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The Ship of Lost Men (1929)

Das Schiff der verlorenen Menschen (original title)
Vela, cynical captain of a slow, decrepit sailing ship, sells passage out of Germany to fugitives. His crew are no angels either. Cheyne, a young American doctor visiting the ship, is ... See full summary »





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Cast overview, first billed only:
Fritz Kortner ...
Robin Irvine ...
William 'T.W.' Cheyne - a Young American Doctor
Vladimir Sokoloff ...
Grischa - der Koch - the Cook (as Wladimir Sokoloff)
Gaston Modot ...
Der Sträfling Morains - Morain - the Escaped Convict
Boris de Fast ...
Der tätowierte - The Tattooed Sailor
Nick (as F. Schaljapin)
Max Maximilian ...
Tom Butley
Fritz Alberti ...
Der Kapitän - The Captain of the Luxury Liner L'Amorique
Robert Garrison ...
Der Vermieter - The Landlord
Heinrich Gotho ...
Harry Grunwald ...
Emil Heyse
Fred Immler
Alfred Loretto ...


Vela, cynical captain of a slow, decrepit sailing ship, sells passage out of Germany to fugitives. His crew are no angels either. Cheyne, a young American doctor visiting the ship, is shanghaied on a 3-month voyage to Brazil when Vela abruptly embarks. In mid-ocean, Cheyne rescues the survivor of a watery plane crash, lovely American heiress Ethel Marley; he and the ship's cook keep her hidden from captain and crew. But a brutal incident leads to mutiny and murder, putting the two Americans in great danger...building to a cliffhanger climax. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

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Plot Keywords:

ship | mutiny | based on novel | See All (3) »


Drama | Thriller





Release Date:

10 January 1930 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Ship of Lost Men  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

A Ship to Hell

After learning about the importance of Maurice Tourneur in the history of cinema (and making the connection between images of "La main du diable" and its creator) I have watched a few of his silent and sound films, which were remarkable works for their times and still impressive in ours. A recent viewing was his film adaptation of a novel by Greek author Frenzos Kerzemen (or Franzos Keremen, as listed here). It was the beginning of Tourneur's third and last phase of his career as director, when he returned to his native France, after growing dissatisfied with the kind of films made by American big studios. Without reading the novel, it is difficult to know if the plot follows the literary work or if it was changed by Tourneur in his screenplay, for in the end it turns into a rose-colored endorsement of bourgeois respectability, after the striking first two acts taking place in a German sea port, in New York and almost entirely aboard the title ship. According to conventions of dramatic action, none of the characters really change the way we usually refer to alterations in life or manner: there are few radical actions or signs of profound change of perspective in all characters. Everything is mostly done under control, even when the story told is the most violent. American doctor William Cheyne (handsome British actor Robin Irvine, who died young at 32) is arguably the protagonist, the traditional hero and savior, while the fugitive convict Morains (Gaston Modot, who would become an immortal icon of crazy love in Buñuel's "L'age d'or") is his nemesis. Ethel Marley (Marlene Dietrich) is an American socialite in distress, who crashes her plane in the Atlantic Ocean and is rescued by Dr. Cheyne, falling in love; and Grischa (Vladimir Sokoloff) is the cook of the ship, who will play a key role in the resolution. What they go through, as scripted by Tourneur and beautifully photographed by Nicolas Farkas, is startling. Morains asks Captain Fernando Vela (Fritz Kortner) to take him to Brazil in his ship Galatea. Vela (a mean villain too) specializes in helping fugitive smugglers, pirates, killers, thieves, convicts and the like to get out of Germany. They become his crew and he treats them really bad until they reach their destiny. Dr. Cheyne joins the Galatea by accident, when he goes to the ship to help a wounded sailor, without noticing when it weighs anchor. Next Ethel secretly comes aboard, then Cap. Vela's pet is killed, the crew revolts against him and after the mutiny a chain of events follows, motivated by lust, greed, hatred and pure vileness. After these scenes the third act comes as a sort of sell-out: I personally would have preferred to see the few decent characters find a resolution inside the ship, not with outside help, but considering that so many crooks were put together in a single set, it is somehow understandable. A long film, running more than two hours, it gives space to actors to find gestures, gazes and expressions to tell the story without the need of many intertitles, while the viewer has more time to appreciate the magnificent images created by Farkas and Tourneur, who would go on to make a few more masterpieces before his retirement. Edited by Jacques Tourneur.

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