Thursday, February 16, 2012

Movie Minutiae: 'Crimson Tide', Lipizzaner Horses, Garbled Communications, and Narrowly Averted Nuclear War

Remember this encounter between Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington in 'Crimson Tide'?

Plays almost quaint. Not sure you could do it that way today, but I always loved that scene.

Here's the Lipizzaner and, yes, they are born black and turn white as they mature:

The plot, if you've never seen 'Crimson Tide', revolves around a dispute between a submarine captain (Gene Hackman) and his executive officer (Denzel Washington) over whether they should launch a nuclear strike, and the conflicted officers and crew who must decide which commander to follow. Hackman wants to launch based on orders that were received while Washington wants to confirm orders that may have countermanded the first order but, as the radio transmission was interrupted, the second message was incomplete and open to interpretation. Here's the critical moment:

What a pleasure. Great blocking and direction by Tony Scott. Click click editing by Chris Lebenzo (who also worked with Scott on 'Deja Vu', 'The Taking of Pelham 123', and 'Unstoppable'. A great editor for high energy stuff. He was nominated for an Oscar for best editing for both 'Top Gun' and 'Crimson Tide'.) makes the clip spool out in a single breath despite its 5-minute runtime. Writer Michael Schiffer crafted the dialogue just so. And, what a performance from Hackman and Washington. One of my all-time favorite scenes.

Scoping out the movie's Wikipedia page, I see this blurb at the bottom:

See also:

Vasili Arkhipov, a Soviet naval officer who during the Cuban Missile Crisis disagreed with his submarine captain and political officer and prevented the launch of a nuclear torpedo from a Soviet submarine.

No kidding... I click the link and find:

Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov (Russian: Василий Александрович Архипов) (30 January 1926 – 1999) was a Soviet naval officer. During the Cuban Missile Crisis he prevented the launch of a nuclear torpedo and therefore a possible nuclear war. His story is to this day unknown to the wider public, although some believe that Thomas Blanton (then director of the National Security Archive) expressed it in 2002, "a guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world."[1]


On October 27, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a group of eleven United States Navy destroyers and the aircraft carrier USS Randolph trapped a nuclear-armed Soviet Foxtrot class submarine B-59 near Cuba and started dropping practice depth charges, explosives intended to force the submarine to come to the surface for identification. The captain of the submarine, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, believing that a war might already have started, wanted to launch a nuclear-tipped torpedo, despite the Soviets' being informed that practice depth charges were being used.[3]

Three officers on board the submarine — Savitsky, the Political Officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov, and the second in command Arkhipov — were authorized to launch the torpedo if agreeing unanimously in favor of doing so. An argument broke out among the three, in which only Arkhipov was against the launch,[4] eventually persuading Savitsky to surface the submarine and await orders from Moscow. The nuclear warfare which presumably would have ensued was thus averted.[5] Arkhipov's actions served, in part, as the inspiration for the American film Crimson Tide.

along with...

At the conference commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis held in Havana on 13 October 2002, Robert McNamara admitted that nuclear war had come much closer than people had thought.[citation needed] 

In Aleksandr Mozgovoy's 2002 book, Kubinskaya Samba Kvarteta Fokstrotov (Cuban Samba of the Foxtrot Quartet), retired Commander Vadim Pavlovich Orlov, a participant in the events, presents them less dramatically, saying the captain lost his temper, but eventually calmed down.

Who knew.


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