Humphrey van Weyden, a writer, and fugitives Ruth Webster and George Leach have been given refuge aboard the sealer "Ghost," captained by the cruel Wolf Larsen. The crew mutinies against ... See full summary »
Humphrey van Weyden, a writer, and fugitives Ruth Webster and George Leach have been given refuge aboard the sealer "Ghost," captained by the cruel Wolf Larsen. The crew mutinies against Larsen's many crimes, and though van Weyden, Ruth, and George try to escape Larsen's clutches, they find themselves drawn inexorably back to him as the "Ghost" sails toward disaster. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The best version of this old chestnut, despite plot changes.
Jack London's novel "The Sea Wolf" is one of those old chestnuts that seemingly won't go away. It has served as an subject for movies almost since they began being made, including Italian and Russian versions. This 1941 Warner version remains the definitive screen adaptation, however, in spite of numerous alterations to the plot of the original novel.
In the book, Wolf Larson is a giant Norwegian sea captain who rules his ship by virtue of his strength and brutality. He is the embodiment of the old joke which runs: "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil, because I am the meanest, toughest son of a b--- in the valley!" One would ordinarily think that the five foot six inches tall Edward G. Robinson would be a poor choice to play such a character. However, Robinson is a good enough actor, and a forceful enough screen personality, to carry it off.
John Garfield is equally perfect as a chip-on-the-shoulder working class seaman who dares to oppose Larson. He's a perfect foil for Robinson, and it's great fun watching the two of them snarl at each other like a couple of wild dogs.
Ida Lupino and Alexander Knox do some of their best work as the two castaways rescued by Larson's vessel. Lupino plays a female ex-convict trying to conceal her past, and Knox is an effete writer whom Larson decides to educate in what he considers the ways of the real world.
Gene Lockhart and Barry Fitzgerald are equally good in supporting roles as the ship's drunken and degraded doctor, and the thoroughly corrupt cook. It is particularly refreshing to see Fitzgerald play a really unpleasant character for a change, and one can only wonder why he didn't get more parts like this. In The Sea Wolf, Fitzgerald plays an individual so slimy that one almost expects to see him leave a trail behind him, like a slug.
Director Michael Curtiz managed to impart a dank and foggy atmosphere to The Sea Wolf that seems to suit the story perfectly, and that feeling is enhanced by Erich Korngold's moody score. The first view of the schooner "Ghost", looming out of the fog like a real ghost, is particularly memorable.
Granted, the ending differs radically from that of the book. This film's ending seems rather more satisfying than London's was, however. London was virtually forced to end the novel the way he did because it is presented in narrative form and the writer, Van Wyden, is the one actually telling the story. Warner Brothers could change the ending because, as a movie, the story was no longer restricted to Van Wyden's point of view.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?