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Monday, February 13, 2017

Phantom Ship (1935)

Starring Bela Lugosi, Shirley Grey, Arthur Margetson, Edmund Willard, Dennis Hoey
Directed by Denison Clift
(actor & director credits courtesy

The crew of the Mary Celeste are murdered one by one in this presentation of a possible explanation for the mystery of the real-life sailing ship that was found with no one aboard.

Most notable as one of the first productions of the Hammer Films company, who would become world famous for their horror movies a few decades later, the film ironically stars horror icon Lugosi as a seaman aboard the doomed vessel.  Although Lugosi of course played many dark characters throughout his career, this may be the more tortured role he ever played, and the actor does a fine job of delivering anguish and despair through limited dialogue.  As a mystery, it's not among the finer examples of the genre, and we don't get to know a number of characters very well before they're killed off, but a number of scenes aboard ship with eerie silence on the soundtrack except for the whistling wind buffeting the craft are certainly effective.  I've read the original prologue and epilogue were cut from the American release of the film, which is all that apparently exists today, and wonder if they would add some clarity to the picture if restored.

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