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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

TORPEDO RUN (1958)

Standard WWII ‘sub’ drama gets substandard treatment in this pinch-penny production from M-G-M. Glenn Ford & Ernest Borgnine head a crew hunting down the Japanese Aircraft carrier that led at Pearl Harbor. But their only shot at the war ship puts a civilian transport freighter in harm’s way . . . and Ford’s wife & daughter are prisoners on board! Ford works his usual slow-burn to modest effect here . . . when he doesn’t let the pilot light go out. But the main problem is a confounding lack of visual flair from director Joseph Pevney. It’s hard to avoid cool compositions in a WWII sub, but his proscenium soundstage style misses that old claustrophobic feeling. (And the scale model effects used at the time for ships at sea rarely convinced.) Sonar junkies will get their fix of ‘Ping-Ping-Ping’ echoes, and the last act develops a decent amount of tension once the boys head back for a second try after a visiting Tokyo Bay. But WWII sub flicks were thick on the ground in the late ‘50s, and this one never did stand out. Pevney quickly drifted into tv and the film drifted on to double-bills.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: There’s a fair amount of background score in the film but no credit for either composer or music director. Very unusual for a major studio film at the time.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Dick Powell, in directing mode, had just made THE ENEMY BELOW/’57, a roll-call of WWII submarine iconography; even better, RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP/’58 with Robert Wise taking dramatic advantage of off-screen friction between Clark Gable & Burt Lancaster.

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