• Death Ship (Blu-ray)

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: May 30th, 2018.
    Director: Alvin Rakoff
    Cast: George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Nick Mancuso, Saul Rubinek, Sally Anne Howes
    Year: 1980
    Purchase From Ronin Flix

    The Movie:

    When Scorpion Releasing put Death Ship out on DVD back in 2012, Todd Jordan had this to say:

    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 and soon to replace Ashland. He’s 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) while nightclub entertainer Jackie (Saul Rubinek) does what he can to keep the passengers smiling. The evening’s festivities are in full swing one night, when the ship is suddenly struck by a 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 the 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. 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.


    Scorpion Releasing brings Death Ship in its longest available version to limited edition Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in a transfer taken from a ‘new 2K scan of the original interpositive of the longer cut’ and it looks excellent. Aside from a scratch or two here and there, the image is very clean and boasts fantastic color reproduction. Detail is strong throughout, and while some scenes show heavier grain than others, but black levels are solid and there’s no evidence of noise reduction – this is a pleasantly film-like and well-authored transfer that presents the picture in very impressive shape. Shadow detail is solid, those dark and spooky interior shots of the ship look great, and black levels are strong while the image remains free of any obvious compression artifacts or edge enhancement related issues. Really, no complaints here – this is a very solid effort.

    English language tracks are provided in a new DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track or in the original 2.0 Mono mix with optional subtitles provided in English only. The 5.1 mix mostly just spreads out the score and the effects into the rear channels a bit and keeps the dialogue up front. The mono track is obviously the ‘purist route’ and it sounds just fine. Both track are clean and clear and nicely balanced, and free of any hiss or distortion.

    Carried over from the Nucleus UK DVD release is an audio commentary with director Alvin Rakoff and Jonathan Rigby, the man that wrote English Gothic, serving as the perfect moderator. Rakoff talks about the film’s origins, how it wound up a Canadian/UK co-production, shooting locations, dealing with the cast, issues with the locations, his thoughts on the film and more. Any time he clams up, Rigby is pretty much right in there with some insight of his own, be it a fact about the picture that he’s dug up or some insightful analysis of what works – and sometimes what doesn’t.

    Also carried over from that same UK release is the excellent forty-two-minute documentary Stormy Seas featuring input from Rakoff, writer Jack Hill and cast members George Kennedy and Mick Mancuso. This one covers a lot of ground, from Rakoff’s involvement in the film and his thoughts on the subject matter to Jack Hill’s original story and his take on how and why it was taken away from him as well as his thoughts on what was done to it. The documentary also covers what each of the core cast members was able to bring to the project, with some insight into their performances and thoughts on what it was like working on the project (including being involved in the film’s somewhat infamous blood shower sequence). Overall, the documentary is very well put together and quite interesting – be sure to take the time to watch this if you’re a fan of the film or just generally interested in how quirky, oddball movies like Death Ship are made.

    This wasn’t part of Scorpion’s “Katarina’s Nightmare Theater” brand, but the old DVD release has the option to watch it with her hosting bookends to the film – and that’s carried over on this Blu-ray reissue. 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, plus a trailer for the feature and a few bonus trailers for other Scorpion Releasing properties. Menus and chapter stops round out what’s on the disc itself, but as far as the packaging goes we get a nice reversible cover sleeve as well as a limited-edition slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    A successfully eerie movie that proves you don’t need flashy effects to make an effective ghost story, Death Ship holds up quite well. It might not be perfect, but it’s moody and creepy and it features some memorable set pieces and solid effects work. Scorpion’s new Blu-ray release looks and sounds excellent and not only carries over the extras from the past DVD edition but includes the commentary and documentary from the UK disc, both of which are excellent, for good measure. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!