Published on January 21st, 2013 | by Chris0
Submarine Command (1951)
I found Submarine Command to be an interesting little movie. Partly because of the angle they approach from, and partly because of the subtle propagandism going on within. Not a particularly great movie, but interesting nonetheless.
On the final day of WWII, submarine commander Ken White (William Holden) is forced to choose between saving his Captain, or saving the boat and all the other hands. Of course, he makes the call to submerge and leave the Captain topside. This decision will continue to haunt him for the rest of his Navy career, causing him no end of guilt and despair, and problems on the home front... until the US is called upon to join the war effort in Korea. Then he's begrudgingly thrust back into service, this time in command of the exact same boat he found himself "Captain for a day" of those years ago. Fate brings him back together with some of the same crew, who've held him in contempt for his actions.
But, as always turns out to be the case on the silver screen, good triumphs over evil, Captain White's honor is restored and everything is right with the world, as the mighty US Navy sails on into the future.
Now, I will say that if it hadn't been for William Holden's acting ability, this picture would have been a disaster. He brings a certain presence to the film that the other principals just don't have. He makes a not-so-great script seem merely adequate, and in my opinion saved this movie. No other way to say it.
With that out of the way, I did find the theme of the period of service between WWII and Korea to be an often unexplored one. I don't recall many other movies that follow our boys through this period. You know there were a lot of people like Captain White, who found themselves in the position of becoming career servicemen because there was simply no other option. Sure, Ken here could have taken the job that his wife arranged for him, but it just wouldn't have been the same.
I also found it interesting that this movie took the opportunity to nearly serve as an advertisement if-you-will for the US involvement in Korea. It just had that feeling, that unsaid "salesmanship." As if to say "hooray for us! We're doing the right thing by going back to war, America!" In a time where there were likely a lot of people who felt otherwise, who didn't want to get involved in a war so soon after..... It makes you think. Well it made me think, anyway.
Submarine Command wasn't the best of films, but I found it unique and curious enough to warrant a 5/10. Like I said, if not for Mr. Holden completely holding this film up with both hands, it would have sunk with all hands.
Summary: An interesting period piece, unfortunate that it requires the talent of one actor to keep it afloat.