The "Albatross", the boat used in the film, was owned by Ernest K. Gann, the author of the novel and the screenplay. He sailed her from California to the South Pacific, where he cruised extensively. His account of the voyage is written in two of his non-fiction books: "Song of the Sirens" and "A Hostage to Fortune". See more »
This is a very remarkable film. Don't be misled by my rating of 7/10. I'm a harsh grader. On usual accepted critique methods, this is just about an "ultimate" film. Unlike the "safe" movies that people like to think of as "risk taking", this is an ultimate "risk taking" venture. It's obviously too iconoclastic for most of the rich kids on IMDb, safe in their snug cubicles.
And i understand the annoyance one would feel with this film. I feel it, too. I like "cut and dry" stories. This film is full of so many loose ends, that in spite of being set in the scenic Pacific ocean on a beautiful ship, it is the exact opposite of "escapism".
This is a very adventurous drama for the lack of violence involved. It is a drama, but it is cleverly handled. Take it off the slowly sinking ship in the ocean, and you have a stage fare. The two leads get most of the attention, but all of the characters are explored. Not only are they all very three dimensional and likable, including the bad guy, but they are almost "four dimensional". Each of these roles are mouth watering to any thespian.
Whenever you begin with a ship named "Cannibal", you know you're also dealing with symbolism. The symbolism of the written word, of a book I did not read, is far better depicted in this film than one would expect. Perhaps the character of the reverend is the ultimate symbol of Faith. Don't expect the usual hypocrite you see in most movies. Like I said, this is too iconoclastic for anything that obvious. All of the characters have more to them than meets the eye, with the probable exception of our two macho male shipmen, the young captain and his charismatic older helmsman. The world is seen mostly through their honest eyes of hard working men. The older, wiser one has seen it before. The captain is at a stage in life when he thinks he is a cynic, but is still fairly naive about people.
Which may be why Hudson was allowed to play the role. On the surface, he appears a mismatch for a role you'd expect Bogie in, or perhaps cast member Kennedy. However, the contrast of not being what one appears was set in our director's mind. He could easily have added scars, whiskers, and pot marks to our captain, but it was on purpose that we see the glamorous duo of our two gorgeous leads feel like they appear rugged, while all the time being untainted by the world. To their credit, they do a great job of conveying this feeling. One looks and sees Rock Hudson in a role that doesn't become him, but that's because the role doesn't become the character. He is a clean soul being put through the wringer of an unclean world.
There is a sad scene which is designed to make strong men cry and women gasp. It is very effective. But then this entire film is very effective.
So why do I only rate it 7/10? Honestly, I like the "cut and dry" escapism, and would rather see all the facts be known. But this is a "reality" piece. Perhaps I am not strong enough for complete reality. For instance, our hero is left dangling about the truth over whom to trust, and puts it in Faith to trust the right person. This is very realistic, but it is totally annoying to watch, when we are bursting to have it be known.
But that's why it is not revealed to our character. There are many other examples of "loose ends", such as a former airman never confronting a braggart who falsely claims to be an ex-pilot. It is never brought up again.
A few loose ends I could handle, but this is stark reality. There are many loose ends. This is a "mature" piece, designed to help us "mature" into serenity.
This is why I set it down one notch, out of my own desire for escapism. The film does what it sets out to do. The directing is excellent.
I do set it down two notches for the ending, which I did not buy. Our hero makes a huge, needless sacrifice, which is meant to be attributed to his idealism, but which leaves him pretty much penniless, which is a condition he'll stay in while he waits for a date two years later with the heroine. I felt it didn't belong in this realistic piece, and while I could forgive the "letdown" ending as part of realism, this was a Hollywood ending that just added to the annoyance.
Still, because of its iconoclastic nature of escapist scenery mixed with realism few could endure, I highly recommend this piece. It is a showcase for directing, writing, and cinema. Viewed alone, or with others, this is a very remarkable work.
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