The Ghost Ship (1943)

This was a lost Val Lewton movie for some time. That’s because the producer was sued for plagiarism by playwrights Samuel R. Golding and Norbert Faulkner, who claimed that they had submitted a script of this story to him as a possible movie. As a result, the film was taken out of theaters and not shown for fifty years, at which point it became available in the public domain. The whole affair deeply upset Lewton for a long period of time.

Tom Merriam (Russell Wade) is a a young merchant marine officer new to the ship Altair. He bonds with Captain William Stone (Richard Dix), even as the ship begins to lose crew members. The captain starts to seem weak at best — unable to save a man with an emergency appendectomy until Tom covers for him — and murderous at worst — crushing another crewmember named Louie (Lawrence Tierney!) who spoke against him.

Merriam quickly realizes that the captain has gone insane, but he has an entire crew on his side and thre may be no way for him to survive. Even when our hero tries to save the men by pointing out the captain’s madness, they continue to take his side.

Using the fictional island of San Sebastian from I Walked with a Zombie and much of Lewton’s stock company like Ben Bard, Sir Lancelot and Edith Barrett, this is another example of his lean films. Director Mark Robson also was behind another one of my favorite Lewton films, The Seventh Victim.

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