In this extremely loose adaptation of Melville's classic novel, Ahab is revealed initially not as a bitter and vengeful madman, but as a bit of a lovable scamp. Ashore in New Bedford, he ... See full summary »
In this extremely loose adaptation of Melville's classic novel, Ahab is revealed initially not as a bitter and vengeful madman, but as a bit of a lovable scamp. Ashore in New Bedford, he meets and falls for Faith Mapple, daughter of the local minister and beloved of Ahab's brother Derek. Faith herself quickly returns Ahab's love, as Derek is drab and ignoble. On his next voyage, however, Ahab loses a leg to the monstrous white whale Moby-Dick. When upon his return to New Bedford he mistakenly believes Faith wants nothing to do with him because of his disfigurement, Ahab returns to sea with only one goal in mind -- to find and kill the great white whale. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
While the credits state that the film is based on Herman Melville's novel, the first page of the novel shown onscreen right after the credits is entirely written by one of the screenwriters; it has absolutely nothing to do with Melville's original, and even leaves out Melville's classic opening sentence, "Call me Ishmael". See more »
A crazed sea captain searches the Seven Seas for MOBY DICK, the great white whale which maimed him.
To enjoy this film on its own merits it would be well for the viewer to remind himself that great literature does not always become great cinema. The two art forms are very dissimilar, each making different demands upon its audience. Sometimes, as in this instance, there is only a hint of the original story when it reaches the screen.
Do not look for Ishmael or the Pequod here; you will not find them. Don't expect any titanic & transcendental clash between man and brute beast at the climax. Indeed, the conclusion of the film is so radically different from the novel as to be almost startling.
What will you find is a good-looking movie with very fine production values, featuring an enormously enjoyable performance by John Barrymore as Captain Ahab. Barrymore overacts outrageously, as is to be expected with a role of this sort, chewing the scenery and rolling his extraordinary eyes. In short, he is tremendous fun, even during the unexpected scenes depicting Ahab in love. His brief foray into church, followed by an adoring stray dog, is hilarious, not a descriptive term one usually associates with Melville's character. In short, the entire film is a star vehicle for Barrymore and he remains the primary reason to view it.
Joan Bennett, as Ahab's love, and Lloyd Hughes, as Ahab's resentful younger brother, don't fare as well in comparison to Barrymore's scene-stealing antics. Hughes' final moments, after being shanghaied onto Barrymore's ship, are his most effective, but Miss Bennett is not given much to do during her solemn sequences except to act patient and brave, which can be very dull.
Silent film star Noble Johnson has one of his best talkie roles as the half-savage Queequeg, Ahab's only true friend. Another excellent actor from Silent days, Nigel De Brulier, shows up very briefly as a pathetic barroom preacher. Character actress Virginia Sale is quite droll in her brief role as a New Bedford spinster.
The scenes actually showing Moby Dick are dramatic and frightening, even though the fate the script has in store for him would never have passed muster with Melville.
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