Similar to some other films of the cold war genre ("Seven Days in May", "Fail-Safe"), this has a decidedly anti-war/anti-military slant, where in this case the two people who are most "in control" are a journalist, played by Sidney Poitier, and an ex-Nazi naval commander (well played by Eric Portman).
This is Richard Widmark's show though, who with his craggy looks and fierce eyes makes the most of his part as Eric Finlander, captain of the U.S.S. Bedford, patrolling the icy waters of the North Atlantic, looking for Soviet submarines. Finlander is a loose cannon, bypassed for promotion, and irrationally hard on his crew.
Others in the cast of note are James MacArthur, very good as a young ensign, Martin Balsam as the ship's doctor, Wally Cox, Michael Kane, and in a small part, Donald Sutherland, recognizable more by his unique voice than his face.
The sound is fantastic; from the first few minutes, with its combination of excellent modernistic score by Gerard Schurmann, howling wind, and circling helicopter, it captures one's attention, and keeps the tension going in this fine sea thriller. It also has some stylish b&w cinematography by Gilbert Taylor, with terrific contrast of light and shadow.
Entertaining and well paced, with every minute of Widmark's screen time riveting, this taut drama is well worth spending 102 minutes of your time on.
Prophetic words from this mid 60's cold war drama.
Richard Widmark stars as Captain Eric Finlander, the commander of the USS Bedford, a sub-chasing destroyer on patrol in the Denmark Strait. The Captain runs the tightest of ships, stands no nonsense, and keeps his men on a sharp edge. Recent arrivals on board his ship, are Ben Munceford, a reporter on assignment (Sidney Poitier) and the ship's new medical officer, Lt. Commander Chester Potter (Martin Balsam). The Bedford's current assignment, is to track the movements of a Russian submarine, code named "Big Red". After reporting that "Big Red" has violated international law, Finlander is ordered to just track the sub, and maintain surveillance, and not initiate a confrontation. A restrained Finlander grows restless, as the Russian sub runs under the ice. Another guest aboard the Bedford is Commodore Schrepke (Eric Portman), current West German Navy Officer, and a former German U-boat man. An expert on the subject of submarines, Findlander turns to him for analysis and advice. "Big Red" must surface sometime to take on air, and the Bedford trails, waiting. While negotiating through treacherous ice filled waters, the sub apparently hits something underwater, and disappears from the Bedford's sonar. This is the sets the stage for the film's memorable conclusion.
Widmark commands attention as Finlander, a man who believes that he knows the proper way to deal with the enemy. Given this chance, he refuses to back off from teaching the Russians a lesson. Poitier, is solid as a reporter, who must constantly monitor his actions, so as to remain in the Captain's favor. Balsam, is amusing as an ex-civilian doctor, just returned to active duty. Attempting to implement his ideas into the ship's routine, and hitting a brick wall. James MacArthur plays a rattled ensign, and Wally Cox is a sonar operator, the only man Finlander shows any affection for. Cox's voice may be recognizable as that of the cartoon character "Underdog".
As an interesting character study, and a look at the tenor of the times, "The Bedford Incident" is recommended viewing.
on August 7, 2004
The Bedford Incident is an excellent Cold War drama that I had never heard of before seeing it recently on television. The USS Bedford is on patrol duty in the North Atlantic off of Greenland when two guests are brought aboard, a journalist hoping to document the life on a destroyer and the new doctor for the ship. Once aboard, the two men find a crew pushed to their absolute limit by their captain, Eric Finlander. When a Russian nuclear sub is found in territorial waters, the Bedford receives orders to track the sub. What follows is a tense, exciting drama that all builds up to a powerful and surprising climax. Don't be confused though, this is not an action movie, but a character driven study about the effects of war on your average seaman. Very exciting from beginning to end and highly recommended for an excellent Cold War drama.
Richard Widmark is great as hard-nosed, patriotic, Captain Eric Finlander, the captain of the Bedford who is constantly pushing his crew to their limits during the sub chase. Equally as good is Sidney Poitier as Ben Munceford, the journalist on board looking for a good story. James MacArthur gives an excellent supporting role as Ensign Ralston, the young officer trying to constantly prove himself onboard the Bedford. Martin Balsam plays Lt. Cmdr. Chester Potter MD, the new doctor trying to find his niche on board. The movie also stars Wally Cox as Seaman Merlin Queffle, Eric Portman as Wolfgang Schrepke, an observing German officer and former U-boat captain, and Michael Kane as Cmdr. Allison, Finlander's executive officer. The DVD offers widescreen presentation, but I would love to see a special edition DVD released with commentaries or at least trailers. For a tense, exciting Cold War drama with a great cast, check out The Bedford Incident!
on April 23, 2001
One of my all time favourites this. The Bedford incident is, of course, a little reminisant of Dr. Strangelove (Hardly surprising considering Harris co-produced the earlier film) but does without the wonderfully black humour that laced Kubrick's masterpiece, which all cold-war films are invariably, and inevitably judged by.
Instead, it relies upon good old traditional suspence -and it works brilliantly, especially as Harris was clearly going all-out for authenticity. The frighteningly realistic tracking of a Soviet submarine, and the ghastly consequences of pushing too hard hit far too close for comfort. I suspect we'll never know just how close. The cast is first rate -Widmark as the Bedford's obsessive, slightly maverick captain turns in one of his all time greatest performances in this sadly forgotten work, as does Poitier as a journalist unfortunate enough to be along for the ride. Tense, claustraphobic and utterly bleak, it will forever be judged by, and remain in, the shadow of its better known cousin -an unfortunate circumstace, for while Kubrick's is ultimately the more effective film, The Bedford Incident at least earned the right to stand alongside it with honour. It's a genuine classic, and well worth watching.
on October 1, 2005
Taut and gripping story of the USS destroyer Bedford as it hunts an elusive Soviet sub along the coast of Greenland during the height of the Cold War. Adapted from Mark Rascovitch's novel, THE BEDFORD INCIDENT is one of the better movies to deal with the long, undeclared war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Richard Widmark plays Capt. Eric Finlander, a battle hardened sea-dog who wants to do more than merely track and photograph the Soviet sub. The fish is one of the last non-nuclear subs and is therefore one of the last easy kills. Along for this mission is photo-journalist Ben Munceford (Sidney Poitier), on board for a profile article on a Cold Warrior.
THE BEDFORD INCIDENT is about a hot event in a cold war. The discovery of a Soviet sub, provocatively and illegally within two miles of coast of Greenland, is certainly a plausible enough premise to build a book or a movie on. That a US destroyer would trail it is almost mundane. That Capt. Finlander, Ahab-like, would track `with intent' is eerily believable. Like many movies about Cold War confrontations made in the 50s and 60s, the outcome is startling and sobering. The only thing missing today, when watching it, is the urgency felt back when the two super powers were warily eyeing each other from behind their vast nuclear stockpiles.
The acting here is top notch and the characters are well conceived. Widmark, never better, play a `new navy' captain who has reconfigured his sense of patriotism to conform to the current state of affairs. The intelligent Poitier is Everyman, the helpless, bystanding civilian who understands the events but can't control them. Martin Balsam is a naval reservist doctor who arrives with Poitier and is surprised to find that the sick bay is used pretty much as a floating lab that devotes almost all of its time analyzing Russian trash. There's a lot to be learned from a potato peel, it seems (a very young Donald Sutherland plays one of the lab technicians.) The Balsam character also serves to reinforce the changes wrought by the `new navy.' Veteran English actor Eric Portman plays Cmmdre. Wolfgang Schrepke, a U-boat commander in the last war, as a member of Donitz's navy, he's quick to tell the curious. Schrepke serves the Captain as an expert on submarine warfare. Schrepke serves the movie as an example of the changed face of ally and foe.
THE BEDFORD INCIDENT is smart, believable, and realistic. One of the better Cold War movies available.
on December 1, 1999
A grim, all-too-realistic Cold War thriller, the Bedford Incident succeeds on almost every conceivable level. The basic story, while set in a late 50s-early 60s naval scenario, is timeless in its depiction of the potential for military commanders to do incalculable harm by pushing their envelope just a bit too far. A fine international cast adds to the credibility of the story. Taut directing allows the real-time action to flow smoothly, with the slowly increasing tension building to a nerve-shattering crescendo. The climax of the film is so sickeningly terrifying that most horror film producers would be jealous. The Bedford Incident is not for the faint-hearted, but provides a devastating video experience for fans of the fact-based thriller.
on July 8, 2005
"The Bedford Incident" is a taut and suspense laden drama, well conceived and filmed almost entirely aboard the U.S.S. Bedford, a NATO based destroyer patrolling waters off the coast of Greenland.
Sidney Poitier, playing noted photojournalist Ben Munceford, has been given permission to come aboard the Bedford during manuevers to write and shoot a story about her no nonsense Capt. Eric Finlander played intensely by Richard Widmark. Widmark is a stern, mean and patriotic commander whose views are more hawkish than government policy. Widmark's character is brilliantly developed as his driven personality will have a major bearing on the plot developments.
While patrolling, sonar aboard the Bedford detects the presence of a Russian submarine within the territorial waters of Greenland, in violation of current policy. Widmark endeavors to trap the sub in these tabooed waters to create a situation to make the Russians look bad. He shadows the sub forcing it to stay submerged in the midst of a huge ice floe. Aided strategically by NATO advisor former U-boat commandant Commodore Schrepke played icily by Eric Portman, they keep the sub bottled up ultimately wishing to coax it to the surface to replenish oxygen.
Officially Widmark has been ordered to observe but not engage. Not satisfied, he creates a condition meant to force the issue with potential cataclysmic results.
The flick produced by Widmark and ably directed by James Harris states a very strong anti-war sentiment, pointing out exactly how precarious political feelings were at this time. The excellent character development in the film certainly enhanced the success of the production and the message that it delivered.
on February 18, 2002
Richard Widmark is the tyrannical and obssessed Captain Finlander, commander of the USN destroyer "Bedford" in this cold war classic. In the coldest battle ground of the cold war (the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, where even the air seems to turn to ice), Finlander leads his crew in a battle of wits with a Soviet submarine. The Bedford has the firepower to deep-six the Russian submarine with ease, but politics restrict him to hunting it. (The sub is a diesel-electric - unlike a nuclear boat, it's submerged speed is very low, and it requires frequent trips at or near the surface to recharge its batteries and refresh its air supply, limitations that put the boat at the mercy of a determined enemy) Finlander thinks of his crew as an extension of his will, itself geared towards the hunt of the Red sub. Complicating this is Munceford (frequent Widmark foil, Sidney Poitier; I recall his character's name to be "Mumford"), a civilian photographer, LCdr Potter (Martin Balsam) the new ship's doctor and Commodore Wolfgang Schrepke (Eric Portman) a U-Boat ace of the last war who advises Finlander on the finer aspects of hunting submarines. Mumford, who caused Finlander enough problems in the book despite his being a hack there, notices the strain that the hunt is having on Finlander's crew. Potter is a worse distraction - the ship already has its medics - and the new doctor only quantifies the effects of the hunt on the crew. Schrepke is perhaps the greatest danger, because his advice is the kind that Finlander cannot disregard as easily as that from others. There's a climax and it's distinct from the one in the book - I can't say it's better (though each I think works out best for its version).
This is a great cold-war thriller, and proof positive that Hollywood was able to look at the absurdities of the Cold War prior to 1989. At the same time, it's still a 1960's movie which makes it look even more authentic - this stems from the bleak B/W film, the arctic setting and the choice of casting (from Martin Balsam to Wally Cox as the ship's sonar officer). A true classic.
on December 29, 2004
This is quite a movie. It is story of cold war paranoia, and the personal ambition and fanaticism of a modern-day Ahab, without the black humor of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece. The captain of a U.S. Navy destroyer relentlessly pursues his leviathan, a Soviet submarine, while pushing his own crew beyond human endurance. His fanaticism and rage toward the Soviet sub increases in parallel with the restrictions imposed on him by cautious higher-ranking officers -- the same officers who denied him a promotion into the general ranks. A German former U-boat commander serves as an adviser on the U.S. Navy vessel, but sympathizes with the increasingly desperate men trapped in the submarine below. Compassion for the enemy? The mature ambivalence of an older man, coming to terms with the world war that defined HIS life? Several members of the destroyer's crew, including the medical officer, illustrate the mirroring desperation of the men aboard the U.S.S. Bedford. Portier -- the only civilian present, and less subject to the captain's arbitrary and absolute authority -- serves as the audience's eyes into this little world. This is a dark film; the photography and tension are excellent, reflecting noir influences from 15 years earlier. And the end of the story reflects the growing fear on both sides of the iron curtain after the missiles of October.
on September 2, 2004
Remembering my short,2 year period on a Navy ship I remember the captain refusing to dip the flag for a Russian ship passing by as this captain did. Finlander mentons that the ship is aluminum and as many may remember the Falklands war, the british aluminum ships that were hit by French antiship missles, burned very fast and the ships sunk quickly. The movie makes mention it... "this is an aluminum ship, if we are hit we dont stand a chance". The captain of my ship was pretty hard on junior officers on the bridge and in CIC and heard him frequently chewing them out. The state of electronic warfare was pretty basic then (transisters were new) and the Captain was always demanding answers and it got hectic at times. I loved the realism of this movie. It was better than hunt for red october in my mind. If you like military thrillers you will love this! It is a classic! Just like a '56 chevy coupe!