Maritime Monday for June 17th, 2013: The Horror, The Horror…

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June 16, 2013


Death Ship (Avco Embassy, 1980)

It is a tried and true cinematic gimmick to trap adults in a confined space so they must face their past and confront the present.  Ships crewed by sweaty nomads with checkered pasts have all the right ingredients. Just add water and you get

Heart Stopping Terror
on the High Seas!!!


The brigantine Mary Celeste; on Bermuda Triangle Central

Mysterious Case of the Mary Celeste

maryceleste-imetOn November 5, 1872, Mary Celeste, a merchant ship, set sail from Staten Island under command of Captain Benjamin Briggs, to Genoa, Italy. Apart from a crew of seven, Captain’s wife and their daughter, the ship was carrying 1701 barrels of alcohol worth $35,000. On December 4 (or 5), 1872, the helmsman of a Canadian merchant ship Dei Gratia spotted the Mary Celeste which was sailing erratically between the Azores and the Portuguese coast.

Since it was appeared to be in seaworthy condition, some officials from the Dei Gratia boarded on it and discovered that all people on the ship were missing along with some papers, the only lifeboat, chronometer and the sextant. There were no signs of violence or natural calamity. Since then, a plethora of theories has been given regarding the fate of people on board, but the actual story hasn’t been unfolded.

Abandoned Ship: the Mary Celeste:
What really happened aboard the Mary Celeste?
More than a century after her crew went missing, a scenario is emerging…
(on SmithsonianMag)

image abv rt: Detecting a Mystery: The Mary Celeste



Matango, Fungus of Terror
aka Attack of the Mushroom People
gallery on

image1963 Japanese tokusatsu (special effects) movie directed by Ishirō Honda.

A Japanese yacht on a day trip encounters a nasty storm that nearly capsizes it. Without a rudder or sails to steer by, they are forced adrift. After a few days lost at sea, the group arrives at a seemingly deserted island.

As they cross the island, they come across a shipwreck on the shore. Although it seems to have only been there about a year, the sails are rotted and the ship’s interior is covered with a mysterious fungus and mold that has spread throughout the ship. A woman in the group warns them not to eat the mushrooms, as they may be poisonous.  They should have followed her advice.

Matango, Fungus of Terror on wikipedia – and on IMDb

Indescribable Terror still from
Utterly, Amazingly Extremely Very Very Very Bad Things


Prison Ship (Columbia, 1945)

Starring Nina Foch, Robert Lowery, Richard Loo, Ludwig Donath, Robert Scott,
Barry Bernard, and Eric Rolf. Directed by Arthur Dreifuss.

Prison Ship (1945)

Panic arises among the Allied prisoners on a Japanese ship when they learn that the ship is decoy for American submarines and is not blacked out at night. The prisoners unite and attack the Japanese sailors and officers just as an American submarine surfaces and, not knowing the prisoners are aboard, prepares to torpedo the ship… (imdb)


Posters for this film are exceedingly rare.
For sale on Heritage Auctions

Phantom Ship (1935)

The Mystery of the Marie Celeste
(US: The Phantom Ship, 1936)
featuring Bela Lugosi

An early film from famous Hammer Film Productions;  it is a a rather unspectacular attempt  to explain  events surrounding the well-known spirit ship, albeit without supernatural occurrences.

As the sail begins, the crew realizes that there is a murderer among them who is killing them off one by one. Soon, everybody has died or disappeared except 1st mate Bilson, Lorenzen and a third crewmember.  They decide that one among them is a killer and they will soon find out.

The ship is later found totally abandoned – except for a black cat!

Phantom Ship is available for free download at the Internet Archive

View Phantom Ship details on IMDB


 Phantom Ship (Guaranteed Pictures, 1935) Lobby Card


Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise (20th Century Fox, 1940)

The famous Chinese detective tries to discover the identity of a strangler who strikes multiple times on a cruise ship bound from Honolulu to California. (imdb)


The Golden Age of Movie Serials

SOS Coast Guard

S O S Coast Guard (1937) is a Republic film serial. It was the seventh of the sixty-six serials made by Republic. The plot concerns the mad scientist Boroff (Bela Lugosi) attempting to sell a super-weapon to the highest bidder.

It was made during the 2-year period when the Hayes Office put a moratorium on horror movies, Lugosi’s usual genre, and in the midst of Byrd’s notoriety for the highly popular Dick Tracy serials.


SOS Coast Guard (Republic, 1937). Lobby Card

Lugosi’s character is a mad scientist who has invented a “disintegrator gas” and plans to smuggle it to his buyers in Morovania. When his ship, the Carfax, gets stranded on outlying rocks in the first chapter, the Coast Guard comes to his rescue.

The serial goes on to tell the story of Lugosi’s attempt to secure the ingredients for more gas, with the revenge motivated  Coast Guard Lieutenant Terry Kent (Ralph Byrd) in hot pursuit.


SOS Coast Guard (1937) on IMDb


Ghost Ship (Lippert, 1953)

Deadly Yachts!

Ghost Ship (1952)

A luxury ship is haunted by the ghosts of a crew that had disappeared off the ship years before. +

British thriller directed by Vernon Sewell. Written by Sewell and Philip Thornton.

A newlywed couple decide to buy an old yacht and fix it up as their home. Soon after, they begin to hear rumours about the ship’s dark past. Laughed off, that is, until they start to experience some unexplained ghostly events for themselves.

A paranormal investigator uncovers the murders of the former yacht owner’s wife and her lover. Also,  that the bodies were hidden somewhere on board the yacht…

Writer-producer-director Sewell, who filmed most of the scenes aboard his own yacht, deftly executes a few interesting paranormal twists on the scenario.

He would revisit the seagoing thriller theme (on the same boat) somewhat less successfully with Terror Ship two years later.  +



Terror Ship (Lippert, 1954)
Starring William Lundigan, Naomi Chance, Vincent Ball , and Jean Lodge.
Directed by Vernon Sewell.

Terror Ship (1954)

imageIn this exciting drama, three people spy an empty yacht adrift at sea. Thinking it to be smugglers, they get on board and begin investigating. Not long afterwards, all of them develop radiation burns on their arms.

They soon discover that the ship’s mast is filled with stolen uranium. They radio the cops, but before they can get there, the crooks return and a chase ensues, culminating in a deadly explosion. In Great Britain, the film was titled Dangerous Voyage. (allmovie)


The Hate Ship (Svensk Industri, 1929) Swedish

The Hate Ship (1929)

Early British murder mystery set on a luxury yacht. Aboard are the wealthy owner of the yacht (Jameson Thomas), a financier (Carl Harbord), a dubious Count (Henry Victor), and a young woman (Jean Colin) in whom the Count is interested. When the financier is murdered, everyone becomes a suspect. +

Featured in the cast as a disgraced nobleman-turned-valet is Claude Rains, some four years before his official film debut in The Invisible Man. +



Captain Stone (Richard Dix) prepares to kill Third Officer Merriam (Russell Wade)
The Ghost Ship (1943)

The Ghost Ship (1943)

Though The Ghost Ship has no apparitions or white sheeted ghosts, what it lacks in poltergeists it more than makes up for in chills and haunting moments, presenting the scary portrait of a man with a God complex and complete power over his crew, a type of monster you’re far more likely to encounter in everyday life. +

imageRichard Dix was a silent and early talkie movie hunk and matinee idol. The film is about a young merchant marine officer who begins to suspect that his ship’s captain is mentally unbalanced and endangering the lives of the ship’s crew. The ship’s crew, however, believes the vessel to be haunted and cursed and several mysterious deaths occur.

image rt full size

Atmosphere is created in the film by the contrast between murder and the joviality of the calypso songs sung on board.

A contemporary critic called it
“a tepid potboiler of malfeasance and murder on the high seas.”

Modern film critics have praised the picture’s acting, cinematography, and lighting, as well as its ability to scare. Director Mark Robson chose to use single-source lighting throughout the film in order to make the sets and performances more interesting.

A dynamic sense of menace is emphasized through use of a massive hook hanging from an enormous chain, pendulum-like, inches above the deck. Set design, too, has been praised for being “suitably claustrophobic.”

A study on the use and abuse of power filmed on a limited set could’ve been painfully slow, but Ghost Ship moves full steam ahead thanks to good filmmaking and some nice performances. +

more on wikipedia

The Ghost Ship (1943) on Speakeasy

The Ghost Ship (1943) on IMDb  –  Detailed plot summary and stats on AFI


The Ghost Ship (RKO, 1943). Title Lobby Card
on Heritage Auctions


Perhaps the greatest opening to an entirely unremarkable horror flick ever. A bunch of
old-timey party-goers get abruptly vivisected by an improbably taut cable that comes loose
aboard a luxury liner. There goes the conga-line.  (video)

Ghost Ship (2002)

Loosely based on the legend of the Mary Celeste.

Horror film directed by Steve Beck; shot in Queensland, Australia and Vancouver, Canada, and starring Julianna Margulies and Gabriel Byrne.

A boat salvage crew are celebrating a recent success at a bar when a Canadian weather service pilot approaches them and says he has spotted a mysterious vessel running adrift in the Bering Sea. Because the ship is in international waters, it can be claimed by whomever is able to bring it to port.

imageAfter boarding, they discover the ship is the Antonia Graza, which mysteriously disappeared in 1962 and was believed to be lost at sea. As they prepare to tow it, they discover that it contains a large quantity of gold.  Crew members get picked off one by one and strange things begin to happen…

Roger Ebert stated “It’s better than you expect but not as good as you hope.” Website Bloody Disgusting listed Ghost Ship’s opening massacre as #13 in their list of “The Top 13 Kills in Horror Movie History”. +

Ghost Ship – Review by Roger Ebert:

The most absorbing passages in the film involve their exploration of the deserted liner. The quality of the art direction and photography actually evoke some of the same creepy, haunting majesty of those documentaries about descents to the grave of the Titanic…

Ghost Ship Gallery on


Hell Below Zero (Columbia, 1954)

Alan Ladd signs onto a whaling ship to get the facts behind the death of Judy Nordahl’s (Joan Tetzel) father. While on a whaling expedition near Antarctica, Craig becomes suspicious of skipper Erik Bland, (Stanley Baker) son of her father’s partner and her one-time lover.

Suspicions are confirmed when Craig and Judy are targeted for an “accidental” demise in the frigid waters of the Antarctic. hey find themselves on rival whaleboats and, ultimately, on an ice floe. (allmovie)


Torture Ship (Producers Distributing Corp., 1939)

Starring Lyle Talbot, Irving Pichel, Julie Bishop (Jacqueline Wells), and Sheila Bromley
Directed by Victor Halperin – poster on Heritage Auctions

Searing Human Drama by Famous Authors:

Torture Ship (1939)

imageBased on a story by Jack London.

A mad scientist explores “the criminal mind” by performing experiments on captured criminals aboard his private ship.

full movie on IMDb

Slave Ship (1937 film)

Directed by Tay Garnett and starring Warner Baxter and Wallace Beery. The supporting cast features Mickey Rooney, George Sanders, Jane Darwell, and Joseph Schildkraut. +

This period adventure drama was  adapted from a story by William Faulkner.

The skipper of a slave trading vessel operating along the West African coast in 1860, Captain Jim Lovett (Warner Baxter) is troubled by his flesh-peddling trade.

He’s marrying the beautiful Nancy Marlowe (Elizabeth Allan) and wants to replace his morally-indefensible business with a more respectable foray into standard goods shipping. So he orders his first mate, Jack Thompson (Wallace Beery) to fire most of the crew and replace them with new hands.

However, the ship’s swabbies are accustomed to their lucrative line of work and, under the sway of the greedy Lefty (George Sanders), they mutiny, resulting in high seas histrionics and swashbuckling sword fights, with comedy relief provided by Mickey Rooney as Swifty the cabin boy.


Slave Ship (20th Century Fox, 1937). One Sheet
(click through for more posters)

Lon Chaney, Jr. appears unbilled in the film’s opening, where his character is crushed during a ship’s launching. (


Blu-ray Review – Death Ship

Death Ship

So, the movie opens with a creepy black freighter and German voices. They’ve caught sight of a cruise ship. The freighter, AKA the Death Ship, rams a cruise ship. Everyone is killed except for Captain Ashland (George Kennedy!), Marshall (Richard Crenna!), Marshall’s wife, Margaret (Sally Ann Howes!), Nick (Nick Mancuso!), Sylvia (Kate Reid), Lori (Victoria Burgoyne), the Marshall family’s kids, and the ship comic, Jacki (Saul Rubinek.) They’re drifting on some wreckage when a mysterious black ship drops its ladder.

imageOh yeah, it’s the Death Ship and it’s HON-GRAY for blood. The ship is pretty immediately evil.

I’m not a ship person so I don’t know the terminology but a swingy thing with a hook picks Jackie up, throws him overboard, and drowns him.

Meanwhile, Sylvia eats some mysterious candy that makes her skin turn into jerk chicken, so the Captain strangles her.

Then they find the ship’s secret Hitler room complete with a coy glamour-shot of His Füh·rerness, and a torture room full of gold teeth. Turns out that the Death Ship was a Nazi torture boat that just drove in circles around the Atlantic, torturing people.

That’s when the Marshall family decides to quit this bitch. The movie ends with the death ship spotting another ship to ram, like someone running an insurance scam…

more: Scarina’s Scary Vault of Scariness

image abv rt


Death Ship (1980 film) on wikipedia


 Night Creatures (Universal International, 1962) poster

In this engaging costume melodrama of skulduggery on the low seas set back in the 18th-century, the swamps of a small seaside town and the nocturnal activities of the towns’ men provide the atmosphere and action. The Royal Crown suspects a bit of smuggling is going on in this locale, and they send Captain Collier (Patrick Allen) and his crew to check it out. As the Captain gets into his investigation, mysterious swamp phantoms cloud up the real issue which seems plain enough to see. Captain Collier suspects that the odd village vicar (Peter Cushing) might be hiding something…  (allmovie)


White Slave Ship (American International, 1962)

Starring Pier Angeli (Anna Maria Pierangeli), Edmund Purdom, Armand Mestral,
Ivan Desny, and Michèle Girardon. Directed by Silvio Amadio.

White Slave Ship (1961)
L’ammutinamento” (original title)

The Albatross travels from England to the New World in 1675, with a number of political prisoners and a dozen women convicts, to be sold into slavery on arrival. The woman activist frees the cargo of low-cast women, and together they take over the ship.  (imdb)


“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on a Whaling Ship… Brilliant!!”

(I SO have to find this)

Harpoon: Whale Watching Massacre

2009: An epic tale about a group of whale watchers, whose ship breaks down and they get picked up by a whale fisher vessel.

The Fishbillies on the vessel have just gone bust, and everything goes out of control. Produced by The Icelandic Filmcompany; available on DVD



“Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre”, one of the very first horror movies from Iceland; a decent but sadly quite underwhelming gorefest. Tense and entertaining in the first half, boring and stupid in the second half.

“The kills are all terrific (slit throats, decapitations, harpoon kills, gruesome burnings…). Unfortunately the script is really, REALLY bad, including loads of completely illogical plot points, unnecessarily tedious scenes, and one of the most stupid endings I’ve seen in a looong time.”+

Horror movie fans may recognize Icelandic-born actor Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface in the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Wiki —  Imdb

Bram Stoker’s Death Ship – review

imageGraphic Novel: There has been a promise of a film, The Last Voyage of the Demeter, for some time now and it never seems to emerge. Whether a film based on just one segment of Dracula would work remained to be seen – after all we know how it ends…

Thanks to IDW we can imagine what the film might be like as they have developed the comic book of the concept. The barely described crew members from Stoker’s novel are pretty much stereotypes – the evil first mate, the good captain, the innocent cabin boy etc.

What makes the book for me, more than anything, was the beautiful artwork by Stuart Sayger. Author: Gary Gerani+


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