Released by: Scorpion Releasing
Released on: 11/6/2012
Director: Alvin Rakoff
Cast: George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Nick Mancuso, Saul Rubinek, Sally Anne Howes
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A luxury cruise ship is out to sea, minding its own business. The ship’s Captain Ashland, played by George Kennedy, is bitter about having to cart all the tourists around and sit with them to give them a thrill, something to talk about to their friends. Trevor (Richard Crenna) is second in command, living aboard the luxury liner with his wife Mararet (Sally Ann Howes) and their two window licking kids in tow. Manly Nick Mancuso plays appropriately named crewmember Nick, who has some fun with hot guest Lori (Victoria Burgoyne). The evening’s festivities are in full swing one night, when the ship is suddenly struck by large vessel. The Love Boat goes down like a rock and the next morning the survivors - all of the above along with an older broad (Kate Reid) - are stranded at sea in a little life boat.
Just when all seems hopeless, a big freighter is suddenly anchored right behind them, and without questioning their luck they make efforts to board. But right away, the boat shows signs of not being overly welcoming. Determined to find the people running the boat, they split off to also find food, supplies, lodging, a bloody shower…all the while hearing German commands crackling over the intercom system. Before long the boat commandeers the will of Captain Kennedy and things go south from there for everyone.
Oft times, Death Ship feels more like a made-for-tv movie than a big screen movie, and if not for the particularly captivating shower scene, it probably could have been. But even so, this movie is filled with great moments of creepiness that are really well executed. It also does well with creating an imposing sense of isolation. The ship is of course a character and inability of non-German speaking viewers to understand what is being said over the loud speakers adds to mood and the ominous feeling that the passengers are doomed. The creaky, dark, and rusty old boat makes for a great setting for a horror movie and the filmmakers exploit it to the fullest. The place looks like you’d need Tetanus shots just from looking at it.
Another thing this movie has going for it is the fact that it never goes for the easy laughs, not even for a little brevity. And even before the boats collide there’s a sense of darkness in George Kennedy’s character that doesn’t get laid out to the audience in some monologue, other than a moment where he shares his dislike for operating a cruise ship instead of a crew of soldiers. He’s downtrodden, and you just know there’s something more to it. The ghost boat sure knew it.
Mixed performances are really the only thing that bruises the film, but it’s no big deal really. Aside from the crappy kid actors, most of the folks do fine. No real standouts though, as no one seems really on their best game here. Blatant stock footage and a ghostly boat that doesn’t actually move through the water (the camera crew filmed a stationary boat as they rode by on another boat to simulate motion) might cause a chuckle or two.
Once again Scorpion has given new life to a neglected movie, giving Death Ship a nice new transfer to DVD (and presumably on the soon-to-be-released Blu-ray). The image has great detail, vibrant whites, deep blacks, and the colors look great. The bright blue sky and deep blue water stand out pretty strikingly with the rusty and grungy old boat against them. It’s got the signs of an older, lower budget movie but it looks pretty darned impressive.
For sound, a simple mono track plays off the two channels, and things seem in order. Good balance, dialogue is easy to understand, and no real problems with unwanted noise in the form of hissing and popping.
This isn’t part of the “Katarina’s Nightmare Theater” brand, but the extras menu has the option to watch it with her hosting bookends to the film. This feature isn’t on the main menu. Also, Ms. Waters has a quick segment where she interprets the German dialogue the ship sputters out over the intercom. An isolated score is available for those interested, four minutes of deleted scenes, plus a trailer for the feature and trailers for other discs from Scorpion Releasing (Silent Scream, Humongous, The Hearse, Don’t Answer the Phone!, and Mortuary)
The Final Word:
A successfully eerie movie that proves you don’t need flashy effects to make an effective ghost story. An enjoyable movie with an excellent picture and a good portioning of extras makes this one recommended.