Moby Dick

Screening on Film
Directed by John Huston.
With Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, Orson Welles.
UK, 1956, 35mm, color, 116 min.

Critically acclaimed but a failure commercially, Huston's ambitious adaptation of Melville's maritime epic began with a screenplay by the celebrated science-fiction novelist Ray Bradbury (revised in production by Huston). While shifting discursive details into action and transforming speculative rumination into dialogue, Huston's Moby Dick remains extraordinarily faithful to the tone of the book and to its perilous portrayal of the whaling industry. The film is notable not only for its pronounced mid-nineteenth-century look and what critic Bosley Crowthers described as its "strange, subdued color scheme" (achieved by desaturating the Technicolor stock with a matching black-and-white negative) but for the visceral quality of its action sequences, which frequently placed Huston and his crew in real peril.

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Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive: Directors E–J