Black SplatCrimson Tide (1995)

"Horses are...dumb as fence posts."

Crimson Tide - Lt. Hunter and Captain Ramsey

Description: Gene Hackman as Captain Frank Ramsey tells a short anecdote to second-in command Lt. Cmd. Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) of the nuclear submarine USS Alabama in motion picture Crimson Tide (1995). His story goes:

“Horses are fascinating animals. Dumb as fence posts, but very intuitive. In that way they’re not too different from high school girls: they may not have a brain in their head but they do know all the boys want to fuck 'em.”

The captain then says, "Speaking of horses did you ever see those Lipizzaner stallions...some of the things they do, uh, defy belief. Their training program is simplicity itself. You just stick a cattle prod up their ass and you can get a horse to deal cards." Chuckling, he concludes, "Simple matter of voltage."

When Ramsey and Hunter have a disagreement on protocol, Ramsey steps up and says, “Mr Hunter, we have rules that are not open to interpretation, personal intuition, gut feelings, hairs on the back of your neck, little devils or angels sitting on your shoulder. We're all very well aware of what our orders are and what those orders mean. They come down from our Commander in Chief. They contain no ambiguity.... Mr Hunter. I've made a decision. I'm Captain of this boat. NOW SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

He also adds, “I expect and demand your very best. Anything less, you should have joined the Air Force. All I ask is that you keep up with me. If you can’t, then that strange sensation you’ll be feeling in the seat of your pants will be my boot in your ass!”

When the USS Alabama is deployed after rebels take over a Russian nuclear facility and threaten to launch missiles, Captain Ramsey and Lt. Commander Hunter receive orders to launch a counter strike, but then there is a follow up message that is interrupted when their radio is damaged.

"This is the captain. Set condition 1SQ for strategic missile launch. Spin up missiles one through five, and 20 through 24. The release of nuclear weapons has been authorized. This is not a drill."

Captain Ramsey, who worked his way up the chain of command, is soon at loggerheads with college-educated Hunter who refuses to assist the Captain in the attack until he gets clarification on the uncompleted second message, which Hunter believes could have been a command to halt the intial launch attack. When Ramsey insists on following the first message, Hunter takes over command of the submarine.

Hunter: Captain Ramsey, under operating procedures governing the release of nuclear weapons we cannot launch our missiles unless both you, and I agree.
Ramsey: [shouting over Hunter] COB, what're you waiting for?
Hunter: This is not a formality sir, this is 'expressly' why your command must be repeated. It requires my assent, I "do not" give it and further more, you continue upon this course, and insist upon this launch without confirming this message first...
Ramsey: [shouting over Hunter] Son of a bitch. As commanding officer of the USS Alabama I order you to place the X-O under arrest under charges of mutiny.
Hunter: I will act, backed by the rules of precedence...
Ramsey: [shouting at COB, over Hunter] I say again, as commanding officer of the USS Alabama, I 'order you'...
Hunter: ...authority in command, regulations number 815, to relieve, you, of, command, captain.
Ramsey place the X-O under arrest, under charges of mutiny! [Silence all round] COB!
Chief of the Boat: Captain, please, the X-O is right. We can't launch unless he concurs.
Ramsey: [reads EAM] "To the USS Alabama: Rebel-controlled missiles being fueled. Launch codes compromised, dissidents threaten to launch at continental United States, set defcon 2. Immediately launch ten Trident missile sorties." They're FUELLING THEIR MISSILES! We don't have time to fuck around!
Hunter: Sir, I think you need time to think this over.
Hunter: [stares at Ramsey, nodding] Captain, I relieve you of your command of this ship. COB, escort the Captain to his state room, I'm assuming command.
Ramsey: You're not assuming anything!
Hunter: CHIEF OF THE BOAT, Captain Ramsey is under arrest, lock him in his state room!
Chief of the Boat: Captain, please...
Hunter: NOW, COB!

Eventually, Ramsey regains control of the entire ship, but he is undoubtedly relieved and disturbed when the ship's radio team restore communications and learn the second message had aborted the missile launch.

When the submarine returns to port, a Naval Tribunal finds the actions of Ramsey and Hunter both right and wrong. In the end, both men settle their differences as Ramsey recommends Hunter for command of his own, while Ramsey takes retirement from the service. The film ends with a printed statement:

"As of January 1996, primary authority and ability to fire nuclear missiles will no longer rest with U.S. submarine commanders... Principal control will reside with the President of the United States."

Crimson Tide - Movie Poster

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