Plot: What’s it about?
Captain Paul Blanchard (Charlton Heston) is on his last voyage as commander of the U.S.S. Neptune, when the routine mission goes sour and his life, along with the other forty lives aboard the submarine, is in serious jeopardy. While in the waters, the U.S.S. Neptune collided with a passing Norwegian freighter, and ended up with damage that led to the submarine being sunk. This situation would not be as pressing and dangerous, but the hatch designed to help the crew members escape in just such a predicament is blocked, and the crew cannot clear it from where they are. But two men think they have a plan that just might work, and free the men from the submarine before it’s too late. As the two men work to create a device that can unblock the escape hatch, time is ticking away, getting closer and closer to zero hour, with the submarine taking on water and oxygen running out. Will the plan work and the escape hatch opened, or has the crew of the U.S.S. Neptune and its crew taken their final voyage?
The name of the game with this movie is suspense and tension, with time playing the villain for the Neptune’s crew. The techniques used to build that suspense is what separates the good flicks from the bad, and this movie ends up on the good side of the genre. The situation, a submarine slowly filling with water and low oxygen levels, makes for an interesting concept, especially given the claustrophobic conditions inside the submarine itself. The cinematography is good, but fails to capitalize on the close quarters, which would have made the tension even greater. While some scenes do use the cramped environment well, the use is minimal and not as effective as other similar movies, such as Das Boot. But all in all, between the excellent acting and solid storyline concept, this makes for a worthwhile way to spend an hour and forty minutes. Sadly, Goodtimes has issued a below average disc for this movie, so a recommendation is hard to make. The cropped visuals are the main detraction, so if you can handle pan and scan, this would make for a nice rental.
This movie was directed by David Greene, who has an extensive resume of work, including Godspell, I Start Counting, and The People Next Door. Heading up a deep and talented cast is master thespian and N.R.A. spokesman Charlton Heston, who is among my favorite actors, due to his wide range of work. He gives his usual excellent turn here, although he doesn’t measure up to his better performances. I recommend those who like his work here look up Soylent Green, The Omega Man, and The Ten Commandments, three of my all time Heston favorites. Below Heston is a superb ensemble cast, which features some big names. At the forefront of these performers are Stacy Keach (American History X, Escape From L.A.), Stephen McHattie (BASEketball, The Highwayman), Ned Beatty (Deliverance, Life), and David Carradine (Karate Cop, G.O.D.). Lesser roles on the supporting level are played by Christopher Reeve (Superman), Ronny Cox (Total Recall, Murder At 1600), Dorian Harewood (Against All Odds, Full Metal Jacket), and Rosemary Forsyth (Exit To Eden, Disclosure).
Video: How does it look?
Gray Lady Down is presented in a full frame transfer, which alters the film from the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Although there isn’t much pan and scan visible, it does appear and is quite annoying. Why this movie was not released in widescreen, I will never know. As such, the video rating is already down the drown, with only the details to work out now. The colors look good, grain and print wear are at a minimum, and compression errors are non existent. The contrast is even as well, no detail loss at all. But with the lack of a widescreen transfer, I have to chastise the overall transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
A mono track is used for audio, which provides an adequate but unmemorable audio experience. I think a full surround track would be great for this movie, with some of the action driven scenes I think the speakers would light up quite well. As it is, the mono track keeps the elements apart well with no volume issues, and dialogue is clean and consistent.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The disc includes the original theatrical trailer.