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The Ghost Ship

Screening on Film
Directed by Mark Robson.
With Richard Dix, Russell Wade, Edith Barrett.
US, 1943, 35mm, black & white, 69 min.
Print source: Warner Bros.

Long withheld from circulation because of a baseless plagiarism charge, The Ghost Ship was hailed as Lewton’s hidden masterpiece when it was revived in the 1990s. A simmering Hitchcockian conflict between an authoritarian captain and greenhorn officer occupies center stage, but Lewton’s predilection for sharply drawn bit players finds ideal expression in the ship’s crew. Most memorably, a mute sailor played by Skelton Knaggs whispers on the voiceover about fate and death as he sharpens a gleaming knife. The scenes of horror are no less haunting for their cold plausibility: one crewman is swallowed by a coiling anchor chain after the captain has blocked his exit from the compartment. Director Mark Robson takes full advantage of the ship’s angled sightlines, with a constant shroud of fog lending the picture a ghastly, if not ghostly, air. 

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The Glitter of Putrescence. Val Lewton at RKO

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