THE GHOST SHIP (1943) B/W 70m dir: Mark Robson
w/Richard Dix, Russell Wade, Edith Barrett, Ben Bard, Lawrence Tierney, Edmund Glover, Skelton Knaggs, Tom Burton, Steve Winston, Robert Bice, Dewey Robinson, Charles Lung, George De Normand, Paul Marion, Sir Lancelot, Boyd Davis, Harry Clay, Russell Owen, John Burford, Eddie Borden, Mike Lally, Charles Regan, Nolan Leery, Herbert Vigran, Shirley O'Hara, Alec Craig, Bob Stevenson, Charles Norton, Norman Mayes
From Leonard Maltin's 1999 Movie & Video Guide: "Offbeat [producer] Val Lewton melodrama about young man who signs on merchant ship run by power-crazy captain (Dix) who's obsessed with 'authority.'"
From Joel E. Siegel's Val Lewton: The Reality of Terror: "The Ghost Ship is among Lewton's finest achievements. One hesitates in making it sound too appetizing, fir The Ghost Ship is virtually a lost film. After Lewton and RKO lost the plagiarism suit, it was withdrawn from distribution. In the Fifties, when the entire RKO film library was sold to television and 16 mm. prints were being hurriedly ground out in a South American laboratory, a few prints of The Ghost Ship were struck and distributed to American television stations. The film received a few scattered television airings in the late Fifties, but is seldom, if ever, shown today . It took me over two years to track down a print to KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. No sooner had I arrived at the station and settled down to watch the film than the projector I was using burst into flames. The print was spared serious damage, but I did get the distinct feeling that some power somewhere didn't want to have I seen.
"The film was worth waiting for: it is such a beautifully crafted thriller, so rich in atmosphere and detail that one hopes the legal snarls can be untangled to allow a revival. The charges of plagiarism against Lewton, [Leo] Mittler [who wrote the original story] and [Donald Henderson] Clarke [who wrote the script] are absurd: surely their tale, like the yarn in The Immortal Story, has been told since men first began sailing the seas. ...
"The Ghost Ship is an extremely handsome production. Lewton was given a large, unusually impressive ship set from an earlier film and was therefore able to employ techniques --- like the long, long tracking shot of Tom [Wade] and the captain walking on deck --- which were usually forbidden by budgetary restrictions. Visually, Mark Robson's direction is a decided improvement over The Seventh Victim. A number of low-angled, steam-and-mist filled set-ups recall his early days with Orson Welles, and throughout the film is distinguished by a stylistic fluidity rarely noticeable in Robson's subsequent efforts. As is the case with Lewton's best films, the story is told in a series of carefully assembled small, pointed scenes. From time to time, shots of the Finn are used as transitional images, like the statue in I Walked With a Zombie .
"Apart from Edmund Glover [Sparks], a bit stiff delivering some admittedly stilted lines, the cast performs beautifully. Richard Dix and Russell Wade are well-matched, even looking alike enough to amplify the rather Hitchcockian transfer-of-guilt elements in the screenplay. And as usual, the faces of Lewton regulars like Sir Lancelot [Billy Radd] and Ben Bard [Bowns] appear at the edges of the film.
"Only the absence of Lewton's characteristically bleak metaphysical touches prevents The Ghost Ship from rivalling [sic] his finest productions. However, it is a strong, chilling, wonderfully made thriller which connects with some very personal concerns of the producer. When Captain Stone says that he fears only failure, I could not help but think of something Jacques Tourneur told me. Every time the phone rang in Lewton's office, he would say 'I'm fired!' before answering the call. One could take The Ghost Ship's ambivalent attitude towards authority --- scenes are carefully included to ensure that we view the Captain sympathetically, in spite of his madness --- as some sign of Lewton's own complex feelings about the dangers and powers of being a movie producer."