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Gray Lady Down
Year:
1978
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Thriller, Adventure, History
IMDB rating:
6.2
Director:
David Greene
Stacy Keach as Capt. Bennett
Hilly Hicks as Page
Jack Rader as Harkness
Charles Cioffi as Admiral Barnes
William Jordan as Waters
Ronny Cox as Commander Samuelson
Charles Robinson as McAllister (as Charlie Robinson)
Ned Beatty as Mickey
Michael O'Keefe as Harris
David Carradine as Capt. Gates
Charlton Heston as Capt. Paul Blanchard
Dorian Harewood as Fowler
Storyline: 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
Type Resolution File Size Codec Bitrate Format
HQ DVD-rip 720x364 px 1149 Mb h264 1453 Kbps mkv Download
Reviews
They don't make them like this anymore!
In my youth the USS Threasher submarine accident occurred off Nantucket. All aboard were killed presumably from an internal pipe failure which caused a loss of power. The Threasher fell backwards and sank beyond it's crush depth cracking like an egg and killing all on board. A disaster!

The U.S. Navy brought in the Trieste, a bathyscaphe to find the sub. The "Trieste" took to find any wreckage finally taking some photos of the sail and the tail of the sub. the Navy learned from this disaster that they needed a small deep diving mini sub to help with future operations and rescues. Hence the "Alvin" and the "DSRV" were developed.

http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-t/ssn593.htm Many elements of that story plus the wrecks of the Submarines S-4 (rammed, surviving crew members suffocated) and the "Sqaulus" (open hatch, much of crew rescued) can be seen in this film. It is maybe what was once called a "service picture" but why you would want to join the Navy after seeing this is a little beyond me.

This story is pure Hollywood disaster movie and presents a scenario that probably would not happen or if it did would have resulted in the immediate death of all on the submarine. However, this displays the theory of how modern deep sea rescues would take place and also (all these mini submarines were brand new at the time) displayed some of the technology that would later find the wreaks of the Titanic, the Bismark, the Aircraft Carrier Yorktown, and dozens of other ships.

Charlton Heston is superb and at his peak in this saying those good old "Gee, I wish I could talk like that!" Navy dialog. Having renewed his career with "Planet of the Apes" and "Airport 75", he gives that classic action hero performance that got him paid the "big bucks" of the time. I guess this was his last real action role. I do remember him on the Dick Cavett show promoting this film which was a bit sad because it was a one week wonder, opening and closing around the country as he was doing the interview.

Providing more than adequate acting support are Ronny Cox in one of his early roles as the Exec. So is Stacey "Mike Hammer" Keach, Ned "Squeal like a piggy!" Beatty, and David "Grasshopper" Carradine. It is also the late Christopher "Superman" Reeve's first film. There are also many African American actors as both officers and crewman, something that was still new to American movie audiences.

The special effects are good enough although there are a couple of cheesy underwater scenes. Adding to the unreality the submarine manages to not have it's batteries damaged in the accident, something that would be impossible because the circuit breaker panels all ran thru the compartment that was flooded. In other words, everyone should have been in the dark without any CO2 air scrubbers, heat, or light. It was like camping out with electricity.

Still this is a good piece of entertainment and really gets a discussion going when you have REAL submariners watching it with you. Fun aplenty under those circumstances. Maybe I would tell you how a certain Polaris sub straddled it's crush depth during practice. These things are like planes underwater and just like you can fly too low, you can dive too low! I can recommend this film. It is good entertainment. It is available on DVD and can be had new for less than $6.00.
2007-03-09
GRAY LADY DOWN (David Greene, 1978) **1/2
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!”).
2008-04-28
A movie goes aground
For a movie with Charlton Heston, it is unusual bad. The camera work is an imposition. Many of the "underwater" scenes (like the falling rocks) are actually made ashore and you can see that way to obvious. Special effects are cheap. The plot is unreliable. Whenever the "DSRV" connected to the submarine and they opened the hatch, there wasn't even one drop of water coming down. The story is unnecessarily stretched to the point it hurts. At least in the last half hour it gets a bit better. The overall acting sways between weak and average. It's the first movie I had to give a bad rating and it was a disappointment.

I normally enjoy movies with Charlton Heston. In this one it was really hard to just sit about one and a half hours and watch it till the end. But you can't judge a movie when you haven't seen it all.

My suggestion is: skip this one.
2010-06-24
Excellent actors wasted in poor film.
"Gray Lady Down" is a poor film. A fine cast of character actors are being wasted with mediocre material. Charlton Heston was slightly past his best in terms of box office appeal but his fans might enjoy this film. Look out for a young pre-Superman Christopher Reeve in a small role. "Gray Lady Down" was one of his first films. We have been here before, regarding the plot. There are no fresh twists or surprises of any kind. Forgettable fare.
2017-06-25
Superb Sub down Drama.
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,
2005-11-10
War-hero wannabes will be delighted, disaster buffs will be mildly entertained, and everyone else will be bored to tears.
- 2/5 STARS -

Eagle-eyed disaster enthusiasts should heed the warning suggested by the box copy: `made with the cooperation of the U.S. Navy, with many sequences filmed aboard the U.S.S. Cayuga and Pigeon.' Despite a strong cast and a fairly exciting premise, Grady Lady Down plays like a waterlogged Naval documentary.

The submarine U.S.S. Neptune has been struck and sunk by a Norwegian freighter, and has now settled on a tenuous outcropping only feet from a two mile precipice. A hastily assembled rescue team must get a DSRV (Deep Sea Rescue Vehicle) into position to rescue the remaining survivors before either the sub is thrust into the depths by a seaquake, is crushed by enormous water pressure, is flooded by steadily leaking watertight doors, or simply runs out of oxygen.

Gray Lady Down starts out with a bang (the initial collision occurs in the first fifteen minutes of the movie). Yet it rapidly becomes bogged down in the military maneuvers and sterile technicalities of the underwater rescue mission.

Charlton Heston, captain of the U.S.S. Neptune, sloshes his way through the cliché-ridden script, but he pulls-off the grizzled sailor bit and treads water nonetheless. One must wonder why he accepted the part at all, though I assume that the script did not suggest just how dreary the effects would eventually become. Stacy Keach is the demanding rescue commander who contemplates his appropriate future as a B-grade television star from the comfortably dry confines of his ship. David Carradine is the quiet and contemplative designer of the experimental sub which proves critical to the mission's success, and Ned Beatty literally rounds out the cast as his overeager assistant.

So little character development is required by the script that we almost don't notice that motivation is generally missing. But then Carradine's character suddenly makes a significant sacrifice, apparently motivated by nothing other than his quiet on-screen demeanor, and we realize that we've been cheated. Only Heston manages to infuse his character with a hint of emotional growth, although much of that might have been the dark circles under his eyes which grew larger as the movie progressed.

The external special effects are somewhat uneven. The underwater effects get better and better as the tension builds, and the sub scenes near the climax are resolutely convincing. But the director blew his budget on the money shots, and we are left with a variety of somewhat less important but much more confusing images elsewhere, such as the opening shadows that only hazily suggest the catastrophic collision.

Based on the book Incident 1000, Gray Lady Down does indeed feel like the stilted conversion of a paperback thriller. Relentlessly long underwater maneuvering sequences probably began as exciting lines on the printed page. But watching David Carradine sweat in a cramped submarine through four separate rescue dives to 1450 feet couldn't be less interesting.

The biggest problem is that some of the best effects are also the most boring, such as that of a robotic arm placing a `shape charge' into the carefully selected nook of an undersea boulder. Although the swirling waters of the ocean are well-represented, the sight of the arm selecting just the right spot, for minute after endless minute, begs the question: who cares?

Special effects inside the doomed sub are few and far between, but first rate. Of course, it's pretty difficult to screw up spray from an off-camera fire hose, but `Beyond the Poseidon Adventure' proves that it can be done.

Gray Lady Down is good for a single viewing, if just for the special effects and Heston's routine performance. War-hero wannabes will be delighted, disaster buffs will be mildly entertained, and everyone else will be bored to tears. Gray Lady Down's compelling premise is ultimately sunk by two dimensional characters that never transcend a lifeless script, culled from the pages of a dime store thriller.

*** Celebrity spotlight: keep your eyes open for a pre-Superman Christopher Reeves aboard the bridge with Stacy Keach.
2002-10-24
1 part tense, 1 part tedious, 1 part ludicrous
This murky disaster film concerns the fate of a nuclear submarine which is carelessly struck by a freighter and sinks 1400 feet beneath the surface. Heston plays the stalwart captain who is just about to give up seafaring when this last voyage turns deadly. Cox is his somewhat adversarial second-in-command. Keach is a stubborn captain heading the rescue effort on topside. Carradine, along with assistant Beatty, is the creator of an experimental mini-sub which may be able to aid in the rescue effort. The initial collision is so poorly handled that it threatens to spoil the film (pitiful rear projection and unclear evacuation of the bridge), but thankfully the interior scenes come off more effectively. A terrific rotating set adds to the verisimilitude. Underwater sequences range from good to horrible. Sometimes the use of miniatures is startlingly obvious. As far as acting goes, Heston is solid and has several great solitary moments along with authoritative ones. (One memorable line: "I feel like a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest!") Carradine and Keach establish a nice antagonism (though Keach is occasionally a little intense, becoming unintentionally funny.) Beatty is an appealing and endearing presence. Eighth-billed Forsyth's role was cut down to almost nothing. She says five words (!) in her one scene. Many of the supporting cast come off like either hunky mannequins, bad ham actors or stuntmen giving acting a try (though there are several familiar faces sprinkled throughout, notably Reeves as Keach's shadow.) The film is at it's best when tension mounts in the sub and among the officers on the surface. This is dissipated ridiculously when sailors who may be experiencing their last hours alive play backgammon and watch the movie "Jaws" on their projector (!) acting as if nothing's wrong! The tedium kicks in when the rescue attempt is shown in a bit too much detail (long tracking shots of the rescue vehicles) and repeated tries are shown over and over! Like "Airport '77", the dry naval scenes dull the human element. Jerry Fielding's music is appropriately dirge-like at times and eerie other times (though certain elements were interpolated into his awful score for "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure".) Probably the best moment occurs when the trapped men have to open an air tank. The film should hold interest for a first time viewer as long as one is prepared for a somewhat technical approach to the drama. (And was there ever another film so preoccupied with the state of the injured when the whole sub could implode or slide off a cliff at any moment?)
2002-11-30
Memories of the Thresher
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.
2007-12-28
Good Action Thriller
"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.

1999-02-10
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