Gray Lady Down

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Gray Lady Down
Promotional poster for Gray Lady Down
Directed by David Greene
Produced by Walter Mirisch
Written by David Lavallee (novel)
Frank P. Rosenberg
James Whittaker
Howard Sackler
Starring Charlton Heston
David Carradine
Stacy Keach
Ned Beatty
Stephen McHattie
Ronny Cox
Dorian Harewood
Music by Jerry Fielding
Cinematography Stevan Larner
Edited by Robert Swink
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • March 10, 1978 (1978-03-10)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Gray Lady Down is a 1978 American submarine disaster film by Universal Studios starring Charlton Heston, David Carradine, Stacy Keach, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox and Rosemary Forsyth, and includes the feature film debut of Christopher Reeve. It is based on David Lavallee's 1971 novel Event 1000.


Aging, respected Captain Paul Blanchard (Heston) is on his final submarine tour before promotion to command of a submarine squadron (COMSUBRON). Surfaced and returning to port, the submarine, USS Neptune, is struck by a Norweigian freighter in route to New York in heavy fog, and sinks to a depth of 1,450 feet (442 meters) on a canyon ledge above the ocean floor. A United States Navy rescue force, commanded by Captain Bennett (Keach), arrives on the scene, but Neptune is subsequently rolled by a gravity slide to a greater angle that does not allow the Navy's Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) to complete its work.

A small experimental submersible, Snark, is brought in to assist with the rescue. Snark is very capable, but run by an obscene caricature nonconformist U.S. Navy officer misfit, Captain Gates (Carradine). The tiny submersible is the only hope for a rescue. Ultimately, the surviving members of the crew are rescued by the DSRV, thanks to Gates sacrificing himself by using the Snark to jam the Neptune in place as another gravity slide begins while the rescue is taking place. Moments later the gravity slide forces both the Neptune and the Snark from the ledge and to the bottom of the sea. The film ends with a somber Blanchard climbing out of the DSRV and being welcomed aboard the rescue ship USS Pigeon by Bennett and his officers.


Even though the submarine depicted in the movie is a Skate-class submarine, in the opening credits, footage of the real-life submarine USS Trout (SS-566) was filmed specifically for Gray Lady Down, depicting the fictional USS Neptune. Gray Lady Down also re-used submarine special-effects footage and the large-scale submarine model originally used to portray the fictional submarine USS Tigerfish in the 1968 movie Ice Station Zebra to depict USS Neptune. The US Navy's USS Cayuga (LST-1186) is also featured in the film as the rescue ship USS Cayuga. The USS Pigeon (ASR-21) and her DSRV were prominently featured in the movie.


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