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This story has nothing to do with the sinking of the Vestris in 1928.
It is based on a story first told by Robert Dale Owens, a 19th century historical figure. It can be seen in the boxed set of From Behind the Veil, featuring Boris Karloff.
It is a story about deja vu. Host Dr. Frank Baxter claims that it is based on a real life story. The story does take place on "The Bark Vestris" which sails out of Plymouth. It is, however, set in the year 1828.
Karloff's role is brief and he plays both a ghostly apparition and a doctor.
The story is well acted, and written. The story is about the ship captain's wife's strange, unexplainable visions, that lead to the discovery of an event that can only be found by steering off course, according to directions left on a chalk slate by the ghost, that only she can see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Again I can't rate this production, but I do notice that Boris Karloff
and Torin Thatcher are both in it. It sounds promising. Moreover, if
I'm right about the subject matter it must have been a very interesting
sea story - a tragedy.
If you are a student of maritime history, between 1900 and 1918 there were many major ship disasters at sea and even in major cities. These include:
1900 - a fire that engulfed three German steamships in Hoboken, New Jersey, and killed nearly 500 people (mostly crew members) who got trapped in the boats;
1904 - the death of 1,021 men, women, and children on the steamboat, GENERAL SLOCUM, near North Brothers Island off the Bronx and Queens, in a fire that engulfed that excursion vessel;
1912 - the Titanic disaster (1,517 lost), and (later that year) a Japanese steamer sank killing another 1,000 people - for some reason few have written about this second tragedy;
1914 - the Emperess of Ireland is sunk in a collision in the St. Laurence River at night, with the loss of 1,012 people (most were sleeping passengers - in fact more passengers were lost on the Empress than on the Titanic!). Later that year a German U-Boat sinks the British cruisers Hogue, Aboukir, and Cressy with a combined death toll of 1,400;
1915 - the Lusitania disaster (1,198 lost), and the capsizing of the excursion steamer Eastland in the Chicago River with the loss of 812 people;
1916 - the Allied troopship Provence is torpedoed in the Mediterranean, with the loss of 3,300 men. Three British battle cruisers (Queen Mary, Indefatigable, and Invincible) are sunk with nearly 3,500 men lost at the battle of Jutland.
By the time the Great War ended the public really was accustomed to huge death tolls in shipwrecks. But while there were several interesting ship disasters between the two world wars, none really reached the loss column that the ones I listed above did.
One ship that was lost captured public attention in 1928. This was the S.S. Vestris, which traveled from Latin America to the U.S. It had played a small role in an earlier tragedy - the disappearance of the collier, U.S.S. Cyclops, in 1918, as one of the last vessels to see the Cyclops before it vanished. But nothing had happened since then.
The Vestris was caught in a hurricane in 1928 off the Virginia capes. It was the first major ship disaster that was reported not only in the newspapers, but on radio - so the effect was far greater than one could imagine on the public. As Frederick Allan says in his social history, ONLY YESTEDAY, judging from the public horror one would have thought the Vestris was the worst shipwreck of all time.
Allan was right - although the loss of life for a small steamer was awful (about 200 lives were lost), it was not on the scale of the Titanic. But he missed something involving media which is important. During the sinking (which was caused by cargo improperly ballasted below decks that helped capsize the ship) a photographer snapped a picture of the passengers and crew struggling to stay upright on that crazy sloping deck. This picture survived, and eventually won the photographer (who survived) a Pulitzer Prize as best news photo of the year. It still pops up in books of classic photographs. It also beats the famous series of photos of the sinking of the Andrea Doria in 1956 (by nearly thirty years). Those photos also won the Pulitzer Prize.
I'd be very curious about this episode. If it is about the sinking, it is probably the only time that tragedy was on television or any media after 1928. And I wonder what Karloff was doing on it. His character is "Dr. Pierre". Is he the ship's doctor, or is he a passenger?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Troubled Mary Norrich (well played by Rita Lynn) embarks on her first voyage on her sea captain husband Robert Norrich's (an excellent performance by Torin Thatcher) ship. Mary has a vision of a ghostly apparition (a perfectly cast Boris Karloff) who tries to tell her of some kind of impending danger. Alas, Mary can't convince her husband or the other crew members that something is amiss. Director Arthur Hiller and writer David A. Evans handle the fantastic elements of the story in an admirably matter of fact and non-sensational way, thereby neatly grounding the rather far-fetched premise in a certain plausible reality. The credible evocation of the 1828 period setting rates as another substantial plus. The sturdy acting helps a lot as well: Lynn and Thatcher do fine work in the leads, Tommy Duggan lends able support as no-nonsense first mate William Lloyd, and Karloff makes the most out of his regrettably small roles as both the specter and kindly physician Dr. Pierre. Paul Ivano's crisp black and white cinematography makes nice use of artful fades and dissolves while the fog-shrouded nighttime scenes are quite striking and atmospheric. A nifty little tale.
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