The Bedford Incident (1965)

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Released 12-Jul-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Winslow Boy, The Mouse That Roared, 3:10 To Yuma
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1965
Running Time 97:54
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By James B. Harris

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Richard Widmark
Sidney Poitier
James MacArthur
Martin Balsam
Wally Cox
Eric Portman
Michael Kane
Colin Maitland
Paul Tamarin
Frank Lieberman
James Caffrey
Burnell Tucker
Michael Graham
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Gérard Schurmann

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In the Denmark Strait off Greenland, a magazine reporter and a new doctor are delivered by helicopter to the USS Bedford, a destroyer on submarine patrol. At the height of the Cold War, the Bedford's mission is to monitor Soviet submarine activity to prevent the violation of territorial waters and to stop the enemy from gaining any strategic advantages.

    The reporter is Ben Munceford (Sidney Poitier), a celebrated journalist who has permission to join the Bedford to write a magazine article on the ship and on its captain Eric Finlander (Richard Widmark). The Bedford is unlike previous naval assignments Munceford has been on: the Bedford is operating on virtually a wartime footing and the captain seems to be a martinet. He rides his crew hard, especially the young ensign Ralston (James "Danno" Macarthur). The doctor (Martin Balsam) finds that he has little to do, as the crew do not suffer from boredom and the normal on-board listlessness.

    Also on the ship is a West German commander, Schrepke (Eric Portman), a former U-Boat captain who is now an ally of the US through NATO. When the Bedford locates a Soviet submarine in the territorial waters of Greenland, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues.

    This is the sort of film that requires that you don't know what happens for its full effect. Needless to say it forms part of a group of movies from the mid-1960s which deal with the pressures and dangers posed by the military in the nuclear age, like Fail-Safe and Dr Strangelove before it. The director, James B. Harris, had been Stanley Kubrick's partner up to Lolita and perhaps his pre-production experience with Dr Strangelove influenced him to work on this film, which he co-produced with Widmark.

    The film is full of excellent performances. It has been noted that this was the first time Poitier played a role in which the colour of his skin was irrelevant, and indeed there is no mention of his race at all in the movie. Probably the part was conceived for an unspecified white actor. While his role is important in the film, it takes second place to that of the captain, ably played by Widmark. He manages to suggest the patriotic zeal that drives him beyond his stated duties without going overboard into making him seem like a crackpot. Surprisingly good is the nerdy Wally Cox as the sonar operator, effective both as comic relief and dramatically. Also in the cast is a very young Donald Sutherland as one of the doctor's assistants. From the supporting cast it is clear that the film was made in England, with the presence of several expatriate American actors such as Shane Rimmer and the late Ed "UFO" Bishop. Indeed, it was filmed at Shepparton Studios, though apart from the casting quirks you would never guess. The set design and special effects are very convincing.

    The Bedford Incident builds the tension expertly up to a surprising (and surprisingly swift) climax. An excellent Cold War thriller well worth checking out.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is something of a disappointment. It is not bad, but not as good as other films of the same vintage have received on DVD. The image is reasonably sharp but lacking in fine detail. The black and white image has somewhat dark contrast, which reduces the amount of detail visible in shadows. This does not affect the ability of the viewer to follow the story though.

    Apart from occasional telecine wobble, minor edge enhancement and mild aliasing there are no film to video artefacts of any note. Film artefacts are prevalent, mainly in the form of white flecks though there are occasional bits of dirt and pale scratches.

    Optional English subtitles are available. Based on a sample they transcribe the dialogue well if not verbatim. They appear in a reasonable-sized white font.

    The disc is single-layered, so there is no layer change to worry about.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    This is a pretty good audio transfer, in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Apart from the original English track, there are several optional dubbed tracks.

    Dialogue is clear throughout. While a more modern rendition of this story would be able to add surround effects of the noises on the ship, it does not seem to matter that all we get is a flat one-dimensional audio experience. The story is sufficiently engrossing that such considerations are secondary anyway. There is no audible hiss or distortion that I could detect, apart from some occasional instances of sibilance.

    The music score by Gerard Schurmann is quite effective, though at times it seems a little over-dramatic.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    This is practically a barebones release. Given that the director and the two stars are still with us (though Widmark is now 90 and long retired), the opportunity was missed to produce some worthwhile extra material.

Theatrical Trailer (3:07)

    An effective trailer which plays the film up in a way that is slightly different than the actual film, which is probably a good thing given that the film relies on surprise value.

Trailer-The Winslow Boy, The Mouse That Roared, 3:10 To Yuma (6:55)

    Trailers for other Columbia releases. The Winslow Boy is the remake.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Aside from having a different suite of trailers, the US Region 1 appears to be identical. I have found no reviews of the UK Region 2, but the specifications seem identical to the Region 4.


    A fine Cold War thriller, which cranks the suspense up to 11.

    The video quality could have been better.

    The audio quality is good.

    No significant extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
A little too Hollywood. - Stephen Bass