One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
So many victims and potential witnesses, so little time
A ship at sea finds it is on a collision course with a large luxury yacht. The captain and crew try to hail the yacht to get it to change its course, but it does not respond. Realizing that there is something wrong over there, the ship's crew take a small boat over to the yacht and find it abandoned. They find a couple of bodies including that of a woman dressed in formal evening attire who has frozen to death in a tropical climate.
The visiting captain finds the top half of a telegram that has been ripped in half that indicates someone aboard the ship has been indicted by a grand jury. At that point the film flashes back to the actual reception of that telegram. The person who received this telegram - could be a member of the crew, could be a guest - realizes that he/she is facing a long prison term and there is no place to run. This person then decides that the best way to proceed is to kill everyone on board with some lost in the deep and some found on the ship, then jump from the ship and swim to a nearby island that only he/she and one other person - now dead - knows about that has friendly natives, plenty of food and water, and best of all, never has visitors from civilization. The perpetrator will then be numbered among the dead lost in the deep and, with no witnesses to say otherwise, will be free to live a life of ease in a tropical paradise.
The question is - how do you kill over a dozen people without any of them catching on as to who is to blame before you are done? The answer is you have to use a variety of methods including getting some of the passengers to kill each other by playing off certain hostilities and jealousies to which you are privy, convincing still others to commit suicide, and coming up with novel ways that don't leave fingerprints and witnesses to get the others, all the while playing on the panic and superstitions of the shrinking numbers of survivors so that it appears it is all the work of some kind of supernatural sea-bound ghost or perhaps a maniac stowaway that nobody knows about.
Does the murderer's plan work? It's a possibility...this is still the precode era and unjust endings were allowed. Watch and find out.
I found this film to be well paced with clever even Hitchcock-like reasoning by the murderer. I'd almost call the murderer likable - he/she is that clever. As for Charles Ruggles who I usually find either very humorous or annoying in these early supporting Paramount roles, I found him quite good here as his levity helped break up the constant tension of wondering who was going to get it next. Highly recommended.
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