Friday, October 01, 2010

Tonight's Movie: The Last Voyage (1960)

THE LAST VOYAGE is the nerve-wracking tale of a sinking ocean liner and a husband (Robert Stack) trying to save his trapped wife (Dorothy Malone) before it's too late.

THE LAST VOYAGE isn't a top-drawer disaster film, but it's worth seeing, especially due to the authentic setting: it was filmed aboard a real cruise ship, the Ile de France. The ship was due to be junked and was destroyed bit by bit as the disaster movie was filmed. According to an article posted at TCM, the cast and crew occasionally found themselves in genuine peril, given the challenging filming environment.

The action begins during the opening credits sequence, when the ship's captain (George Sanders) is handed a note advising him of a fire. Before you know it, there's an explosion, and when passenger Cliff Henderson (Stack) returns to his stateroom, he finds his wife Laurie (Malone) trapped under a steel beam and their 4-year-old daughter Jill (Tammy Marihugh) perched precariously at the edge of a large hole in the floor.

Cliff must single-handedly find a way to reach Jill and get her to safety, then accomplish what may be impossible, freeing his wife. The ship meanwhile is sinking, and when it can no longer be saved, two brave crew members (Woody Strode and Edmond O'Brien) risk their lives to help Cliff and Laurie.

This is not exactly what I'd call a relaxing film to watch, but it's an entertaining 91 minutes. As a Robert Stack fan, I found it particularly enjoyable. He's very believable as the all-American devoted husband and daddy.

Poor George Sanders is stuck playing somewhat of a dimwit as the disbelieving captain, but he's such a superb actor that of course he's believable in the role. Woody Strode is a reassuring presence as the brave crewman with a heart who risks his life for strangers.

Dorothy Malone is excellent as the trapped woman who wants her husband to leave her behind so their daughter won't be an orphan. I couldn't help thinking that the character would have nightmares about the event for the rest of her life! Malone had previously costarred with Stack in two Douglas Sirk films, WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956) and THE TARNISHED ANGELS (1957).

Alas, I have to admit that I didn't enjoy little Tammy Marihugh as the daughter. She cries very believably, but it was not a particularly appealing performance, and among other things she looked nothing like her ostensible parents. The actress was also apparently a few years older than her character, and that added to something feeling "off" about the casting.

THE LAST VOYAGE was written and directed by Andrew L. Stone (A BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER). Stone produced the film with his wife Virginia, who was the film's editor; the multi-tasking Stones also cowrote the film's score.

THE LAST VOYAGE has been released on DVD and VHS.

Last August this movie was shown on Turner Classic Movies during Robert Stack's day of the Summer Under the Stars Festival.

TCM has the action-packed trailer available here.


Blogger Gordon Pasha said...

Laura: I am partial to films showing famous ships because of a long held interest in maritime history. And (as you cite) here we have a great transatlantic liner, the famous “Île de France,” as well, in her death throes. I was never aboard her, but she did noble service and played that crucial role which Jacqueline wrote about (in August) when the ship went to the aid of the sinking “Andrea Doria.” The maritime community and those who loved the great ocean liners were not pleased with the ignominious use to which “Île de France” was employed. Desecration. None of this reflects on the film, or the cast, of course, who did a very good job in more than adverse circumstances. Another very good review. Best. Gerald.

5:38 AM  

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