The American destroyer USS Bedford detects a Soviet submarine in the GIUK gap near the Greenland coast. Though they are not at war, Captain Eric Finlander (Widmark) harries his prey mercilessly, while civilian reporter Ben Munceford (Poitier) and NATO naval advisor, Commodore (and ex-World War II U-boat captain) Wolfgang Schrepke (Portman), look on with mounting alarm. Because the submarine is not powered by a nuclear reactor, its submerged endurance is limited. This gives Finlander an advantage, but also means the Russians will be more desperate. The film also features James MacArthur as Ensign Ralston, an inexperienced young officer who is constantly being criticized by his captain for small errors. Also joining the ship is Lieut. Cmdr. Chester Potter, M.D. Martin Balsam, the ship’s new doctor.
Munceford is on board in order to write an article of life on a navy destroyer, but his real interest is Captain Finlander who was recently passed over for promotion to admiral. Munceford is curious as to why. He is treated with mounting hostility by the captain because he is seen as a civilian putting his nose where it does not belong and because he disagrees with Finlander’s decision to continue with an unnecessary and dangerous confrontation. Finlander treats as unwanted anyone who isn’t involved in the hunt for the Russian submarine – including the doctor. (Finlander uses the ship’s medical staff to sift through garbage possibly dumped by the Russian sub.)
The crew becomes increasingly fatigued by the unrelenting pursuit. The conflict escalates into a collision between the Bedford and the Soviet Submarine. Captain Finlander orders the Bedford to withdraw to a safe distance. He reassures Munceford, Potter and Schrepke that he is in command of the situation, and that he won’t fire first – but that if the Russian does shoot, “I’ll fire one”. Ensign Ralston, clearly exhausted by the ordeal, mistakes Finlander’s boast as an order to fire, and launches one of the Bedford’s Anti-Submarine ROCkets, ASROC at the sub. The crew can only watch helplessly as the ASROC destroys the Russian sub. The crew of the Beford have little opportunity for regret before their sonar detects a salvo of four torpedoes at the destroyer, apparently fired by the Russian once the ASROC was detected. Finlander orders evasive maneuvering and the use of countermeasures but realization has already dawned on everyone except Munceford, that the approaching torpedoes will be nuclear. Finlander, in shock, leaves the bridge, trailed by a panicking Munceford. The movie ends with still shots of various crewmen “melting” as if the celluloid film were burning as the Bedford and her crew are vaporized. The last image of the film is an iconic, towering mushroom cloud from the torpedo detonations. —wikipedia
Veteran Hollywood industry figure who has served triple duty as a producer, director, and screenwriter. Harris’ most notable contribution to American cinema was producing several seminal early films directed by Stanley Kubrick. The Harris-Kubrick Pictures Corporation turned out such provocative features as “The Killing” (1956), “Paths of Glory” (1957), and “Lolita” (1962).
Harris and Kubrick went their separate ways after “Lolita” with the producer venturing on to form James B. Harris Productions in 1963. As a producer-director, Harris’s subsequent feature credits were relatively sparse: “The Bedford Incident” (1965), a Cold War naval drama starring Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier; “Some Call It Loving” (1973), which marked his screenwriting debut, an uneven modern retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” set in southern California starring Zalman King, Tisa Farrow, and Richard Pryor; “Fast Walking” (1982), a prison drama starring James Woods; and “Cop” (1988), which he scripted, also… read more