Gray Lady Down (1978) Poster

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Memories of the Thresher
bkoganbing28 December 2007
Gray Lady Down is one of the better Seventies disaster films and it's also one of the better films that Charlton Heston did in the later part of his career starting in the Seventies. Heston like so many other of the stars of the studio era was finding fewer and fewer decent film properties to do. This was one of his better choices.

Heston plays the skipper of a nuclear powered submarine which goes down in a collision. Things get further complicated when the 'gray lady' is buried partially in an undersea mudslide, blocking the escape hatch.

The Naval Rescue service is on the job however, but this will prove a difficult task.

The film is divided evenly between Heston and his crew as Heston tries to keep morale up that the survivors will be rescued and on the surface rescue vessel where a conflict between two captains hampers the rescue effort. Stacy Keach is the captain of the rescue vessel and his conflict is with Keith Carradine also of captain's rank who's developed a special undersea two man vessel that can scoop the dirt off the gray lady.

Special mention should go to Ronny Cox who is Heston's number two and also not really getting along with him, but who steps up to the plate in a most heroic fashion.

In 1978 when Gray Lady Down came out there were still memories of the submarine U.S.S. Thresher which went down in 1963 with all hands lost in one of the U.S. Navy's worst disasters at sea. A lot of what you see in this film was developed because of that tragedy.

Gray Lady Down is a no nonsense sea rescue film with the impossible situations that characterized a lot of the films of this type kept out of the story. It's one of the best and yet most unsung of the disaster films of the decade. Should be seen more often. Charlton Heston and the rest of the cast do a fine job on this film.
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An Underrated Gem
Eric-62-217 May 2000
A truly wonderful underappreciated gem from the tail-end of the "disaster" films of the 1970s, that was also Charlton Heston's last film as an action lead. What really makes "Gray Lady Down" a terrific film is that unlike the disaster films of the 90s (and some of the bad ones of the 70s), there is an air of believability to the whole thing. We don't see anything extremely outlandish, and we don't see incredible death-defying feats by the leads who then improbably survive such endeavors. Instead, we get a sense of how the real Navy might respond to a crisis like this and the end result proves to be quite gripping.

The cast is great, including Heston as the downed sub's captain, Stacy Keach (minus his usual hairpiece-a rarity) as the squadron commander, and surprisingly David Carradine who after all those years of "Kung Fu" shows that he can handle a different kind of role credibly. Christopher Reeve has a bit part as an officer, and this helped bring him to the attention of the Salkinds when they were looking for candidates for "Superman." Fine score by Jerry Fielding too.
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Good disaster movie with spectacular special effects as well as magnificent acting from Heston and Keach
ma-cortes25 September 2010
Nice underwater drama film based on a real-life incident about pitting man and machine . It deals with an US Navy atomic submarine (commanded by Charlton Heston on his final voyage and as second in command Ronnie Cox) that has accidentally collided with Norway freighter and goes down into deep . The movie concerns upon an American sub , the complications originated for a nuclear scape and fight against time . But the submarine, and its crew, are ill prepared for the challenges they will face . A two-man rescue operation by means of an experimental driving craft (captained by David Carradine and Ned Beatty) try to find the victims , as many sailors will have to sacrifice themselves to save life of crew members. And a greatest ship based in San Diego California with an expert crew of ¨Submarine Rescue Unity¨ heads the sinking location.

Runtime film is overlong , the flick is slow moving and a little boring , though a bit monotonous is quite interesting. Tense and exciting at times and climatic ending , but lot of minutes are superfluous ,it has half hour of excess, however the movie is enough agreeable.

The yarn is interesting and based on real deeds as submarine U.S.S. Thresher that sank in 1963 in one of the worst catastrophes at sea. There are suspense ,thriller and action, though the scenario is mostly developed into submarines.

Charlton Heston's performance as commandant is excellent, he hands perfectly the role , Heston has gotten the best character along with David Carradine as valiant skipper . Ronny Cox's acting as the contender official is first rate. Facing off between two commanders is top-notch . And large support cast as Stephen McHattie, Dorian Harewood, Charles Cioffi, Rosemary Forsyth and look for Christopher Reeve and Michael O'Keefe .

David Greene direction is fine and cinematography is atmospheric and colorful . Jerry Fielding music is spectacular and adjusted to film.

The movie will appeal to disaster genre enthusiasts and action lovers . Rating : 6,5 , better than average .
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ranger2721 October 2007
I remember seeing this movie in the theater when it came out and the review in Time magazine. OK I remember one part of what was a positive review. It said that the movie avoids the bane of the disaster genre, the subplot. The best sentence in the review that I think describes the movie perfectly is," It is a job-oriented movie about job-oriented men." I can't think of a better way to describe it. The actors give there best professional naval officer performances (well maybe not Carradine...good performance...not sure about the naval officer part) and the movie sticks its subject, the rescue. An entertaining movie that delivers a straightforward story and there is nothing wrong with that.
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Good Action Thriller
Eric-6210 February 1999
"Gray Lady Down", which bears very little resemblance to the novel it was based on, is a nice, entertaining action thriller that holds up well today in contrast to today's action films because it's cloaked with a realism and plausibility that today's filmmakers seem determined to avoid like the plague.
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Superb Sub down Drama.
Kieran Green10 November 2005
Gray Lady Down is one of the better disaster movies of the late 70's The above title is a naval term for sub down. During a routine exercise off the coast of Connecticut, The Neptune is caught in dense fog Which unfortunatetly is rammed by an Norwegian trawler, the sub then sinks To terrifying depths and then rests on a unstable precipice which is overlooking a abyss beyond the point of no return. Charlton Heston gives an always great performance as the captain as does Ronny Cox as Hestons second in command. Stacy Keach plays the admiral back on shore who mounts the daring rescue mission, David Caradine also stars plays a creator of an experimental sub who plays a pivotal role in the rescue operation Ned Beatty delivers some much needed comic relief as Caradines bumbling Assistant, Strangely underrated Gray Lady Down, slowly but surely is just getting the recognition it finally deserves thanks to frequent TV showings and its DVD release finally in Anamorphic 235:1 WideScreen,
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Don't listen to anti-military wannabe Gene Siskels
dscout15 October 2006
This is a great movie for military enthusiasts and disaster buffs both. If you're looking for that, this is a classic.

Don't pay attention to reviews about military-based films by anyone who derides the movie as a "waterlogged Naval documentary," which contains two errors in one statement. First, there is no need to capitalize "naval," and second, what kind of snobby theater twit attacks a movie for being too "Naval" when the subject is about...a U.S. NAVY SUBMARINE? Next he'll attack Ghostbusters for being a shill for paranormal investigators.

Stupid reviewers aside, this is a good movie.
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A Really Good Movie
Natsmith6 September 1998
This movie has non-stop action right from the first. The suspense and action combined keep you at the edge of your seat the whole movie. Charlton Heston is excellent as always and so is the rest of the cast. All action scenes are believable. This movie has everything going for it, and is worth the money to rent.
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A bit unbelievable, but not for the usual reasons.
innocuous1 February 2009
A better-than-average disaster movie, due mostly to the absence of any ridiculous scenes. (There are no overweight older Jewish women who won swimming medals many years ago trying to reach the sub, for example.)

On the other hand, Ronnie Cox as the first officer goes to pieces very quickly and you wonder why the Navy ever thought he'd be able to command a sub of his own. Also, you've got to ponder the initial collision. The sub's crew basically just lets a freighter in open water run them down, not even noticing that the freighter is in the area until it's too late to do anything about it. Kind of makes you wonder.

Heston is restrained in his role, which works out pretty well. Everybody else does a good job (except for Cox) and the special FX are average for the time.

Definitely worth watching.
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GRAY LADY DOWN (David Greene, 1978) **1/2
MARIO GAUCI28 April 2008
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 [1975] – 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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