Gray Lady Down (1978)

PG | 111 mins | Drama | 10 March 1978

Director:

David Greene

Producer:

Walter Mirisch

Cinematographer:

Stevan Larner

Editor:

Robert Swink

Production Designer:

William H. Tuntke

Production Companies:

Mirisch Corporation, Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

       A 12 Feb 1976 HR brief announced that Charlton Heston would play the lead role in Gray Lady Down, his fifth project for Universal Pictures in the previous two years. For the production company, The Mirisch Corporation, the film was part of an exclusive five-year deal with Universal, which was noted in a 23 Feb 1976 Box item.
       The first day of filming was 20 Sep 1976, as reported in briefs from the 25 Aug 1976 DV and the 18 Oct 1976 Box. A 24 Sep 1976 HR news item stated that the Sep shooting schedule was modified so that Heston could attend a promotional event in Germany for a recent release, Midway (1976, see entry), also a Naval story produced by Mirisch.
       According to an 11 Dec 1976 LAT article, a model of a nuclear submarine was constructed on a movable platform and placed inside a water tank measuring 12 feet deep and 44 feet wide on a soundstage at Universal Studios. The 2 Dec 1976 T.G.I.F. Casting News added that the substantial underwater photography involved three film units as well as the advice and cooperation of the United States Navy. Director David Greene emphasized the accuracy of the project, comparing it to a documentary. Several news items mentioned that the production shot on location at sea or on real vessels. The 30 Aug 1976 Box specified that the crew filmed for two weeks aboard Naval ships in San Diego, California while the 11 Dec 1976 LAT article pointed out that ... More Less

       A 12 Feb 1976 HR brief announced that Charlton Heston would play the lead role in Gray Lady Down, his fifth project for Universal Pictures in the previous two years. For the production company, The Mirisch Corporation, the film was part of an exclusive five-year deal with Universal, which was noted in a 23 Feb 1976 Box item.
       The first day of filming was 20 Sep 1976, as reported in briefs from the 25 Aug 1976 DV and the 18 Oct 1976 Box. A 24 Sep 1976 HR news item stated that the Sep shooting schedule was modified so that Heston could attend a promotional event in Germany for a recent release, Midway (1976, see entry), also a Naval story produced by Mirisch.
       According to an 11 Dec 1976 LAT article, a model of a nuclear submarine was constructed on a movable platform and placed inside a water tank measuring 12 feet deep and 44 feet wide on a soundstage at Universal Studios. The 2 Dec 1976 T.G.I.F. Casting News added that the substantial underwater photography involved three film units as well as the advice and cooperation of the United States Navy. Director David Greene emphasized the accuracy of the project, comparing it to a documentary. Several news items mentioned that the production shot on location at sea or on real vessels. The 30 Aug 1976 Box specified that the crew filmed for two weeks aboard Naval ships in San Diego, California while the 11 Dec 1976 LAT article pointed out that the Norwegian freighter was shot in San Pedro, California.
       The 24 Feb 1978 HR announced that the world premiere would screen in San Diego on 3 Mar 1978, as a benefit for the United States Naval Memorial Monument Association. A news item in the 7 Mar 1978 HR noted that a half hour television special, Backstage with Charlton Heston, aired the same day as the national release, on 10 Mar 1978.
       According to a 27 Sep 1976 DV brief, the film marked the feature film debuts of Christopher Reeve and Michael O’Keefe.
      Before the title credits, an acknowledgement appears: "We desire to express grateful appreciation to the Department of Defense and The United States Navy, for the cooperation which was extended on the production of this picture. We especially salute the officers and men of the U.S.S. Cayuga and the U.S.S. Pigeon on whose ships many of the sequences were filmed." The following written statement is included at the beginning of the final credits: "The United States Navy's DSRV is today a reality. It is capable of rescuing men from U.S. submarines in any of the world's oceans."
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
23 Feb 1976.
---
Box Office
30 Aug 1976.
---
Box Office
27 Sep 1976.
---
Box Office
18 Oct 1976.
---
Daily Variety
25 Aug 1976.
---
Daily Variety
8 Sep 1976.
---
Daily Variety
27 Sep 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1978
p. 3, 12.
Los Angeles Times
7 Dec 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Dec 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Mar 1978
p. 21.
New York Times
10 Mar 1978
p. 14.
T.G.I.F. Casting News
2 Dec 1976.
---
Variety
8 Sep 1976.
---
Variety
8 Mar 1978
p. 3, 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
The Mirisch Corporation presents
A Walter Mirisch Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd eff ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Photographic eff
Titles and optical eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Event 1000 by David Lavallee (New York, 1971).
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 March 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 10 March 1978
Production Date:
began 20 September 1976
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
26 June 1978
Copyright Number:
PA8977
Physical Properties:
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
111
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24883
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On his final voyage, Navy Captain Paul Blanchard gives orders for the United States nuclear submarine Neptune to surface. In the dense fog of the Atlantic Ocean, Murphy keeps watch on the bridge as the submarine is scheduled to dock before lunch at its home base of New London, Connecticut. Nearby, a Norwegian freighter has lost radar contact, but the captain would rather continue towards New York City than stop to repair equipment. While Paul and his officers congratulate Commander Samuelson on his promotion as the next captain of the Neptune, Murphy alerts Paul to a collision course with the freighter. However, there is not enough time to change direction and the freighter strikes the submarine, which begins to sink. Sailors in the engine room are tossed against the compartment as water rushes in and drowns them. The crew is unable to control the descent, and the submarine hits a rocky shelf at 1,450 feet below the surface. But, Paul remains confident when the hull does not buckle from the water pressure. He calmly announces to his crew that although the reactor is shut down and the engine room is probably flooded, there is still battery power for most functions, including an air supply. At Supreme Allied Command Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia, news of the accident makes its way through headquarters. A duty officer identifies the Nassau as the Naval ship in closest proximity to the collision site, and Admiral Barnes notifies Captain Bennett, the ... +


On his final voyage, Navy Captain Paul Blanchard gives orders for the United States nuclear submarine Neptune to surface. In the dense fog of the Atlantic Ocean, Murphy keeps watch on the bridge as the submarine is scheduled to dock before lunch at its home base of New London, Connecticut. Nearby, a Norwegian freighter has lost radar contact, but the captain would rather continue towards New York City than stop to repair equipment. While Paul and his officers congratulate Commander Samuelson on his promotion as the next captain of the Neptune, Murphy alerts Paul to a collision course with the freighter. However, there is not enough time to change direction and the freighter strikes the submarine, which begins to sink. Sailors in the engine room are tossed against the compartment as water rushes in and drowns them. The crew is unable to control the descent, and the submarine hits a rocky shelf at 1,450 feet below the surface. But, Paul remains confident when the hull does not buckle from the water pressure. He calmly announces to his crew that although the reactor is shut down and the engine room is probably flooded, there is still battery power for most functions, including an air supply. At Supreme Allied Command Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia, news of the accident makes its way through headquarters. A duty officer identifies the Nassau as the Naval ship in closest proximity to the collision site, and Admiral Barnes notifies Captain Bennett, the fleet commander of the Neptune. On board the submarine, Murphy reports that fifty-two men are currently missing and Page, acting as a medic, informs Paul that there are three men with serious head wounds. When Harkness estimates that the air supply will only last for a day and a half, Paul says that they will not need that much time since a rescue team should arrive before then. At headquarters, Bennett warns that if the vessel has nestled along the neck of the underwater canyon, the frequent avalanche slides could cause it to slip another two miles into the deep, making it unreachable. As soon as Bennett is placed in charge of the search and rescue, he departs for the Nassau. Meanwhile in San Diego, the Navy’s Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) is prepared and loaded on a cargo plane. On the Neptune, Samuelson is angry and criticizes Paul for needlessly surfacing, claiming it was a glorified gesture so everyone could see him on the bridge as he sailed into port for the last time. Suddenly, a rockslide rumbles around the submarine. When the avalanche settles, Paul examines the control room’s watertight door for any leakage from the four thousand tons of ocean pressing against it and orders all unnecessary personnel to leave the room. Finally, the Neptune makes radio contact with the Nassau, and Paul provides Bennett with an assessment of the situation on board. The crew is encouraged when Bennett reports that the DSRV is on its way. Some of the Neptune sailors relax and watch the movie Jaws, but the recreation is interrupted when another avalanche threatens the hull. After the slide, Paul determines that the forward escape hatch is covered by debris, which will prevent the DSRV from hooking on top of the submarine. In Washington D.C., Admiral Barnes informs the Secretary of the Navy that there is no threat from a nuclear accident or radioactive leakage, even if the submarine is crushed. Additionally, the Naval commanders recommend that an experimental submersible, nicknamed SNARK, be commissioned to clear the escape hatch. Captain Gates, developer of the SNARK, arrives on board the Nassau with his operator, Mickey, and quickly prepares for a dive in the two-man vessel. The nonconformist manner of Gates and Mickey makes Bennett uncomfortable, but he reluctantly accepts their procedures. As the SNARK descends to the submarine’s location, its video camera broadcast images back to the Nassau. Meanwhile, the Neptune loses radio communication, and Paul notices that water is now leaking through the door of the control room. After Gates and Mickey make visual contact with submarine, they begin clearing debris away from the hatch. On the Nassau, Bennett instructs the DSRV crew to stand by for launch. However, the next earth slide causes the submarine to roll on its side at an angle that will prohibit a rescue attempt. Paul sends a Morse code message to the SNARK explaining that the crew will blast the starboard ballast tanks in an effort to set the submarine upright, but the maneuver poses a serious risk since it will destroy the reserve air supply. In order to blow the tanks, Paul has to release a valve in the control room, but the water pressure against the door is increasing and could flood the room at any time. As Paul orders Murphy and Samuelson to evacuate, the door gives way, and water gushes through the compartment. Murphy decides to turn back and hangs onto the valve in order to open it, and Samuelson stays behind as well to secure the opposite door and prevent water from entering the adjacent compartment. Both men are sealed inside as the water rises around them. Horrified, Paul watches Samuelson’s drowning face through the door’s porthole and escapes to his cabin to try and compose himself. The submarine begins to straighten, but a rock halts its progress at sixty degrees. On the Nassau, officer Phillips estimates that the Neptune’s air supply will only last another ten to twelve hours. Bennett suggests to Gates that the SNARK’s mechanical arm place an explosive device by the obstruction to blast it away, enabling the submarine to roll completely upright. When Gates seems skeptical, Bennett clarifies that if they use a shape charge the blast would only go in one direction, away from the submarine. A demolition team parachutes on board the Nassau and rigs the explosive device to the SNARK’s arm. Mickey stays behind while Waters, the demolition expert, climbs into the SNARK with Gates. After Waters carefully sets the charge against the rock, the SNARK returns to the surface and Waters disembarks. Despite Mickey’s pleading, Gates decides to submerge on his own, since it is the only way to know the outcome of the explosion. The crew of the Neptune brace for the shockwave, after being notified about the blast through Morse code. Following detonation, the submarine begins to slide down the canyon, but manages to hold firm and upright before reaching the edge. The DSRV descends and hooks onto the escape hatch of the submarine. As the first group of sailors is loaded into the rescue vessel, Gates notices rumbles of another rockslide and warns that the DSRV must hurry since the terrain is not stable. The remainder of the crew prepares to board the DSRV just as the submarine slips further. In the SNARK, Gates follows too closely and becomes crushed between the rocks and the submarine’s hull, which temporarily steadies the submarine and allows the rescue to succeed. While the DSRV surfaces, the SNARK and the Neptune float off the canyon into the ocean depth. Realizing that his colleague is lost forever, Mickey slowly puts down the radio mike and remains silent in front of the video monitor. Bennett is informed about Gates’s demise, prior to saluting Paul on deck. After receiving a welcome from the rescue crew, Paul stares out to sea. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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