A psychotic sniper plans a massive killing spree in a Los Angeles football stadium during a major championship game. The police, led by Captain Peter Holly (Charlton Heston) and SWAT ... See full summary »
A knight in the service of a duke goes to a coastal villiage where an earlier attempt to build a defensive castle has failed. He begins to rebuild the duke's authority in the face of the ... See full summary »
Franklin J. Schaffner
The USS Neptune, a nuclear submarine, is sunk off the coast of Connecticut after a collision with a Norwegian cargo ship. The navy must attempt a potentially dangerous rescue in the hope of saving the lives of the crew. Written by
Robbie Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When resting on the bottom, the crew are seen on the mess decks watching a movie. In real life, the non-essential crew would have been sent to their bunks and the ship would have been placed on reduced electrical load in order to preserve precious battery power. There would not have been any movies or cooked meals. See more »
Watching this rescue-of-a-sinking-sub film back in the day, it must have felt kind of redundant in the wake of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972) and AIRPORT’ 77 (1977); that said, it didn’t hinder movie mogul Lew Grade from financing a production not long after depicting the biggest (fictional) rescue operation of all time with RAISE THE TITANIC (1980) – which, incidentally, is a title I haven’t watched in some time!
In any case, GRAY LADY DOWN is as much a drama detailing the plight of the sub’s constantly diminishing crew, commandeered by the oh-so-stoic Charlton Heston, as a showcase for novel sea exploration/rescue techniques (in the form of a mini-sub armed with sonar and camera designed and maneuvered by David Carradine). The tension arises out of the fact that the damaged vessel is slipping ever downwards due to the water level inside and the unstable surface where it’s been lodged; added to this, however, is antagonism going on both above and below the surface (between Carradine and Stacy Keach, the officer in charge of the rescue operation, and between Heston and Ronny Cox, the man who was supposed to relieve him of duty, respectively). Also in the cast is Ned Beatty as Carradine’s long-suffering chubby pal and Christopher Reeve (in his film debut) as Keach’s young aide; interestingly, the two would be re-united soon after for SUPERMAN (1978)!
The film is aided by nice Widescreen photography and a serviceable score by Jerry Fielding, but let down somewhat by overlength (the repetitive and draggy nature of events tending towards a general dullness). However, as I said in reviews of some of the other disaster movies I’ve been watching of late, while most of these were pretty much dismissed when originally released, with time, have achieved an undeniable campy charm (amusingly, at one point the submerged crew choose to watch JAWS  – conveniently, also a Universal production – as a means of respite from their current dilemma, but especially when Heston proclaims in desperation: “I feel like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest!”).
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