The Ghost Ship (1943)
Frequently Asked Questions
Tom Merriam (Russell Wade), a young merchant marine officer fresh out of training school, joins the crew on the ship Altair as third officer under Captain Will Stone (Richard Dix), who sees Merriam as a younger version of himself. Likewise, Merriam sees Stone as the first adult to treat him as a friend and is eager to work under him...until crew members begin dying and Merriam suspects the Captain of being the murderer.
The Ghost Ship is based on a story by Austrian writer Leo Mittler and a screenplay by American screenwriter Donald Henderson Clarke. Two months after its theatrical release, however, Lewton was sued (and lost) for plagiarizing a play called The Man and His Shadow. Consequently, it was not until the film's copyright ended in the 1990s that The Ghost Ship has been made available again for public viewing.
When Merriam accepts a carriage ride from Ellen Roberts (Edith Barrett) while in port, she compares him to Stone, describing him as 'lonely, austere, bitter, without friends, condemning yourself to a bloodless, ghostlike existence. ' She warns him that, if he pursues this same kind of life, 'it will be only a ghost ship you command.'
Captain Stone orders that Merriam be restrained, trussed, and placed on his bunk. He then orders first officer Bowns (Ben Bard) to inject him with a sedative. As Bowns leaves Merriam's cabin, he is met by Finn (Skelton Knaggs), who hands him the telegram radioman 'Sparks' Winslow (Edmund Glover) was ordered to send to the Durham Line agent saying that Merriam was not on board. Bowns reads the message without comment, neither of them knowing that the captain is watching. Stone follows Bowns and listens in as he discusses with some other crew members the possibility that Merriam is right about the captain being the murderer. Haunted by the thought that Merriam is right about him, Stone grabs a knife and goes to Merriam's cabin. While the crew on deck sings calypso music, Stone creeps up to Merriam's bed. Just as he is about to plunge the knife into Merriam, Finn bursts into the cabin, also armed with a kife. They fight violently while Merriam watches helplessly. Finn succeeds in stabbing Stone and killing him. In a voiceover, Finn says, 'The boy is safe, and his belief in men and men's essential goodness is secure.' In the final scene, the Altair returns to port at San Pedro. As Merriam leaves ship, he encounters the blind man singing, 'Blow the Man Down.' A woman's voice calls to him and, in silhouette only, a young girl approaches him and introduces herself as Ellen's sister, then she and Merriam walk off together.