In 1939, Germany's Hamburg-America Line announced a voyage from Germany to Cuba. 937 people, the vast majority being Jews, signed up for the opportunity to escape Nazi Germany. Unbeknownst to the passengers, the visas they purchased were from a corrupt Cuban director of immigration, and they were invalid. Upon arrival in Havana, only 28 people were allowed to disembark, while the rest remained on board for weeks as they sailed to Florida, and eventually Canada, searching for safe haven. Sadly the ship returned to Antwerp after more than a month at sea. Forced back under Nazi rule as the low countries fell, it is estimated that approximately 250 of the refugees died in the extermination camps in occupied Poland. Written by
This film details a very dark chapter in U.S. (in fact, World) history. As a propaganda tactic, to attempt to dismiss the notion that they were committing genocide, WWII Germany fills a cruise ship with Jewish citizens and sends them off to Cuba, purportedly so that they can be free. Unfortunately, Cuba will not allow the passengers to disembark, nor will the United States and so the ship must turn back, thus becoming the voyage of the damned. The cast is jam packed with stars of the day and most of them are great. Among the standouts are Von Sydow as the Captain--a pawn in the political game, McDowell as a sympathetic crewman, Dunaway as an aloof, glamorous German married to a Jew (Werner), Wanamaker as a desperate, concerned victim of circumstance and Ross (in one of her most heartfelt roles) as the daughter of two of the passengers. Most notable are Pryce & Koslo, unforgettably vulnerable as concentration camp escapees and Grant as the emotionally stunned wife of Wanamaker. Dunaway and Oscar-nominated Grant share the film's most memorable scene as Grant becomes unhinged by the events around her. The film has a sense of cruelty and dread, even if one is not aware of the outcome, and it can be painful to behold, but this is a story that needs to be told and the drama is, at times, quite compelling. Certainly the cast of familiar faces makes it easy to take. Bloated, cue-card-reading Welles is one drawback, but fortunately, he is not on screen long.
25 of 32 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?