The Bedford Incident was an attempt by Columbia Pictures -- which had previously made Dr. Strangelove and released Fail-Safe -- to once more tap the well of public anxiety surrounding nuclear weapons and the Cold War. Photojournalist Ben Munceford (Sidney Poitier) is allowed aboard a navy ship on patrol near the Arctic Circle, under the command of Captain Eric Finlander (Richard Widmark). Munceford's job is to observe the ship in action and record a "typical" mission. Finlander is a hard-as-nails sailor and dedicated anti-Communist with a patriotic zeal that's extraordinary even in a man of his rank and position. Finlander's main problem, however -- when he's not sparring with the journalist -- is tracking and hunting a Soviet sub that he knows is patrolling the same waters. What alarms Munceford (and the audience) is that Finlander acts like there is an actual "hot" war going on. He drives his men mercilessly, up to and past the breaking point, trying to hunt down the submarine and force it to surface, and nothing -- not the questions of Munceford, the angry protests of the newly-arrived medical officer (Martin Balsam), or the quietly voiced concerns of retired U-Boat commander Commodore Shrepke (Eric Portman), aboard as an observer, can get him to relent. Then, when it looks like Finlander has been vindicated and has gotten away with his provocation of the "enemy," a mistake by a tired young officer (James MacArthur) suddenly unleashes all of the destructive power with which Finlander has been flirting.