This sorely underrated nautical cold war thriller crept in under my radar - I had no idea beyond the basics what it was about and that is surely the best way to watch a thriller like this.
Ever reliable Sidney Poitier plays photo-journalist Ben Munceford, sent to write an article about the USS Bedford currently patrolling international waters and her uncompromisingly authoritarian Captain Findlander, played by co-producer Richard Widmark in what must be one of his best screen performances. There's great support from Martin Balsam as the new doctor, eager to contribute and out of his depth, and Eric Portman as the German commodore lending tactical support to his old enemies, and a nice little cameo from Donald Sutherland as well.
The tension ratchets up superbly as Finlander's obsessive disciplinarian, annoyed by the civilian poking around on board his ship and disobeying his orders, pursues a Russian sub that has violated territorial waters and then evades his grasp - knowing the enemy sub can only stay submerged for 24 hours he is determined to be there when it surfaces, even if that means driving his whole crew, already on a knife edge, to exhaustion.
This combination of character and situation inevitably leads to catastrophic consequences - a mistake made by an edgy ensign is frighteningly plausible and the final five minutes of the film are absolutely chilling. We are lucky that the Cold War is done; this film was released in 1965, just years after the Cuban Missile Crisis almost saw warheads raining down on America and Russia - the audience would have been all too aware of how close something like this could have happened. Well worth hunting down.