It was a hot summer day in Michigan in 197Late or 198Early. A boy and his father are inside a house, the blinds drawn in an attempt to avoid the sticky, blinding heat outside. In an attempt to ward off boredom, the father turns on the television, turns the channel to one of the cable channels, and for the next almost two hours, neither the boy or his father say a word, their breath being held at different stages, their eyes glued to the flickering screen.
Its funny how magic a movie can be in your youth, and disappointing when the magic doesn’t carry into adulthood.
Happily, I don’t have this problem with this movie.
As a young man, I loved technology. I had an unhealthy fascination with Star Trek, less because of the stories, although they had a greater impact than I might have otherwise acknowledged for a long time. No, my fascination was with the technology. Space travel. Shuttle crafts. Transporters. Communicators (I still dig my flip phone, although I may be upgrading to a smart[er than me] phone, and phasers…hand held, and ship mounted…and of course, battles.
But this movie, perhaps more than just about any other disaster pic of its era caught and held my attention, not with the technology of tomorrow, but with the technology of that era…and because it was “real”, the drama of the story got my attention too.
The USS Neptune was on its final homeward voyage under the skipper played by Charlton Heston, who will be shipping out on a desk as the newest squadron commander in the Atlantic. His exec, played by Ronny Cox, will be the sub’s new skipper. (Other cast notables include Stacy Keach, David Carradine, Ned Beatty, and in his screen debut, Christopher Reeve.)
A confluence of bad events, including broken radar and fog leads to a Norwegian freighter running across the aft portion of the sub, which floods and rushes to the bottom. The crew in the control room forward got to listen to the depth being called out as they approached the sub’s 1200 ft. crush depth, and then exceeded it, finally coming to rest on a ledge in an underground canyon…at 1450 ft.
The Navy scrambles the DSRV-1 from its station in Coronado, and flew it out to the east coast, then put it on a ship (the USS Pidgeon) specially designed to carry it to the accident scene.
The story rings true. The sailors on the sub appear to be feeling what you might expect, and the moments of elation, despair, and self-sacrifice have them carrying on in the finest tradtions of their service. (And watching it this time made me think of the Chief…with lines like “Take a few aspirins and stop the bullshit, or report to sick bay.”, and the scene below, where the exec has to say two of the hardest things he probably had to say in his entire life.)
Watching it today, I was thinking “What the heck? Why didn’t they have a DSRV stationed on the east coast?”, which cut me loose with the search engine. Two links that were helpful are below.