Review by Michael Jacobson
Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Sleazak, John Hodiak, Hume
Cronyn, Canada Lee
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Audio: Dolby Mono, Dolby Stereo
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: Commentary, Making-Of Featurette, Photo Gallery
Length: 96 Minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2005
together is even more personal than living together."
Hitchcock was seemingly always looking for that next cinematic boundary to push,
and with Lifeboat, he did it by confining rather than expanding the
canvas. The whole movie takes place
in a small boat adrift in the Atlantic during World War II, with a cast of
striking characters and a storyline that pushes the notion of survival to harsh
on the story by John Steinbeck, Hitch's film explores the interrelations between
some widely varied people who end up in a lifeboat together after a sea battle
left an Allied ship and a German U-boat destroyed.
Legendary stage star Tallulah Bankhead is at her finest as an
aristocratic, materialistic reporter who frequently surprises her boatmates and
we, the audience, with her strong touches of humanity at unexpected moments.
her are some Navy men, including one with a wounded leg becoming increasingly
problematic, a young nurse, a black steward, and...surprisingly enough, a
shipwrecked Nazi, who doesn't speak English.
Facing death in the open sea, can people put aside their philosophical
differences long enough to survive? That's
just one of the movie's many suspenseful questions, and the answers aren't
always what you think.
plot is easily sketched...in fact, to reveal more would be to hit upon surprise
twists in the narrative that I could never deprive of a first-time viewer.
Suffice to say that within confined spaces, Hitchcock serves up some of
his best technical work as a director. Over
the 90 minute running time, you'll find that shots within the boat don't really
repeat. He finds new and better ways to use his camera, and the
constant motion of the waves keep images from becoming static.
the screenplay by Jo Swerling has to be credited too. Put a few people in a boat in the middle of nowhere, and
maybe nothing happens. But the
script, based on Steinbeck's story, crafts intriguing chemistries between the
characters, and turns a simple story of survival into an all out drama on the
Bankhead is a real joy...she didn't do many film roles, but apparently she was
Hitchcock's first choice as star for this picture. Her radiance helps anchor the situational drama, and her
ability to find the human being inside of a fur coat and jewelry really helps to
propel the story.
survival isn't the basest of human instincts.
What surfaces in the face of doom can sometimes be more alarming than
death itself. Lifeboat masterfully
explores that situation, and the result is one of Alfred Hitchcock's most
TRIVIA: How does Hitch make his
famous cameo in a movie that takes place in a lifeboat on open water? Here's
a hint: read all about it.
quite what I was hoping...Lifeboat is a 60 year old film, and pretty much
looks it. The black and white
transfer seemed in need of a little restoration work. Spots and marks are frequently noticeable, as is a bit of
grain and flicker. Images are
generally sharp and contrast levels good, so the disc is watchable, but not
can choose between original mono or newer stereo tracks.
I didn't notice much difference. The
audio is fair but shows its age with a little noise here and there.
Dialogue is generally well rendered, but the effects and music score
don't add up to much dynamic range.
professor Drew Casper offers an insightful commentary that deals with Hitchcock
himself, the actors, the characters and evolution of the story.
Students will definitely learn a thing or two from his thoughts.
There is also a new making-of documentary, which is a treat, and a still