The sole survivor of a lost whaling ship relates the tale of his Captain's self-destructive obsession to hunt the white whale, Moby Dick.The sole survivor of a lost whaling ship relates the tale of his Captain's self-destructive obsession to hunt the white whale, Moby Dick.The sole survivor of a lost whaling ship relates the tale of his Captain's self-destructive obsession to hunt the white whale, Moby Dick.
What went wrong? Well, it might have helped if the makers had respected the audience's intelligence and used (as Huston did) as much of Melville's language as possible. Alright, all viewers will understand the meaning of a "flat calm sea", but surely a "soft and dirge-like main" is so much more evocative. Worse still, Ahab's major speeches ("pasteboard masks" and "mild, mild day") are chopped by the writers and thrown away by the direction, leaving us with a story about a man who for some reason wants to chase one particular whale, his true motivation is completely lost.
Patrick Stewart did a decent job as Ahab given the circumstances but with that loss of motivation he lost the mythical, superhuman stature the character needs to give the story greatness. Gregory Peck was fine as Father Mapple (again, the sermon was chopped down until it was meaningless, depriving the actor of his best opportunity to make a lasting impression).
The supporting cast are best described as nondescript, ranting their dialogue. Starbuck is completely miscast. His opposition to Ahab is shown by surly sulking and droning on about the financial purpose of the voyage. He doesn't seem to realise the true nature of Ahab's obsession at all. Even the small but crucial appearance of Elijah (where Royal Dano had two superb minutes in 1956) is turned into a caricature who adds nothing to the mythical dimension of the story.
The effects were adequate although, for some reason I never felt the Pequod was actually moving, even in the storm scenes. Strange that a film set on a small sailing ship should feel to static.
As for Moby Dick himself, I've always felt that in Huston's film he was a *character* with an individual personality. In this version Moby Dick is just a whale, and that sums up the failure of the film as a whole.
- Nov 6, 2000