The Ghost Ship (1943)

“Men are worthless cattle, and a few men are given authority to drive them.” As with any Val Lewton production for RKO, The Ghost Ship, which was directed by Mark Robson (Champion), features some great atmosphere, an intriguing plotline and capable performances. And with a running time of just 69 minutes, things move along rather briskly. A psychological thriller, the film takes place aboard the ship Altair and focuses on the conflict between new Third Officer “Tom Merriam” (Russell Wade) and the strict Captain “Will Stone” (Richard Dix) who the former soon begins to view as a “homicidal maniac” after the suspicious death of crewman “Louie Parker” (an uncredited Lawrence Tierney in one of the film’s most memorable and disturbing scenes). Also look for Skelton Knaggs as “Finn the Mute,” calypso singer Sir Lancelot as “Billy Radd” and Edmund Glover as “Jacob ‘Sparks’ Winslow.” In this film, there is nothing more frightening than when Stone remarks, “You know, there are some captains who would hold this against you.” Despite the film’s title, don’t expect a supernatural ghost tale or you will be very disappointed. Critic Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called the film “a nice little package of morbidity, all wrapped around in gloom.” The Ghost Ship faced a plagiarism lawsuit and was pulled from theaters shortly after its release and remained out of circulation for many years.

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