The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

The Bedford Incident (1965) Classic Movie Review 27

The Bedford Incident (1965)

The Bedford Incident (1965)

Now don't worry, Commodore. The Bedford'll never fire first. But if he fires one, I'll fire one.

The Bedford Incident (1965) is a first rate Cold War drama with Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier. This submarine versus destroyer battle is like a chess match with a surprise ending.

Rough Script The Bedford Incident (1965)

Welcome to Episode 27 The Bedford Incident (1965). This is a great Cold War film that stars Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier, and Martin Balsam. All of the actors have been introduced before so there will only be a few additions. This movie has such a great ending you may want to stop and go watch the movie before you listen further. Of course we are still following the Widmark line.

Richard Widmark is cast in the role of Captain Eric Finlander U.S.N. He is obsessed with the Cold War enemy of the United States, the Soviet Union. He speaks his opinions to the dismay of his superiors and he drives his men to the breaking point and beyond. For more information on Widmark see Episode 23 – The Long Ships (1964).|

Sidney Poitier was cast Ben Munceford a top reporter and photographer. Munceford was the conscience of the Captian. Poitier had been making movies with racial themes for 15 years by the time he made this movie. However this was the first movie he was in where race was not a factor. However at the time this movie was made the USN was still segregated and blacks could only be cooks and stewards. Go figure. For more information of Poitier listen to Episode 14 – Band of Angels (1957).

James MacArthur played Ensign Ralston a relatively new member of the crew. MacArthur had a 40 year career that film, stage, and television. He was on the stage by 1949 and on television by 1954. He was in films by 1957 with The young Stranger.

In in the 50s/early 60s he made a string of solid movies that included Disney’s Kidnapped (1960), Third Man on the Mountain (1959), and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). Following that he was in Cry of Battle (1963) and Spencer’s Mountain (1963). Following he great performance in The Bedford Incident (1965) he was in a light romance The Truth About Spring (1965) and the coming of age saga Battle of the Bulge (1965). This was followed by many tv roles and films Ride Beyond Vengeance (1966), “Mosby’s Marauders” (1966) and Hang ‘Em High (1968).

He was the cast as Danno on Hawaii Five-O for 11 seasons. He continued to work but his opportunities decreased.

Martin Balsam played Lieut-Cmdr. Chester Potter, M.D., U.S.N. I talked about Balsam in Episode 26 – Time Limit (1957).

Wally Cox played the role of Seaman Merlin Queffle. Cox was born in 1924 and was a childhood friend of Marlon Brando. Cox is well known as Professor P. Caspar Biddle in “The Bird-Watchers” episode of The Beverly Hillbillies 1966 and as the voice of Underdog.

Cox worked on tv in the 40s and 50s. He was a star on “Mister Peepers” 1952-55 but it’s before my time. Later on, he was a regular on The Hollywood Squares. His voice acting on Underdog ran from 1964 to 1973.

He died suddenly in 1973 and this lead to the cause of death being reported as accidental, suicide, and a heart attack. Marlon Brando kept Cox’s ashes until his own death when the ashes of both were scattered in death Valley.

Eric Portman was the stoic Commodore Wolfgang Schrepke of the Deutsche Marine formally of the Nazi party. Portman was so good at playing Nazis that people never suspected that he was in fact British. He started his state work in 1923 and his film debut was The Murder in the Red Barn (1935) as a Gypsy. That must have driven the Nazis crazy.
Portman was an active actor in a variety of roles for over 25 years. His last film was Deadfall (1968). He died the next year.

Michael Kane, with a K not a C was in the role of Commander Allison Executive Officer. He interacted with the Captain regularly. Kane was born in Canada in 1922. He was a writer and an actor and beside working and writing for soap operas he was in some great films such as Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Lonely Are the Brave (1962). He died in 2007.

Donald Sutherland, actor and father of Kiefer was in briefly as Hospitalman Nerney.


The American destroyer the USS Bedford is patrolling the fridge waters between Greenland and Iceland. It is during the Cold War between the United States and our NATO allies and the Soviet Union and their Warsaw Pact allies. The Soviet Union consisted of Russia and her satellite republics such as Ukraine that their trying to take back. The Cold War lasted from 1946-1991.

Anyway a helicopter arrives carrying photo-journalist Ben Munceford (Sidney Poitier) and new ship doctor Lieut Cmdr. Chester Potter (Martin Balsam). They are both lowered by sling to the deck of the ship and it didn’t look comfortable.

The ship is is at general quarter or high alert because they had sonar (SOund Navigation And Ranging) contact with a Russian submarine about 45 minutes before the hilo landed. All of the sailors are performing their duty with great gusto even Ensign Ralston (James MacArthur) who is a new member of the crew.

The doc is sent to his battle stations and locked the reporter in his room. The docs battle station is in the OR where instead of patients the three man team which includes Hospitalman Nerney (Donald Sutherland) are examining potato peels to determine how long ago the Russian sub flushed the waste.

After the ship secures from general quarters Munceford go to see the Captain Eric Finlander (Richard Widmark) but has to wait while the Captain tells the doc that he is worthless. Just to note, the Captains name is a play on the conflict between Russia and Finland. Then the Captain chews out Ralston for allowing the helo to land during GQ. The Captain then rips into a security guard for allowing Munceford into the command and control room.

In the Captains quarter Munceford meets Commodore Wolfgang Schrepke (Eric Portman) a former U-boat commander for the Nazis and now NATO ally. This shows to me the ridiculousness of this situation if we can join with Nazis to fight Soviets. The Captain throws down on Munceford for asking about the security guard that just got in trouble.

When the Captain gives Munceford a briefing the two begin a verbal chess match with questions and evasions. The Captain explained that there are 5 ships and one of them is the mother ship for the Russian sub. On the way back to their quarters Munceford reveals that although the Captain gets results he has recently been passed over for Admiral.

The three Russian linguists on the ship I’d the mother ship. As they pass by the Russian ship dumps trash as an insult to the American. The Captain chews out Ralston for suggesting they move away from the ice.

The Captain and the XO Commander Allison (Michael Kane) have a discussion about how hard the Captain is riding Ralston.

The Doc comes up with a plan and the Captain crushes him and tells him he is a worthless human being. As he gives the doc reading material about the ship GQ sounds because of an unidentified object which turns out to be a weather ballon released from the sub. They steam to the location and see the sub heading underwater.

Seaman Merlin Queffle (Wally Cox) begins a sonar track of the sub as the ship goes back on GQ. They realize that the sub is inside the territorial waters of Greenland. They block the sub from heading to open water and request permission to force it to surface. The Captain is famous for forcing a Russian sub up near Cuba and it seems he is trying to repeat his glory here. That is a very similar plot line to The Caine Mutiny (1954). Because of the information the Commodore provided the Captain knows the Russian sub can only stay under for 24 hours without putting his snorkel up.

Munceford is left in the shower when GQ is called and the water is shut off but makes it to CIC in about half an hour. NATO orders the Captain to take no action against the sub. And boy is he pissed. The Captain keeps the ship on high alert and watches as the clock counts down the 24 hours until the sub must surface. Around 14 hours the sub makes a break into international waters.

Munceford watches the Commodore out in the cool and his question about the cold leads to maybe one of the worst lines in movie history

Munceford asks the Captain for the interview and the Captain accepts. Munceford really wants to find out why the Captain disagrees with command and was passed over for Admiral. Munceford implies that the Captain thought there should be greater force used against the soviets. The Captain pops

The doc tries to explain the problem he sees with the crew to Munceford

The Captain chews on Ralston for looking away from his fire control panel. The ship goes back to GQ and there is a human moment from the Commodore.

Seaman Queffle has been on the sonar the entire time with the sub and the ice bergs. The sub begins making his way through the bergs and the destroyer follows. The sub hits a berg and then drops off the sonar. It seems the sub has slipped through however the Captain won’t give up. The commodore thinks the sub is gone but he advises the Captain to wait.

Munceford tries to gets some answers from the Commodore but he says he is no longer involved. At this late point NATO gives permission to drive the sub up if it is still in Greenland’s water. The Commodore sees that the Captain is becoming obsessed with the sub and warns it will lead to trouble. As they secure from GQ the Captain chews out Ralston for not securing fire control fast enough.

After sunrise the sub surfaces and raises his snorkel but doesn’t have time to get air. Queffle has a break down and the doc is called. The Captain orders the doc not to sedate Queffle and they have a fight over the care of men. But the doc caves.

The destroyer sends a message to the sub demanding that they surface. When the snorkel comes up again the Captain orders his ship to ram the sub. With everyone nerves frayed and worrying about the Captains decisions Munceford begins screaming at the Captain and gives him a reference to Ahab and Moby Dick.

The Commodore yells that the Captain is forcing the Russians to fight. The Captain orders Ralston to arm the number one rocket assisted torpedo. While continuing the argument the Captain states

They try to stop the torpedo but it is too later. When the torpedo hist the water the Russian fires 4 nuclear tipped torpedoes at the ship. The Captain begins evasive action but then just walks outside. Munceford follows begging him to do something. A mushroom cloud appears as the ship is hit and the movie ends with the film melting as it shows different crew members melting.

Did the whole world end or just these two vessels?

World-Famous Short Summary – Buddy cruise turns out bad.

(Visited 210 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.