Tom Merriam signs on the ship Altair as third officer under Captain Stone. At first things look good, Stone sees Merriam as a younger version of himself and Merriam sees Stone as the first ...
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Tom Merriam signs on the ship Altair as third officer under Captain Stone. At first things look good, Stone sees Merriam as a younger version of himself and Merriam sees Stone as the first adult to ever treat him as a friend. But after a couple strange deaths of crew members, Merriam begins to think Stone is a psychopathic madman obsessed with authority. He tries to tell others, but no one believes him, and it only makes Stone angry..Written by
Ken Yousten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
RKO had built an expensive ship set for their 1938 production Pacific Liner (1939). Val Lewton was given instructions to come up with a film that could use the still existing set. See more »
DVD subtitles mistake: Tertius meets the Captain's fiancée, Miss Roberts, transcribed as "Ms. Roberts." The title "Ms." has been around since the 17th century, but wasn't popular with the general public until 1971. Hitherto it was used only in exclusive writing societies which the barely literate Tertius could not have been part of. See more »
3rd Officer Tom Merriam:
[Approaches Jim, busy working on the railing]
But Jim, can't you understand what I'm trying to tell you?
3rd Officer Tom Merriam:
[Jim ignores him, keeps on working]
But Louie was your pal - the best friend you had on board. How do you think your pal was caught in the chain locker? Do you think that door closed itself?
If you'll take my advice, you'll quit trying to start trouble around here.
3rd Officer Tom Merriam:
[the Boatswain's Mate approaches them]
Boats, you're a sensible man...
Listen, kid, quit tryin' to stir up trouble with the crew ...
[...] See more »
Well written, dark, tense and atmospheric film that was much better than I expected
Tom Merriam takes a job as the Third Officer on the cargo ship The Altair. Despite a strange interaction with a blind man in port, things look good for Tom as the ship appears good and the Captain is amiable enough. Finding that his bed is still a mess from when the last Third died there is a little disturbing but he gets past it and begins to work. When the Captain puts lives at risk rather than be seen to have his authority questioned by Merriam, Tom starts to worry that the Captain is living within his own head too much a worry reinforced when more men and put at risk and deaths are caused; but how can he change things? Apparently commissioned because RKO had an expensive ship set knocking around that they wanted to get more use out of, this film is surprisingly enjoyable and works because it tries to shun melodrama and be something much more interesting. This is not to say it totally does this, because it doesn't, but it does have plenty of good things about it. The story is fairly standard in appearance but the Captain's "madness" is convincing and realistic he is not a gibbering loon but rather a man who appears to have lost touch with reality thanks to a lonely and sad life to date. Within this story the script develops the characters well so that they rise above being the stock figures of b-movie fare. With a low key story, the production still really goes for it on atmosphere and produces an air of foreboding and menace that is present from the very start. Shadows are well used, fog drifts over the decks and the music is constantly moving darkly in the background menacing without ever being overused or overbearing.
The cast do very well with this product. Wade was surprisingly good in the lead and it made me wonder why I have never knowingly seen him in anything else. He was a pretty regular guy and came off natural rather than being the square-jawed hero that is often the norm. He plays second fiddle to Dix though, who sets up a strangely friendly character who convincingly moves into a sort of madness that is convincing. He avoids being a monster and naturally questions himself while also producing a character that we feel for Dix is not just a "baddie" to Wade's "goodie". Barrett is so-so but the film didn't need her and her scene slows the film by taking it off the ship albeit briefly. Support is good from Glover, Overall an enjoyable film that produces the goods on many levels and is much better than I thought it was going to be. The plot seems simple but the writing respect the audience and makes the story more interesting than the usual goodie/baddie fare. The atmospheric and tense production only helps to produce a punchy, mysterious film that is well worth seeing even if the ending needed to be a bit stronger and darker but this is a minor flaw.
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