“It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic”
Crime drama: a government investigator looks into a counterfeiting ring that passes its fake bills through a gambling boat. When a murder occurs, the captain immediately sails the boat three miles off the coast where authorities have no jurisdiction. When the crew mutinies, the investigator takes over and gets his man. +
Directed by Michael Curtiz and produced by Hal B. Wallis with Jack L. Warner as executive producer. From the novel Sans Patrie (Men Without Country) by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, authors of Mutiny on the Bounty.
The film reunited much of the cast of Casablanca (1942), also directed by Curtiz, including Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Helmut Dantine. This one starring Michèle Morgan – who had been the original choice for the female lead for Casablanca. (more on wkipedia)
Humphrey Bogart stars as a Free French pilot who, after being shot down, is sent to the prison camp on Devil’s Island. He escapes and seizes a ship bound for England where he will fight the Nazi’s using British bombers. This film was loaded with intrigue and action and is actually one of the better pictures from Warners backing the Free French. +
Pirates’ Harbor (aka Haunted Harbor)
(Republic movie serial 1944)
A sea captain (about to be hanged for a murder he didn’t commit) is rescued from the gallows by two of his crewmen. Desperate to clear his name, the captain and his crew head for the island of Pulinan, where they believe the real murderer (the captain’s former partner) is hiding. As it turns out, their troubles are only beginning… +
Trials and tribulations beset the one hundred-odd settlers that journey to Virginia in 1620, including their unexpected arrival in what would go on to become Plymouth, Massachusetts. Along the way, the Captain has an ill-starred romance with the wife of a religious fanatic that ends in a sudden, dramatic way off the coast of Cape Cod. +
Spencer Tracy stars as bull-stubborn Captain Christopher Jones, who intends to guide the Mayflower to its destination come Hell, high water or any other obstacle. Plymouth Adventure tells its tale professionally and with satisfactory entertainment value, winning an Academy Award for best special effects. +
Lloyd Bridges provides comic relief as the first-mate. The screenplay was adapted from the novel The Plymouth Adventure by Ernest Gébler.
Pursuit of the Graf Spee
(Rank, 1956) aka The Battle of the River Plate
The film portrays the Battle of the River Plate, a naval battle of 1939, between a Royal Navy force of three cruisers and the German pocket battleshipAdmiral Graf Spee. Unlike many British war movies of its time, The Battle of the River Plate treats the German sailors as honourable opponents rather than as cardboard cut-out “Huns” and Nazis.
The use of real ships allows the film to pay particular attention to detail. The battle is seen entirely from the perspective of the British ships, plus that of prisoners (captured from nine merchantmen) held on Graf Spee. The initial minutes from the spotting of Graf Spee at 0614, to her opening fire at 0618, and the British ships returning fire from 0620 are depicted in real time.
Filming started on 13 December 1955, the sixteenth anniversary of the battle. The HMS Ajax and River Plate Association reportedly sent a message to the producers: “Hope your shooting will be as successful as ours.” Location shooting for the arrival and departure of the Graf Spee took place at the port of Montevideo, using thousands of locals as extras. +
The Admiral Graf Spee was portrayed by the heavy cruiser USS Salem. The HMS Ajax flagship, portrayed by HMS Sheffield. HMS Exeter portrayed by HMS Jamaica, and HMNZS Achilles starred as herself, at the time in service with the Indian Navy as INS Delhi.
Raider Emden was one of a spate of late-1920s WWI documentaries sympathetic to the German point of view.
The film focuses on the seafaring destroyer Emden, which spent the early months of the war capturing helpless merchant ships from a variety of nations. Following a peculiar code of honor, the Captain of the Emden invariably allowed the passengers and crew of the ill-fated ships to return home unharmed. +
SMS Emden was a light cruiser of the Imperial German Navy in World War I. She and her crew raided Allied shipping in the Indian Ocean early in the war, sinking or capturing thirty Allied merchant vessels and warships. She had the nickname “Swan of the East” because of her graceful lines.
Launched at Danzig on 26 May 1908, and commissioned into the Kaiserliche Marine on 10 July 1909. Named after the German city of Emden, which sponsored the warship. Emden was the last German cruiser to use reciprocating engines, with sister ship SMS Dresden and all subsequent cruisers equipped with steam turbines. As with most ships of the time, Emden‘s twelve boilers were heated by burning coal.
Assigned to the East Asian Station at Tsingtao in Germany’s Chinese Kiautschou colony. Emden left Kiel on 12 April 1910, transited the Kiel Canal, and entered the open sea. She was never to see German home waters again.
Raise the Titanic
(Associated Film, 1980)
Raise the Titanic! was a 1976 adventure novel by Clive Cussler, and was made into a film in 1980 starring Jason Robards, Richard Jordan, David Selby, Anne Archer, and Sir Alec Guinness. Despite having a great cast and fascinating concept; it was poorly received by both critics and audiences, and was a box office bomb.
The film only grossed about $13.8 million against an estimated $40 million budget. One critic famously quipped “it would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic“. +
An old Greek ocean liner, the SS Athinai, was converted into a replica of the Titanic. A 10-tonne 50 ft (15 m) scale model was also built for the scene where the Titanic is raised to the surface. Costing $7 million, the model initially proved too large for any existing water tank. Oops. The world’s first 10 million gallon “horizon tank” had to be constructed at the Mediterranean Film Studios near Kalkara, Malta, just to accommodate the model, which had to be raised more than 50 times until a satisfactory shot was captured. Cha-ching…
After completion of filming, the scale model sat rusting for 30 years alongside the tank. Cussler was so disgusted with the film adaption of his book he refused to give any further permission for cinematic works based on his novels. +
Reap the Wild Wind
(Paramount, 1942) – Italian poster
Reap the Wild Wind was a serialized story written by Thelma Strabel in 1940 for The Saturday Evening Post. The movie, released shortly after the United States’ entry into World War II, was a swashbuckling adventure set in the 1840s along the Florida coast, was wildly successful and proved itself just the ticket to take the minds of the American movie-going public off the war for two hours.
Cecil B. DeMille’s Technicolor historical spectacle was to have starred Gary Cooper, but Coop’s commitment to Pride of the Yankees compelled DeMille to cast Marion Mitchell Morrison as the leading man.
The film is unusual among films starring John Wayne. Foremost, it is one of relatively few films in which he plays a character with a notable dark side. He had second thoughts about signing on since he was unsure how his fans would react to him being bested by a “foppish” Ray Milland. Additionally, it is also one of only a handful of feature films in which Wayne’s character is dead by the closing credits.
The film was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography, but took home the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. +
Shortly after the demolition of Pearl Harbor, pugnacious American GI Lucky Smith and his pals uncover a gang of Fifth Columnists operating in the Philippines. Lucky volunteers to lead a suicidal air mission against a nearby Japanese troop ship. + (more on IMDb)
G-Men vs. the Black Dragon featured the combined efforts of three allied operatives — Rex Bennett of the USA (Rod Cameron), Vivian Marsh of the British Secret Service (Constance Worth, an Australian) and Chang Sing (Roland Got) of the Chinese counter-espionage division, who together battle the Japanese Black Dragon Society; a band of spies and saboteurs that are out to invade America during WWII.+
This serial was one of Republic’s best efforts during the war era and is noted for it’s exceptional action. +
Based on Joseph Conrad‘s 1920 adventure novel set on the South Seas, this film follows the exploits of a British adventurer who helps hide an island prince and his sister after they are chased out of their village by rebellious natives.
When the angry natives forcibly board the ship, the woman runs to get the adventurer’s help, but they get caught up in mutual lust and by the time they get back to the boat, they learn that the ship was blown up along with everyone on board. The guilty adventurer sends the woman away and spends the rest of his life as a hermit. +
The novel concluded what is sometimes referred to as “The Lingard Trilogy“, a group of novels based on Conrad’s experience as mate on the steamer Vidar. +
This cute picture is Doris Day’s film debut. In it she plays a substitute traveler on an ocean cruise. When her girlfriend, who had originally booked the trip, suspects her husband of cheating, she opts to stay behind and spy on him; sending Ms. Day in her stead. The husband suspects his wife of cheating, so he sends a detective on the ship to follow her. Doris and the detective fall in love.
In the 1830s, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is first mate on one of the fastest trans-Atlantic sailing ships. He meets John Shaw (Will Fyffe), a Liverpool-based machinist who insists that he has a design for an engine and a sea-worthy ship that will allow safe and rapid ocean crossings under steam, and the two go into partnership.
Shaw gets financial backing and builds his ship, but it is is burned in an accidental fire. All looks lost until a sympathetic backer proposes fitting the engine to an existing vessel, and suddenly Shaw is a real threat to the shipping establishment. They try to stop him in the courts, and when that fails, the race is on from Liverpool to New York. +
In this comedy caper based on a novel by Nathaniel Benchley, a bungling burglar, determined to go down in the annals of crime as a genius, steals a mothballed Liberty ship in New York in order to rob a bank in Boston.
He assembles a nitwit band and sets sail on his crazy cruise for crime. They shanghai an inept ex-Navy officer who somehow manages to bring them through a hurricane, a fire and a mutiny, and who is eventually able to signal the Coast Guard by using his girl friend’s bra as a slingshot. +
This was Ernie Kovacs’ last movie, released shortly before his death in a car crash. +
19th-century saloon gal Roxy McClanahan (Yvonne DeCarlo) managed to inveigle herself into the uppermost rungs of polite New Orleans society, but hado’t reckoned with her old friendly nemesis, merchant seaman Frank Truscott (Rock Hudson), whose bankroll Roxy had lifted back in her wilder days.
For a price, Frank agrees not to blow the whistle on Roxy’s checkered past. He further agrees to allow her to pass off an orphaned child as her own daughter, the better to maintain her pose as a fabulously wealthy widow. Several rambunctious scenes later, Frank and Roxy finally realize that they’re made for each other and proclaim FTW.
More fun than most costume melodramas of its kind, Scarlet Angel benefits from attractive production values and a top-flight supporting cast. +
A sea captain saves a Shanghai whore who is being tossed out of town. He secrets her on board and heads out to sea. Unfortunately, his ship sinks and the two are adrift on a lifeboat until they are rescued by a ship crewed by tough mutineers, whom the hero quickly dispatches, saving the captain and his daughter. +
Richard Barthelmess was an Oscar-nominated American film actor who enjoyed enormous success in the silent era, was a major box-office draw, and one of Hollywood’s highest paid performers. His fortunes plummeted however, with the advent of sound. He quickly slid from the top of the marque and out of the entertainment industry altogether. +
He enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve during World War II, served as a lieutenant commander, and never returned to Hollywood. +
This early talkie was released in both silent and sound versions, probably to accommodate theaters who had not yet converted over to display the new technology. Be sure to see this other stunning color lithograph poster, which was most likely for the sound version. +
John Barrymore had always wanted to do a film version of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Banking on Barrymore’s box office appeal, Warner Brothers was happy to accommodate the star.
The Sea Beast was a loose adaptation of the novel, rewritten to give the story more of a romantic flair. This version extends the story beyond the final battle of man versus whale in a variation on Melville’s book; establishing prequel (the romancing of Esther) and sequel, (Ahab’s safe return) elements that are not in the original story. It also substitutes a happy ending for Melville’s original tragic one. +
This 10-reel silent was the film in which Barrymore wooed Dolores Costello, whom he married soon after the picture wrapped. Barrymore would later remember this film as his one of his favorites. He would also star in the 1930 remake; Moby Dick; (a talkie) with co-star Joan Bennett. A German-language version, Daemon des Mers, was filmed simultaneously.
John Wayne plays a Prussian sea captain, who despite his opposition to the Nazis, still feels an obligation to save his ship; an elderly German steam freighter named Ergenstrasse, from capture by the Royal Navy who are hot on his tail. The journey home to Austria is perilous, especially with a lack of fuel and provisions, and horrendous sea storms, shark attacks and a mutiny attempt. Lana Turner, as a beautiful German spy, coughs up the cuddle time. +
The fictional HMAS Rockhampton is played by HMCS New Glasgow, a River class frigate built in Canada as a wartime emergency anti-submarine escort. The script was adapted from a novel of the same name by Andrew Geer, based on an incident involving the 1929-built German Norddeutscher Lloyd steamer Erlangen. (more)
1924 silent movie about an English noble sold into slavery who escapes and turns himself into a pirate king; based upon the Rafael Sabatini novel of the same name.
Recognizing that moviegoers of 1924 would be put off by miniature models, the director insisted that full-sized ships be created for use in the film at a cost of $200,000. The ocean scenes were filmed off the coast of California’s Catalina Island, with 150 tents set up on the island for housing and support of the film’s 1,000 extras, 21 technicians, 14 actors and 64 sailors.
Often overlooked in favor of the 1940 Errol Flynn version, Frank Lloyd’s silent-era version is more faithful to the book than Flynn’s, and just as action-packed. See also this color litho poster.
In the remake, the studio used some key scenes from battles in the 1924 film. They spliced the scenes into the 1940 film, thinking they could not have been done better. The life-sized replicas were considered so well recreated, that Warner Bros repeatedly used them in later nautical films. +
The 1940 version stars Errol Flynn as an English privateer who defends his nation’s interests on the eve of the Spanish Armada. Dismissing the Sabatini core altogether, screenwriters went instead for inspiration to Beggars of the Sea; based on the exploits of Sir Francis Drake. Sabatini’s name was still used in promotional materials however, as it was felt it had commercial value. (image rt, LG)
The film begins with King Philip II of Spain (Montagu Love) declaring his intention to destroy England. After that “puny rockbound island as barren and treacherous as her Queen” is out of the way, he believes that world conquest will soon follow. Spoiler Alert: Update your Channel Weather App there, Phips.
The speech the Queen gives at the close of the film was meant to inspire the viewing British audience, who by then were deep in the grip of the Second World War. Suggestions that it was the duty of all free men to defend liberty, and that the world did not belong to any one man (an obvious insinuation of Hitler’s intent to conquer all of Europe) were rousing.
this week’s header: Sail a Crooked Ship Lot (Columbia, 1961)
above: The Sea Hawk (poster for Italian 1950’s re-release)