29 May 2009

Hitchcock | Lifeboat (1944)

Lifeboat (1944)
written by Jo Swerling and an uncredited Ben Hecht, based on a story by John Steinbeck

It's interesting what sixty-five years of shifting culture will change. Watching this movie, I was expecting Willy, the Nazi, to end up being an OK guy. After all, this is what would invariably happen in a modern movie. A movie made in 2009 would use Willy as a way to comment on the prejudices of the regular Americans and Brits in the boat. Willy would reveal that he was drafted and didn't buy that Nazi crap. The characters on the boat would slowly realize how much in common they have with their enemy. At the end, Willy would sacrifice himself for the good of all and they'd close out the movie feeling sorry for their suspicions and reevaluating their preconceptions. I didn't realize how sick I am of that plot device until I watched this film.

Admittedly, Lifeboat is a little preachy itself. Americans and Brits from all social strata need to stop their squabbling, get together and beat the hell out of the Nazis. Literally, they do this. Not very subtle. Still, this an excellent film even if it does serve as propaganda. A great mix of characters keep the boat lively with action, even if we can't physically move elsewhere. I was initially worried that Tallulah Bankhead's character might be too much -- like Willie in Temple of Doom -- but she balanced her portrayal perfectly, never allowing Connie to delve into throw-her-overboard annoyance.

I love it when Hitchcock does these experiments. Is it possible to make a full-length movie set entirely on a lifeboat? Yes, and it can be done quite well. I'm looking forward to re-watching Rope to see him do it again. (8/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Fox in 2008 as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection. The transfer's okay, except for some damaged sections near the beginning.