(1943) dir. Mark Robson
The b-side of the Val Lewton double feature disc The Leopard Man (1943), The Ghost Ship is the first of several films directed by Mark Robson for Val Lewton, the first, in fact, of Robson’s films credited as director. According to some, Robson was more aligned with Lewton’s vision than other directors with whom he worked, but The Ghost Ship is the first of his films that I have seen. You can see that Lewton’s hand is clear across the various films that he produced, a consistent style and thematic bent, with various directors at the helm.
The Ghost Ship is an effective and strange sea-faring tale, a sort of poor man’s version of something like Melville’s Billy Budd or Jack London’s The Sea Wolf, the story of a young man gone to sea with a intellectual, maniacal father-figure of a captain. While the film decidedly fails to achieve the heights of power of those books, it does an impressively effective job of cribbing together the drama, trapped at sea with a paranoid, angered crew and a captain who has murder in his heart, all in less than 70 minutes.
In pressing through with the backlog of Val Lewton’s RKO films, this, as I mentioned, is the first of several that Robson wound up directing for him, though not one of the ones that particularly called out to me. I guess that’s kind of the benefit of the double-feature packaging. It might take me even longer to reach out for each film individually, but even late as it was in the night, after having so quickly zipped through the effective and effecting The Leopard Man, I found myself just pushing forward and watching the next one.
Gotta love it.