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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
As overloaded with star cameos as "Ship of Fools" and twice as inflated...
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing--but nobody seemed to realize this when overloading the ship with star names and then giving them little to do. Although based on a true incident, VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED gives the subject a sprawling Hollywood treatment and does what "Ship of Fools" did to Katherine Anne Porter's intriguing novel.
At least MAX VON SYDOW gets to be dynamic as the captain and has the appropriate amount of star footage, but others--like JAMES MASON, JULIE HARRIS and WENDY HILLER--are gone before they can do much.
However, the film's chief fault is the running time--well over two hours without ever building up the tension when the fate of the passengers should be pumping up audience interest in the outcome. The story takes a dramatic turn when the Jewish passengers are denied entry into Cuba and must return to their homeland unless the captain can come up with a better plan.
FAYE DUNAWAY makes a stunning impression and LEE GRANT got an Oscar nomination for her strong supporting role, but others in the large cast come and go in an indifferent manner--except for OSKAR WERNER, who seems to be doing a repeat of his role in "Ship of Fools" as the ship's doctor and is as earnest as ever.
Too bad the storyline couldn't have been trimmed to give the film a tighter length. As it is, it just seems to make its point of man's inhumanity to man without subtlety.
Just misses being a more significant film.
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