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The Lightship (1963)

Das Feuerschiff (original title)
Religiously principled Captain Freytag must choose between his morals and the safety of his crew and his young son, when three ruthless criminals on the run take over his lighthouse.


Ladislao Vajda


Siegfried Lenz (story), Curt Siodmak
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
James Robertson Justice ... Kapitän Freytag
Helmut Wildt Helmut Wildt ... Dr. Caspary
Dieter Borsche ... Steuermann Rethorn
Pinkas Braun ... Funker Philippi
Michael Hinz ... Fred Freytag
Georg Lehn Georg Lehn ... Gombert
Günter Mack Günter Mack ... Zumpe
Simon Martin Simon Martin ... Martin
Werner Peters ... Trittel
Sieghardt Rupp ... Eugen
Wolfgang Völz Wolfgang Völz
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Xavier Cugat
Aldo Fabrizi
Abbe Lane


Religiously principled Captain Freytag must choose between his morals and the safety of his crew and his young son, when three ruthless criminals on the run take over his lighthouse.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama


See all certifications »



West Germany



Release Date:

26 October 1964 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Crime on the High Seas See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Fono Film, Süd-Film See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Black and White | Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Remade as Das Feuerschiff (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

This May Well Be The Best Version to date of "The Lightship" (Das Feuerschiff)
22 July 2014 | by krocheavSee all my reviews

This fine film screened on US TV under the title "Crime On The High Seas", it also won the Silver Award for 'Outstanding Feature Film' of 1963. The semi allegorical story, written by prominent Polish born novelist Siegfried Lenz in 1960 as 'Das Feuerschiff' (the book remains in print today) has been filmed 3 times to date. Lenz is also known throughout the world for his iconic 1968 - highly regarded novel: "The German Lesson".

For the original story of 'The Lightship', humanist Lenz, cleverly weaves a brutal conventional crime story, into a situation offering a symbolic parable - exposing the drive for power employed by all destructive forces (IE: the Nazi party and other war mongers, who use bulling tactics to control vulnerable communities). Within the situations Lenz sets up he exposes the devastating impact these forces inflict on the innocent by-stander. Lenz thoughtfully creates an illustration that perhaps invites the viewer to consider the adage: "Evil triumphs when good men do nothing".

As a young man Lenz was drafted into the German Navy, but defected to Denmark. Turning himself over to the British he became a prisoner of war, interned in Schleswig-Holstein. For the majority of his life he has artistically expressed regret felt amongst many Germans for the damage inflicted on the world by certain followers under their infamous fuhrer's regime. In latter years he has been awarded the prestigious Goethe prize, as well as the German Book Club Peace prize.

Having also seen the 1985 American re-make of 'The Lightship', I personally felt this earlier film far out-shone the rather poorly constructed later production with its many scenes that failed to gel due to post production problems. The later version also tended to leave much of the original stories depth somewhat lost at sea. But, for those who haven't seen the original and if color is important to you, it might offer some interest.

The '63 vers also had the distinction of being one of few films to feature London born (of strong Scottish ancestry) James Robertson Justice in an important dramatic lead. Justice is better known for a string of British comedies, as well as the epic 1961 drama 'The Guns of Navarone'. He was an interesting choice for the role of Captain of the Lightship - having himself felt the sting of Nazism while earlier serving as a policeman with the League of Nations in a region under German governance. While Justice had a command of many languages, including German - in the film he speaks English. Other cast members include prolific German actor: Dieter Borsche and Helmut Wildt as Dr Caspary.

The Director is multi talented Austrian-Hungarian born Ladislao Vajda, who is known for the controversial "It Happened in Broad Daylight" '58 and the charming "Miracle of Marcelino" '55 ~ also for writing one of the episodes that made up "The Story of Three Loves" '53. Vajda also wrote the play "Grounds for Divorce", which played on stage in the UK.

The screenplay for "Crime On The High Seas" was adapted for the screen by German born writer (who based himself in America) Curt Siodmak. Siodmak has a mixed bag of popular work to his credit including: "Berlin Express" '48 ~ "Donovan's Brain" '53 ~ "Hauser's Memory" '70, and the classic: "The Wolfman" 41 ~ among others.

The Cinematographer was German: Heinz Pehlice who in '59 shot the atmospheric "Ship of The Dead". I have not yet seen the 2008 version of 'Lightship', made for TV, but hope that experience may come soon. As for the original, it seems the German Film Institute hold a print and rights of this important work. In the era of DVDS, etc, it's criminal this version seems to have remained unavailable to the world. One hopes a TV channel or cable may see their way to screening it after so long neglected. Watch for it, or find it...if you can!

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