Mostly of interest for Leonard Nimoy fans curious to see how the beloved actor handles one of his rare leading-man roles, Assault on the Wayne is a brisk made-for-TV thriller that crams a respectable amount of plot into its fleeting runtime of 74 minutes. Nimoy plays uptight Cdr. Phil Kettenring, the skipper of a nuclear submarine carrying material related to an experimental program testing the ability of subs to launch counter-strikes against ICBMs. Naturally, bad guys conspire to steal the valuable material, so the fun is seeing how the villains try to engineer a high-seas heist. In classic potboiler fashion, every featured member of the vessel’s passenger list has a corrupt agenda and/or a melodramatic backstory. For example, one of Ketternring’s trusted sidekicks is an aging sailor (Keenan Wynn) whose struggles with booze have kept him from rising in rank. Kettenring also tussles with a subordinate officer (Dewey Martin) who once overstepped his role by trying to referee Kettenring’s marital troubles. Is it even necessary to mention that most of the folks aboard the sub worry about the skipper’s wellness because he’s on the mend from a bad medical episode? You see, he’s got troubles, man, so the last thing he needs is attempted larceny while his boat is underwater.
To some degree, describing Assault on the Wayne in such flip terms is fair because the picture was made in the days when networks cranked out disposable telefilms for the benefit of undemanding audiences—such was the nature of the marketplace during the heyday of three-network domination. Yet Assault on the Wayne, while hardly imaginative or lush or stylish, boasts a measure of professionalism. The script, by small-screen vet Jackson Gillis, delivers perfunctory elements of characterization and plot with slick efficiency, so what Assault on the Wayne lacks in depth, it makes up for in propulsion. Additionally, the combination of decent production values and a proficient cast yields a palatable experience. (Beyond Nimoy and Wynn, the picture also features Joseph Cotten, William Windom, Malachi Throne, and a pre-moustache Sam Elliott.) As for the main attraction, Nimoy’s just fine here—expressing everything from anguish to desperation to rage, he proves once more that he was a nimble performer capable of doing many things credibly.
Assault on the Wayne: FUNKY