|Index||7 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In a dense fog, a cargo ship encounters a luxury yacht that appears to be deserted drifting about in circles. A crewman from the cargo ship boards the yacht to turn off the runaway engine. Soon the engine stops and the captain and more crew members embark, only to discover the unconscious body of the first crewman. Further investigation turns up signs of more violence and dead body after dead body, all killed in unusual ways. The story of what happened to the guests and crew aboard this cursed liner is told in flashback without a musical track to manipulate the audience's emotions. This low budget, character-actor-packed story develops several small plot lines, but the audience is soon made aware of who the murder is and why the killings can't stop. It's a great thriller of innocent travelers trapped aboard a luxury boat with a cold, pathological and methodical killer. Will the murderer get away with his diabolical plans or is it already too late? I recommend this film to all fans of early mystery, suspense, horror and thriller films of the precode era. It would be several decades before Hollywood would again show a blood stain on a white suit spreading as quickly as the shock in the first victim's eyes!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The owner of a huge boat is sent a telegram that reads "Your companies are bankrupt. The Bankrupt Police will arrest you in any country." The owner (played by John Halliday) decides that the only way to escape from the authorities is to take his boat to an uncharted island. But first he has to kill all the passengers aboard -- and he nearly does! Waitaminit.... the Bankrupt Police? What the heck is that?! Is there also a Mortgage Foreclosure Police? Well, anyway, this is actually a fairly good suspense tale with a 'Beau Geste'-like opening sequence of the seemingly abandoned boat. Then we get a long flashback showing what led up to the ship being left nearly abandoned. Ruggles is the weak and unnecessary comic relief (and almost as bad as he was in another grisly Paramount film from 1933 titled 'Murders in The Zoo.') The most striking element of this film is the unusually gruesome methods Halliday uses to dispatch his victims (including a freezer, a letter spike, etc.) Definitely not your run-of-the-mill thriller from this time period, cinematically. Worth a look.
I read somewhere that this was like a Friday the 13th film for the
1930s - that may be an understatement. After the first half hour, it's
murder the rest of the way! Yippee!! And not to spoil anything, the
villains' comeuppance is not enough in my opinion. If anyone ever
deserved it, he should have been quartered with each quarter being sent
to the four corners of the earth and then quartered again.
John Halliday plays a completely 100% monstrous man named Max, who for no explained reason becomes one of the great serial killers in history. People get shot, stabbed, poisoned, drowned, frozen to death, bludgeoned and much, much more for all you death fans out there. This is all supposed to occur because he was supposed to be indicted for grand larceny?? At least Lugosi would have fun doing this!! Halliday is a robot, endlessly repeating, "Oh, what a tragedy" in a mild feign surprise after each death.
The real downer of this film may actually be that there is no life to these people before he kills them. All that really happens is Halliday killing people with no conscience whatsoever. The copy I saw was not very clear, but I imagine the cinematography was quite good. There are some terrific silhouette shots, meaningful camera moves and some disturbing shots of death. The plot is an excellent idea, particularly with the "Mary Celeste" ghost ship, and it's 'Beau Geste'-like opening sequence. This is definitely the grimmest 30s horror movie - Charlie Ruggles' comic relief is actually welcome!!! 5/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Agatha Christie much admired this movie. In fact, she used its central theme as the basis for her best-known novel, the 1939 And Then There Were None. The movie itself, however, was actually based on the idea expressed in the opening chapter of the 1925 novel, Beau Geste by Percival Christopher Wren. There, however, the resemblance stops. True, the players in Terror Aboard give the gory narrative their best shots, but it's hard to believe that all the characters succumb to the murderer's rampage without anyone of them having the least suspicion of his obvious identity. Well actually, there was one who tumbled to the truth but he was quickly disposed of before committing his feelings to any other characters. Anyway, what we have here is too much of a bad thing. Far, far too much. True, Charlie Ruggles tries to underscore the shipside mayhem with some comedy relief, but his efforts are not particularly successful. The rest of the players, led by John Halliday, are robots. The director, Paul Sloane, is admired by many of my colleagues as the director of Geronimo (1939) which I've not seen. For me, his only other creditable contribution to movie history is his delightfully amusing Half Shot at Sunrise (1930).
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
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Paramount seemed to have the edge on eerie little thrillers of the
early thirties ("Murder by the Clock" (1931), "Murders at the Zoo"
(1933)). Because the studio was very proud of it's programmers, you
often found the same cast members turning up in both As and Bs (John
Halliday, Charlie Ruggles). John Halliday was an actor I had never
heard of a couple of years ago - now his name conjures up to me, a
cool, calm and collected gentleman, who was perfectly at home either
side of the law - sort of like Warren William.
The story starts with the discovery of an ocean liner drifting aimlessly in the water. The skipper (Stanley Fields) of a passing freight sends a man aboard to investigate. When after an hour he hasn't returned, the rest of the crew go aboard only to discover his body - along with all the rest!!! When a radiogram is discovered, the mystery is explained via flashback.
Maximillian Kreig (John Halliday) receives a radiogram telling him that his financial empire is wiped out and he will face embezzlement charges when he lands. He then blithely tells the young radio operator (William Janney) his plans - to kill all the crew, scuttle the boat and live out the rest of his days on a desert island. Before the R.O. can grasp the enormity of the plan, he is shot by Kreig, who tries to make it look like a suicide, then takes the suspicion off himself by explaining why it must be murder!!! From then on the killing starts - and all in ingenious ways!!
Lili Kingston (Shirley Grey) has promised to marry Kreig, although she still pines for James Cowles (Neil Hamilton). Kreig gathers all the guests in his cabin to get to the bottom of the murder. He throws suspicion on Morton Hazlitt, who then realises that his wife, Millicent, (Veree Teasdale) is in love with Latin piano player, Gregory Cordoff (Jack LaRue). When Kreig tells Cordoff of Hazlitt's violence and when Cordoff then comes across Hazlitt beating his wife, he kills him with an ice pick!!! All is going according to Kreig's plan.
Not everything.... suddenly in the middle of the ocean they find a stranded airman and take him on board - it is Cowles. Meanwhile, Millicent begs Kreig to have mercy on Cordoff but Kreig is unmoved and she finds herself in the deep freeze!!! Next on the list is the cook (Paul Porcasi) - Kreig brings him to the dining table to complain about the soup, the cook tastes it and falls down dead - poisoned!! Next is the maid, who smells a rat - she meets a watery grave. Kreig then visits Cordoff and after a "friendly" chat, Cordoff commits suicide!!! By the end, the only people left are Lili, James and of course Blackie, the Steward. I won't say what happens to Kreig but it is definitely in keeping with the film's "bizarre death" count.
I actually liked Max - the debonair, calm and ingenious way he disposed of almost the entire boat load of people - you had to admire him. The only problem was Charlie Ruggles, who really slowed down the film with his unique brand of comedy. He was top billed but was given too much screen time. With Ruggles reduced to a supporting player, the film would have been even more suspenseful. Leila Bennett is pretty hard to take as well. She plays the dithering maid. She spent the early thirties playing domestic servants of the most annoying kind - she even played one in black face!!! It is almost a relief when Kreig throws her over- board.
A steamship comes across an abandoned yacht. When crew members board
it, they find all onboard murdered. The remainder of the picture is
mostly a flashback on what transpired up to the present. I'll bet you
think this would be an exciting murder mystery, huh?
Well, no. The story is related in a bloodless (no pun intended) manner that it is devoid of excitement. It is a story without tension or suspense, a poorly done production in which several notable back-bench supporting actors are wasted in undeveloped roles. It is billed as a mystery but is more of a melodrama, and a mediocre one to boot.
The murderer is known right away and is played by John Halliday. He does the best he can in a creepy, soft-spoken performance. He dispatches everyone on board in ways ranging from implausible to downright laughable. The methods he uses are the only interesting moments to consider in this sub-par entry from Paramount.
But the presence that really sinks the picture is the normally dependable Charlie Ruggles, out of his element here in a comic relief role. Any scene containing incipient feelings of anxiety or apprehension are quickly erased by his annoying presence. The mood created by his antics was all wrong for this picture. In sum, this was a very disappointing and misspent 69 minutes.
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