Bedford Incident, The (1965)

Bedford Incident, The (1965)

“I’m proud to be an old-fashioned patriot — and I’d destroy any enemy if it meant saving my country! Now what in the hell is wrong with that?”

A photojournalist (Sidney Poitier) chronicles the travails of an American destroyer ship helmed by a no-nonsense captain (Richard Widmark) determined to track down a Soviet submarine armed with nukes.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • At Sea
  • Cold War
  • Journalists
  • Martin Balsam Films
  • Nuclear Threat
  • Richard Widmark Films
  • Ruthless Leaders
  • Sidney Poitier Films
  • Submarines

Made shortly after Fail Safe (1964) and Dr. Strangelove (1964), this Cold War-era nuclear thriller — based on a novel of the same name by Mark Rascovich — is perhaps most akin to Moby Dick in its depiction of a captain determined to snag his “prey” at any cost; however in this case, allowing a potentially deranged leader to maintain control could result in global annihilation. Poitier is on to Widmark’s profile, wondering why he wasn’t promoted after stellar previous leadership; could it be due to Widmark’s hawk-ish stance during the Cuban Missle Crisis?

Meanwhile, the other men on board the boat (there are no women in this film) all exist in varying states of confusion and/or trepidation; a German NATO attache and former U-Boat commander (Eric Portman) mostly looks on in quiet resignation:

… while the ship’s new doctor (Martin Balsam) is frustrated by lack of meaningful work to do:

… an eager young ensign (James MacArthur) awaits whatever orders he’s given:

… and a sonar man (Wally Cox) slowly cracks up.

It’s nice to see Widmark and Poitier (cast in a role without mention of his race) teamed together again 15 years after their differently tense pairing in No Way Out (1950); they and the supporting cast all give solid performances.

Note: The final minute of this film is unbearably tense and depressing.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Richard Widmark as Captain Finlander
  • Sidney Poitier as Ben Munceford
  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look.


One thought on “Bedford Incident, The (1965)

  1. (Rewatch 7/13/21) A once-must, as an accomplished and well-acted Cold War thriller. A solid, absorbing flick overall.

    It’s interesting how this film came about. Director Harris had long been an associate of Kubrick’s. They had begun working on ‘Dr. Strangelove’ together but parted ways because they disagreed on the film’s tone: Harris wanted to make a real thriller but Kubrick wanted to make a farce.

    Harris then turned his attention to other similar material so that he could make the kind of film he wanted to make.

    The result here is a very tense tale about the rules of war and what can easily make one begin.

    Poitier and Widmark are dependable as ever but Portman, Balsam, MacArthur and (esp.) Cox are equally impressive.

Leave a Reply