Bedford Incident
  • Bedford Incident
  • Bedford Incident

The Bedford Incident

4.0 1
Director: James B. Harris

Cast: James B. Harris, Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier, James MacArthur


The Bedford Incident was an attempt by Columbia Pictures -- which had previously made Dr. Strangelove and released Fail-Safe -- to once more tap the well of public anxiety surrounding nuclear weapons and the Cold War. Photojournalist Ben Munceford (Sidney Poitier) is allowed aboard a navy ship on patrol near the Arctic Circle, under the command of…  See more details below


The Bedford Incident was an attempt by Columbia Pictures -- which had previously made Dr. Strangelove and released Fail-Safe -- to once more tap the well of public anxiety surrounding nuclear weapons and the Cold War. Photojournalist Ben Munceford (Sidney Poitier) is allowed aboard a navy ship on patrol near the Arctic Circle, under the command of Captain Eric Finlander (Richard Widmark). Munceford's job is to observe the ship in action and record a "typical" mission. Finlander is a hard-as-nails sailor and dedicated anti-Communist with a patriotic zeal that's extraordinary even in a man of his rank and position. Finlander's main problem, however -- when he's not sparring with the journalist -- is tracking and hunting a Soviet sub that he knows is patrolling the same waters. What alarms Munceford (and the audience) is that Finlander acts like there is an actual "hot" war going on. He drives his men mercilessly, up to and past the breaking point, trying to hunt down the submarine and force it to surface, and nothing -- not the questions of Munceford, the angry protests of the newly-arrived medical officer (Martin Balsam), or the quietly voiced concerns of retired U-Boat commander Commodore Shrepke (Eric Portman), aboard as an observer, can get him to relent. Then, when it looks like Finlander has been vindicated and has gotten away with his provocation of the "enemy," a mistake by a tired young officer (James MacArthur) suddenly unleashes all of the destructive power with which Finlander has been flirting.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Columbia Pictures would seem to have had the patent on doomsday thrillers during the mid-1960's, between Dr. Strangelove, Fail-Safe, and this movie. The Bedford Incident is, alas, the most dry, humorless, and inaccessible of the three, which damages its attempt at creating suspense. Based on Mark Rascovich's novel, it tells of a nuclear confrontation between an American naval vessel and a Soviet submarine near the Arctic Circle -- the mere setting of the story aboard the confines of the ship ought to create dramatic tension. Additionally, it sets up a situation that is sort of "Moby Dick meets Fail-Safe" -- the character of Richard Widmark's Captain Finlander is this story's Ahab, consumed by a passion for the hunt of the elusive submarine that causes him to exceed the bounds of his mission or his orders, to the doom of all. And Widmark is so good in the role, that he's almost scary to watch, intense yet never to over-the-top in his portrayal as to break the willing suspension of disbelief. The problem is that there is no other character in the script that can convincingly balance his -- there's no "Starbuck" to his Ahab, or even an Ishmael through whose eyes we can view the story. Sidney Poitier's Ben Munceford, the reporter sent aboard the ship, never gets far from being annoying and shrill, while the other characters, from Eric Portman's unapologetic retired U-Boat commander and Martin Balsam's well-meaning but ineffectual medical officer on down, never approach the degree of substance or depth that we find in Finlander. Further, with the exception of a very few lighter moments that are supposed to show the human foibles of the characters we're watching, the movie suffers from a very dry script. Perhaps the problem was insoluble -- the plot is presented in as realistic manner as possible (though in real life, no ship's captain would ever sit still for the kind of badgering that Munceford gives Finlander), so much so that Fail-Safe almost seems like light viewing. Fine as its points are made and its plot is drawn, however, The Bedford Incident just doesn't happen to be a very accessible or emotionally involving drama. On the positive side of the production, Gilbert Taylor's stark black-and-white photography, bound within the confines of the ship and the actic surroundings, stays with you long after the memories of the partly realized characters have faded, and Leslie Hammond's work on the sound -- dominated by the pulsing of the ship's equipment and the ominous sonar in operation (which, by the end of the movie, seems as unrelenting as Finlander's lust to catch the sub) -- is absolutely chilling, if not quite as memorable as Sidney Lumet's use of the freeze-frame at the end of Fail-Safe.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
[B&W, Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital Mono]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; [None specified]

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Richard Widmark Capt. Eric Finland
Sidney Poitier Ben Munceford
James MacArthur Ensign Ralston
Martin Balsam Lt. Cmdr. Chester Potter
Wally Cox Seaman Merlin Queffle
Donald Sutherland Hospitalman Nerny
Eric Portman Cmdr. Wolfgang Schrepke
Michael Kane Commander Allison, Executive Officer
Gary Cockrell Lt. Bascombe
Phil Brown Chief Pharmacist Mate McKinley
Brian Davies Lt. Beckman
Ed Bishop Lieutenant Hacker
George Roubicek Lieutenant Berger, USN
Michael Graham Lieutenant Krindlemeyer, USN
Bill Edwards Lieutenant Hazelwood, USN
Laurence Herder Petty Officer
Warren Stanhope Pharmacist's Mate Strauss
Colin Maitland Seaman Jones
Paul Tamarin Seaman 2nd Class
Burnell Tucker Seaman 1st Class
Roy Stephens Seaman 2nd Class
Shane Rimmer Seaman 1st Class

Technical Credits
James B. Harris Director,Producer
Eric Allwright Makeup
Derek Brown Camera Operator
Derek V. Browne Camera Operator
Lionel Couch Art Director
Leslie Hammond Sound/Sound Designer
John Jympson Editor
Arthur Lawson Art Director
Denis O'Dell Associate Producer
James Poe Screenwriter
Clive Reed Asst. Director
Gerard Schurmann Score Composer
Gilbert Taylor Cinematographer
Richard Widmark Producer

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Start [:12]
2. A Hairy Landing [1:53]
3. Bedford's Most Luxurious Quarters [3:13]
4. Lt. Commander Chester Potter [2:05]
5. Commander Allison [4:36]
6. Captain Eric Finlander [1:14]
7. Commodore Wolfgang Schrepke [2:05]
8. The Beford's Mission [1:35]
9. Prescription: Schnapps [5:13]
10. Novo Sibursk [5:31]
11. Rattled Ralston [2:19]
12. The Potter Plan [4:29]
13. An Unidentified Blip [5:25]
14. Big Red Sighted [1:36]
15. A Passive course of Action [4:39]
16. Another Message From NATO [2:21]
17. The Interview [6:19]
18. Potter's Theory [7:08]
19. Iceberg in Sight [5:53]
20. No Sonar, No Engines, No Nothing [2:44]
21. "Wait for the Animal to Move." [3:57]
22. Glockenspiel [1:31]
23. Off the Record [1:43]
24. Permission Granted [1:38]
25. Snorkel on the Port Bow [4:06]
26. "This Man's Finished." [1:03]
27. "Surface & Identify Self." [5:43]
28. The Bedford Incident [2:40]

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The Bedford Incident 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a good movie to see. It has al the players needed to move it along. This is what will happen if you flirt with the 'bomb' on a hell bent 'cat and mouse game with the soviets' This is the precurser to the M.A.D. theory of the late 60`s and 70`s.