This is the story of a Russian submarine that gets stuck on a sandbar outside a tiny New England village because the captain (Theodore Bikel) wanted to see what America looks like. It makes me imagine what The Hunt for Red October (1990) could have resulted in if Captain Ramius had succeeded in sailing up to the coast and opening his hatch one morning.
Anyway, Lt. Rosanov (Alan Arkin) and a bunch of crewmen come ashore to see if they can beg, borrow, or I suppose steal a boat to get their sub off the sand bar. The film centers around Walt Whittaker (Carl Reiner) and his wife Elspeth (Eva Marie Saint), who are vacationing on the little New England island with their two children. When the Whittakers don't believe Rosanov's claim that the sailors are Norwegians, the Russians pull out their weapons and force them to give up information and the keys to the family car. Rosanov heads to town to find a boat while one of his men stays behind to guard the Whittakers.
Everyone in town panics when they find out there are Russians Right Here, Attacking Us! Police Chief Link Mattocks (a superbly tired Brian Keith) and his deputy (Jonathan Winters) try to keep people calm and get them organized, respectively. In fact, Winters' plea, "We've just got to get organized!" almost made it onto my top ten list of movie quotes the other day. Through the rest of the movie, the Russians skulk, the Americans bumble, and Walt Whittaker tries to prove to his son he's not a coward or a traitor.
|Alan Arkin, Eva Marie Saint, and Carl Reiner, with a couple of smitten teens in the back seat.|
None of that sounds terribly funny, does it? In fact, the same scenario could make for an intense Cold War thriller. But everything is played for laughs, not fear, with the underlying message that we could all get along if we'd just stop freaking out about the fact that we're supposed to be enemies.
|Alan Arkin as Lt. Rosanov|