The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming
(United Artists, 1966)
Long before Peter Benchley scared the pants off New England beachgoers with the story of a monstrous shark, his father Nathaniel penned a splendid little tale about a Russian submarine inadvertently beached on mythical Gloucester Island, which was later made into a star-studded Cold War comedy by Norman Jewison, with Carl Reiner, Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters, and nominated for Best Actor in his first major film role, Alan Arkin as the sane Russian trying to protect his men, his captain, his boat, and his dignity. Jonathan Winters putts Don Knotts' deputy to shame, Brian Keith is the picture of a perfect small-town sheriff, and Carl Reiner demonstrates why he was the king of comedy, managing one epic comedic scene while gagged and tied to the town switchboard operator, without uttering a single intelligible line. And he kills. He's 92 now; see him in his prime. It was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, and deserved the honors. Between this film, yesterdays', and Dr. Strangelove, it's notable that the Cold War is the only war where all the best films are comedies. There's a lesson in there, I think.