Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shark Week: Based on a True Story

Do you remember Quint's speech in Jaws? Of course you do. It's his harrowing tale of survival from the USS Indianapolis. He tells Brody and Hooper about it while they're aboard the Orca:

Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We'd just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes.

Didn't see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin' from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn't know, was that our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin' by, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. It was sorta like you see in the calendars, you know the infantry squares in the old calendars like the Battle of Waterloo and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin' and hollerin' and sometimes that shark he go away... but sometimes he wouldn't go away.

Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn't even seem to be livin'... 'til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin' and your hollerin' those sharks come in and... they rip you to pieces.

You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don't know how many sharks there were, maybe a thousand. I do know how many men, they averaged six an hour. Thursday mornin', Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boson's mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he'd been bitten in half below the waist.

At noon on the fifth day, a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, lot younger than Mr. Hooper here, anyway he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol' fat PBY come down and started to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened. Waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water. 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.

Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

I always thought it was a story that deserved a movie of it's own, never realizing that in 1991 there was a made for TV movie called Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the USS Indianapolis.

So, if you've seen Jaws, or read the speech above, you know the story of the Indianapolis. After delivering the bomb, it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sank. The men that made it off the ship floated in the water for a number of days, some were killed by sharks, more succumbed to their injuries for the attack or drowned from the sheer exhaustion of staying above water for so long.

The movie stars Stacy Keach and his distracting upper lip scar as well as David Caruso and....some people I've never heard of. Keach plays the somewhat tragic Captain Charles McVay. What makes Chuck's story so tragic is that of all the captains whose ships were attacked and sunk during the war, it was Chuck that got court martialed for a 'failure to zigzag'. No. Seriously. You can't make that shit up. He got court martialed for sailing in a straight line. And, while it was not long before the verdict was overturned, he succumbed to his guilt and killed himself in 1968.

Mission of the Shark was entertaining enough for a TV movie and doesn't feel dated at all. It helps that the story takes place in 1945 and there aren't a ton of special effects. Some stock footage stands out at times, but if that's the worst of it, it's not too bad. We'll go with 6 please for the love of god grow a mustache and cover up that distracting scars out of 10.