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Ship of Fools (1965)

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1933: An ocean liner belonging to a second-rate German company is making a twenty-six day voyage from Veracruz, Mexico to Bremerhaven, Germany. Along the way it will stop in Cuba to pick up... See full summary »



(novel), (screenplay)
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Siegfried Rieber (as Jose Ferrer)
Pepe (as Jose Greco)
Karl Glocken
Charles Korvin ...
Capt. Thiele
Julius Lowenthal (as Heinz Ruehmann)
Frau Hutten
Amparo (as Barbara Luna)
Alf Kjellin ...
Lizzi Spoekenkieker


1933: An ocean liner belonging to a second-rate German company is making a twenty-six day voyage from Veracruz, Mexico to Bremerhaven, Germany. Along the way it will stop in Cuba to pick up a large group of Spanish farm laborers who are being shipped home and who will be housed like cattle in steerage. There it will also pick up La Condesa, a Spanish countess. It will stop in Tenerife, where the farm workers will disembark and where La Condesa will be sent to a German-run prison for her "traitorous" activities in Cuba. This voyage will be the last of three for the ship's doctor, Willi Schumann, who has a serious heart ailment and who thought he could find some meaning to his life through this job. Willi and La Condesa fall in love, with the ship's Captain Thiele, who is Willi's closest friend on board, believing the drug-addicted La Condesa is only using him to get her fixes. Willi and La Condesa have to figure out if there is a future for them after the voyage, as Willi's life also ... Written by Huggo

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Release Date:

October 1965 (Austria)  »

Also Known As:

Das Narrenschiff  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Lowenthal mentions the funeral of Kaiserin Viktoira, he is referring to the wife of Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm and mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Victoria was a daughter of Queen Victoria of England. See more »


Tenny (Lee Marvin) states he's bought "a couple of Margaritas" for the flamenco dancer. That cocktail did not exist in 1933. See more »


Mary Treadwell: Tell me. Wouldn't it unnverve you to have an affair with me?
See more »


Referenced in The Nanny: Ship of Fran's (1996) See more »


Tales from the Vienna Woods
Music by Johann Strauss (as Josef Strauss, Jr.)
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User Reviews

Not as good as the novel, but still worth seeing
21 March 2007 | by (Upstate New York) – See all my reviews

Ship of Fools (1965) directed by Stanley Kramer, is based on the novel by Katherine Anne Porter. The film is a reasonably faithful cinematic adaptation, although it lacks the novel's subtlety and complexity. Director Kramer assembled an all-star cast--including Vivien Leigh (her last film), Simone Signoret, José Ferrer, Lee Marvin, Oskar Werner, José Greco, and George Segal.

The film takes place entirely on shipboard, except for the final scene. Naturally, the close confines of the ship and the lack of privacy bring about forced interactions, as would have been the case in reality. These interactions form the basic plot of both the book and the film.

The time is 1933, so the passengers don't know what we know--things are changing rapidly in Germany and everything will be different in just a year or two. In fact, that's the basic weakness of the plot--it's easy in retrospect to know just how wrong the Jewish salesman is when he assures people that the current unpleasantness will blow over and all will be well.

Some features of the novel were unfortunately omitted from the film, especially the roles of the Spanish twins, Ric and Rac. In the novel, they are the embodiments of senseless evil, and every chapter in which they appear is laden with foreboding. In the film, the children commit one evil act, but it makes no sense because we haven't been prepared for it.

Director Kramer made one choice I consider foolish. In the novel, a young woman named Elsa Lutz is realistically unhappy. She is unattractive, not very intelligent, not gifted or graceful, and her prospects for marriage are bleak. In the film, she is portrayed as a stunning ingénue, who will blossom into an even more stunning woman. No dramatic tension there. Porter had it right, Kramer had it wrong.

All in all, "Ship of Fools" is a classic movie by an excellent director and it's loaded with stars. It's not an essential film, but it's entertaining enough and worth renting.

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