Model ships were used throughout the production. (5) Second left, Quartermaster First Class Ruby (Don Rickles) celebrates the sinking of the Japanese destroyer.


This would be Clark Gable’s second-to-last film. At 56, “The King of Hollywood” was ill through most of “Run Silent, Run Deep.” As have others, Mitchell and Rubin attribute this to a life-time of leading a Hollywood “manly-man” lifestyle; sadly, he was an alcoholic and smoked four packs of cigarettes a day. There were also rumors he had Parkinson’s disease, and was seen shaking during filming. Gable wouldn’t work past 5 p.m., but Director Wise said he always arrived on time and prepared on the set.

There was some friction between Gable and Lancaster over billing and plot details. Gable refused to film a mutiny scene, refusing to be overtaken by Lancaster’s Bledsoe and the crew. Instead, Gable’s Richardson becomes bedridden after suffering a concussion, so “The King of Hollywood” would not be perceived as weak.


Yes, it’s an ego turn, but Gable was as good as they got, along with Lancaster, also known for his charm, talent and professionalism.


Confession: I was around 8-9 years old when I first saw “Run Silent, Run Deep” at the drive-in with my parents and little brother. Watching now for review, I was stunned to find many movie moments that had remained with me. The idiocy of command hierarchy superseding common sense, and the all-knowing enemy to allies, Tokyo Rose. She is most certainly the femme fatale in this sub-noir. The terror of being trapped down below, remaining absolutely still and silent as explosives hurtled toward the sub. And those ghostly underwater images duplicated in “The Wrath of Khan.” 




— Kay Reynolds & Bill Kelley III, High-def Watch producer

(1&2) Cmdr. Richardson spots a Japanese convoy as a torpedo hits a tanker. (3) Richardson orders, “Dive! Dive!” (4&5) Left, Sonarman First Class Cullen (Rudy Bond) helps another crewmember from falling in the torpedo room, while the Japanese Navy drops dozens of depth charges. (6) The torpedo room begins to flood, as Yeoman First Class Mueller helps the injured Cmdr. Richardson. (7) The Commander gives orders to Lt. Bledsoe. (9) The Balao-class submarine USS Redfish was used for the exterior photography. It was known for sinking the Japanese aircraft carrier Unryū.


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2 comentarios

Will Snow
Will Snow
06 feb

I wonder why this got a Blu-Ray rather than a 4k? I've got the 4k of the 'The Train' ready to watch, not seen it before but an impulse buy.

I guess this should go on the list too.

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Contestando a

We selected The Train one of the best True 4K mastered discs of 2023. A major 4K restoration would be needed to release Run Silent, Run Deep.

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