This classic story by Herman Melville revolves around Captain Ahab and his obsession with a huge whale, Moby Dick. The whale caused the loss of Ahab's leg years before, leaving Ahab to stomp the boards of his ship on a peg leg. Ahab is so crazed by his desire to kill the whale, that he is prepared to sacrifice everything, including his life, the lives of his crew members, and even his ship to find and destroy his nemesis, Moby Dick. Written by
E.W. DesMarais <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It would be impossible to make a movie that came up to the standard of the novel "Moby-Dick", but this film does a fine job of capturing some of the most important themes, and of telling a selection of the key parts of the story in an interesting way. It would be a temptation for any film-maker to put the focus on the action and the special effects, and thus ruin the heart of the book by downplaying its themes, as so many recent films have done with other classic material. Instead, John Huston's version concentrates on bringing out many of the complex internal and external conflicts of Captain Ahab, in sketching the crew members and their reactions to Ahab's monomania, and in portraying the atmosphere of frequent tedium, growing tension, and occasional dread aboard the 'Pequod'.
Richard Basehart's mild, pleasant demeanor makes Ishmael an appropriate mirror for the events and characters on the ship. Gregory Peck does rather well in the very challenging role of Ahab. Ahab is one of the most carefully-designed and demanding characters in literature, and lesser actors would simply be an embarrassment in the part. On screen, there is much to Ahab that just does not come across, and Peck's performance has to be judged with that in mind.
Leo Genn makes his scenes as Starbuck count, and several of the other crew members are portrayed well, albeit in much smaller parts. As Father Mapple, Orson Welles has only one scene, but it is an important one, in that it sets up some of the vital themes of the story ahead. Welles was an ideal choice, and his scene in the church is one scene that does come up to the high standard of Melville's novel.
While there may indeed be some areas in which this version falls short, and it's fair to point them out, it would be pretty difficult to improve on it in a cinema version of the story. And if taken on its own, it fits together well, making generally good choices as to what material would fit together and would work on screen, and in using the photography and settings to create the right atmosphere. For those who appreciate the depth of the original story, this has more than enough to make it worth watching.
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