The Ghost Ship (1943)

Article #549 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 9-15-2002
Posting date: 2-8-2003

The third mate of the Altair discovers that the captain is a homicidal maniac.

In Val Lewton’s attempt to transform the horror projects he was given, he often found himself straying quite far from the horror genre. This was perhaps the farthest away he got; the title has little to do with a story except insofar it is used in a somewhat forced metaphor that pops up in a somewhat unnecessary subplot. And the story only really ventures into horror territory with the character of the homicidal captain, but he is nothing like the type of madmen that inhabit horror movies. Which is not to say that there aren’t some scary scenes; the gripping sequence with the loose swinging anchor is about as scary as many horror scenes. And though the story as such drags a bit at times, it is solid and interesting. It also helps that the movie has its share of great scenes; the aforementioned swinging anchor scene, a sequence in which a man is buried alive under anchor chain and a knife fight that is much bloodier than you’d expect from a movie from this era. Plus it gives the often forgotten character actor Skelton Knaggs the best role of his career as the dumb (as in voiceless) crewman who serves as our narrator. Not one of Lewton’s best, but worth catching.

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