When Alan Ladd turned producer/star through his Jaguar company just after his career peaked with Shane (1953), he stuck to formula film-making with old cronies.
The Deep Six is a wartime drama starring Ladd as Alec Austen – a Quaker who is bound by his religion to be a pacifist. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, he is called up and assigned to the navy as a gunnery officer – but his colleagues are afraid that he will let them down if they are attacked.
There are several cliches in the film, common to war movies of the period – the dame-chasing, wisecracking enlisted men, the dedicated ship’s captain, the bigoted, tough executive officer, the semi-comic petty officer who comes to a tragic end, and the pretty girl who waits.
But the largest fault of The Deep Six is the inconsistency of Lieutenant Austen: First, he won’t fight, then he becomes a figure of heroic stature accidentally and finally mows ’em down when the enemy racks up his pal.
Austen’s credibility with his fellows falls to zero when he hesitates to order fire on an approaching aircraft. When the plane is discovered to be friendly, he becomes a temporary hero and really gains full status when, with the help of Petty Officer Frenchy Shapiro (William Bendix), he removes an unexploded Japanese bomb from the ship.
Later, on a mission to rescue some US airmen on a Japanese-held island, Austen’s pacifism again gets him into trouble. But after Shapiro is shot down, he goes berserk and riddles the enemy.
Ladd is supported in The Deep Six by a hard-working cast of players which includes that perennial actor of armed services roles, James Whitmore as the Captain; Keenan Wynn as the executive officer; nightclub comic Joey Bishop as a fast-talking, woman-chasing sailor; Efrem Zimbalist Jr as the Ship’s Doctor, and Ross Bagdasarian as an Armenian sailor. Dianne Foster appears as Ladd’s sweetheart.
Lieutenant Alec Austen
Petty Officer Frenchy Shapiro
Lieutenant Commander Mike Edge
Commander Warren Meredith
Efrem Zimbalist Jr
Pvt. Aaron Slobodjian