Friday, August 30, 2002


I'm a fan of Chester Morris--he wasn't really a first-rank actor, but he had a look and energy that often made him exciting to watch. This, however, was pretty much a total disappointment, although the plotline had a lot of potential. Morris plays a doctor on a cruise ship headed from Singapore to the US; when cholera breaks out below decks among the boiler room men, he has his hands full trying to care for the men, contain the illness, and deal with the ornery foreman, Victor McLaglen. There's also the pretty and demure nurse (Wendy Barrie) who only has eyes for Morris though McLaglen keeps trying, in his boorish but ultimately harmless way, to woo her. The cholera plot keeps threatening to become interesting, but perhaps because of the low budget, we're mostly confined to just a couple of cabins and the boiler room. The boiler room set is nicely done, but the passengers on the ship are only seen in passing and the whole thing winds up feeling a bit claustrophobic, and not in a way that adds needed tension.

McLaglen outdoes Morris for energy; Morris seems uncomfortable up against the blustry older actor. Alan Hale and Barry Fitzgerald are in the supporting cast. Barrie, who played a wife opposite Charles Laughton in THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII, wound up working mostly in B-pictures; I remember her from a couple of Falcon movies. Everett Brown, Big Sam from GONE WITH THE WIND, has an interesting, non-stereotyped bit as the lone black man on the ship. This mostly forgotten low-budget film actually got an Oscar nomination for best musical score, but I can't say the music was especially memorable.

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