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Phantom Ship (1935)
"The Mystery of the Marie Celeste" (original title)

5.7
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Ratings: 5.7/10 from 424 users  
Reviews: 29 user | 9 critic

During a horrific storm at sea, the crew realizes that there is a murderer among them who is killing them off one by one.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Anton Lorenzen / A. Gottlieb
Shirley Grey ...
Sarah Briggs
Arthur Margetson ...
Edmund Willard ...
Toby Bilson
Dennis Hoey ...
Tom Goodschild
George Mozart ...
Tommy Duggan
Johnnie Schofield ...
Peter Tooley
Gunner Moir ...
Ponta Katz
Ben Welden ...
Boas 'Sailor' Hoffman
Clifford McLaglen ...
Capt. Jim Morehead
Bruce Gordon ...
Olly Deveau
...
Andy Gilling
Terence de Marney ...
Charlie Kaye
Edgar Pierce ...
Arian Harbens (as J. Edward Pierce)
Herbert Cameron ...
Volkerk Grot
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Storyline

During a horrific storm at sea, the crew realizes that there is a murderer among them who is killing them off one by one.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Master of Mystery in a Masterpiece of Weird Thrills!

Genres:

Drama | Horror | Mystery

Certificate:

Approved
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Details

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Release Date:

15 October 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Phantom Ship  »

Filming Locations:

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Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film takes place in November and December 1872. See more »

Connections

Featured in Lugosi: The Forgotten King (1985) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Bela Lugosi's finest hour

Hammer Film Productions is famous for the production of Gothic horror during the 60s and 70s; however, way before becoming the legendary horror house, the company had a brief but brilliant encounter with the genre. The film was an ambitious entry in the horror/mystery genre starring horror icon Bela Lugosi and based on the famous case of the abandoned ship, the "Marie Celeste".

"The Mystery of the Marie Celeste" (or as it is known in the U.S., "The Phantom Ship") presents a fictional theory on the mysterious disappearance of the entire crew (complete with the captain's family) of the tragically famous ship. The plot deals with a mysterious murderer who is killing the crew one by one. Arthur Margetson is Captain Benjamin Briggs, who is taking his bride Sarah (Shirley Grey) in his tragic last trip. The crew includes Bela Lugosi and Edmund Willard among others, all of them possible victims, or killers.

The film is very well done for a low budget, and it is very well written, with very interesting characters and a perfectly crafted mystery. Sadly, several minutes of film were cut for the American release and it's the only version that has survived. The original British version (with a runtime of approximately 80 minutes) is apparently lost. The movie still works with the cuts, but one is left to wonder how deep the development of the characters was in the original.

Director Denison Clift had a small career as a director (he was primarily a writer), but he manages to create great atmospheres and builds up the suspense and the mystery with good care. Clift focuses more on the story than in the visual composition and lets the actors do the trick, they are without a doubt the film's highlight. The superb performances of the cast give life to the story and make the experience even more enjoyable.

Arthur Margetson is very good as the stubborn and stoic Capt. Briggs, but Shirley Grey is a bit weak as the romantic interest (contrary to the real story, in the film the couple has no children). Edmund Willard and Bela Lugosi steal the show, the first one as the violent Tobey Bilson, and Lugosi as the mysterious Anton Lorenzen. The two of them give outstanding performances and are the soul of the movie. While Bela Lugosi will always be remembered as Dracula, is in this movie where he can display his dramatic talent in a very demanding role as the emotional Lorenzen.

The film feels claustrophobic at times being that the only location is the ship, but this adds to the feeling of paranoia and suspense that grows among the crew. The lack of flamboyant visual imagery may turn off horror fans not used to the slow pace of older films but the films moves at a perfect rhythm. Another small flaw is that the rest of the cast is at times either unconvincing or over-the-top; however, Lugosi, Willard and Margetson make up for this.

While "The Mystery of the Marie Celeste" is not the classic film that "Dracula" or "White Zombie" are, it is a fine film that successfully mixes horror and mystery and displays the great talent Lugosi had, a talent that was sadly forgotten and went underused during most of his career. This film is an often forgotten shiny spot in the stories of both Lugosi and Hammer Productions, and therefore a must-see for anyone interested in Lugosi's life or in Hammer's history, as it is probably the finest performance of an iconic figure. 8/10


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