Main article: Plot of the novel
The film draws many plot elements from the novel, including Japanese gathering intelligence from the submarine's trash. One key difference is that the novel places Richardson ashore recovering from a broken leg and working on the torpedo exploder problem when Bledsoe dies in the sinking of USS Walrus, Richardson's first command.
In the novel, the conflict between Richardson and Bledsoe begins while they are reconditioning the old USS S-16 (SS-121) in the Naval Submarine Base New London. In the novel, the mutinous attitudes of the crew are an extension of Bledsoe's earlier rebelliousness, while the film provides them with no comparable context. The film adds an action sequence in which Richardson commands his boat through a wild night of surface action against a Japanese convoy.
At Gable's insistence, the film has Richardson taken seriously ill before being relieved of command so Gable would not be perceived as playing a less than dominant character.
In the film, the Eel does not ram the Japanese lifeboats. The US Navy, which helped with the film's production, may have been concerned with reviving memories of a 1943 incident in which Dudley W. Morton was accused of shooting into lifeboats while commanding Wahoo.The Novel - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run_Silent,_Run_Deep
Bosley Crowther, writing in the New York Times, called it "a straight tale of undersea adventure, all-male and all-submarine ... [that] has the hard, cold ring of truth", with "dangerous adventures are severely, nail-bitingly tense" until "the ultimate showdown ... that keeps one forward on the chair." To the extent that the events depicted might appear hard to believe, he cited the credentials of the novel's author and noted that "they look more like the real thing in good old black-and-white." In addition to Gable and Lancaster playing the leads, the film also features Jack Warden as well as the film debut ofDon Rickles. Robert Wise directed.
United Artists promoted the film as a combination of the obsessiveness of Moby Dick's Captain Ahab and the shipboard rivalry found in Mutiny on the Bounty.
Beach did not think highly of the film. He later said that the film company bought only the title and was not interested in producing an accurate depiction of the theme and plot of his novel.
The World War II U.S. Navy submarine commander P.J. Richardson (Clark Gable) has an obsession with the Japanese destroyer that has sunk three boats in the Bungo Straits, including his previous command. He persuades the Navy Board to give him a new submarine command with the provision that his executive officer, also known as the XO or the "exec", be someone who has just returned from active sea patrol. He single-mindedly trains the crew of his new boat, the USS Nerka, to return to the Bungo Straits and sink the destroyer, captained by a crafty ex-submariner nicknamed Bungo Pete. Richardson's executive officer, Lieutenant Jim Bledsoe (Burt Lancaster), is worried about the safety of his boat and his crew. Bledsoe is also seething with resentment at Richardson and the Navy leadership for denying him command of the Nerka, which he believes should have been his.
Richardson begins to drill the crew on a rapid bow shot, in which a submarine shoots at a destroyer moving in for the kill "down the throat" (i.e., at its bow coming head-on), which is normally considered a desperation shot due to the extremely narrow profile of the target. He then bypasses one target only to take on a Japanese destroyer using a bow shot. The crew is outraged as it discovers that Richardson is avoiding legitimate targets in order to enter the Bungo Straits undetected in direct contradiction to his mission orders. Soon after engaging Bungo Pete, they are attacked by aircraft that had been alerted to their presence and waiting in ambush. The submarine is forced to dive and barely escapes destruction from depth charges. Three of the crew are killed, and Richardson suffers an incapacitating skull fracture. The submarine also narrowly escapes what the crew mistakenly believes to be one of their own torpedoes doubling back on them. By sending up blankets, equipment, and the bodies of the dead, they convince the Japanese that the submarine has been sunk. Bledsoe uses Richardson's incapacitation to assume command and set course for Pearl Harbor.
While listening to Tokyo Rose proclaiming the sinking of their boat, the crew is mystified that the Japanese are able to identify several of them by name. Bledsoe realizes that the Japanese have been analyzing their trash and decides to turn that to his advantage. Since the Japanese believe the Nerka has been sunk and the Nerka will not give away its presence by jettisoning trash, he returns to the Bungo Straits to fight the Akikaze destroyer, which the submarine defeats only to be subjected again to a mystery torpedo. Richardson deduces that it was not the Akikaze alone which had been destroying U.S. submarines but a Japanese submarine working in concert with the destroyer. He orders the boat into a dive just seconds before a Japanese torpedo races by. The Nerka then forces its adversary to surface and destroys it, achieving the revenge that was Richardson's personal mission. Richardson dies from his head injury and is buried at sea.
One critic later summarized the plot after it had been replicated in other submarine films:
[T]he Executive Officer hates the Skipper and smolders valiantly in that compressed environment with the tacit complicity of the crew until the Old Man just plain old blows his stack and then we have a shouting match and, as is the way with guys, things get better and we outwit the [you supply it] luring there beyond in the somber depths to sail home at last....
Iron Maiden's - Run Silent Run Deep