harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Movie Review: 1944's Lifeboat



Starring: Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, John Hodiak, Hume Cronyn, Canada Lee

DIR: Alfred Hitchcock

Blurbing: Nominated for three Academy Awards, Alfred Hitchcock's gripping World War II drama is a remarkable story of human survival. After their ship is sunk in the Atlantic by Germans, eight people are stranded in a lifeboat. Their problems are further compounded when they pick up a ninth passenger - the Nazi captain from the U-boat that torpedoed them. With powerful suspense and emotion, this legendary classic reveals the strengths and frailties of individuals under extraordinary duress.

We open with credits over a smoke stack of the ship that is about to be torpedoed....

Scene 01: The scene starts directly from the credits as we slow-pan out from the smoke stack to see that the ship is sailing on foggy seas. We hear a boom in the background as we watch the smokestack bobbing. As we watch, the smoke stack takes a precipitous dive under the surface....

There are roiling seas where the vessel has obviously gone down. We pan away from this....

Over the surface we've panned to, we see a crate marked "AMCROSS" with the internationally recognized sign for the American Red Cross. The crate is marked as bound for Britain. Nearby, we see potatoes and other detritus floating on the surface. We continue to pan as we hear American voices calling out to one another.

Among the debris in the water is a German sailor, face down. His life jacket identifies him as a member of the U-78 boat.

Commentary: As you can see, this is real econony of story telling in a very smart way. We're getting, through visuals only, everything we need to know about the disaster - including the fact that the German boat didn't escape undamaged.

We stop our pan in order to see a lone lifeboat floating in the distance.

Scene 02: We fade closer and see there is a single occupant - a woman gazing out over the wreckage on the surface of the water. A jump takes us in closer and we see that she's obviously someone with money. Not only is she wearing a fur, but she managed to bring some of her bags with her.

Scene 03: She smokes a cigarette as she notes with irritation the run in her stocking....

Scene 04: From a short distance away a man floating in the sea calls out an 'Ahoy, there' to the lifeboat. He's barely visible in the fog. As the man swims for the raft, our woman grabs up her video camera and films him swimming toward her.

She gives him a hand into the boat, discovering he's covered in oil. They exchange dialog about what had happened. The lifeboat was left unfilled because it has been damaged, but our woman tells the crewman that it looked good to her as the ship was going down. He's a surviver from engineering, as he was washing his hands in the restroom when the torpedo hit.

Some mention is made of the carnage that was aboard the doomed vessel as they begin to grab possibly useful items from the sea.

The man recognizes the woman as Constance Porter - a reporter of sorts, we must assume as she's awfully excited over the images she captured of the aftermath of the attack. She's rather insensitive in her glee, actually. A point he makes as he deliberately ruins her shot of floating debris, reminding her that the 'carnage' she is so excited over was partially made of human bodies.

Scene 05: There is another voice from off camera, and our seaman rushes to the tiller to maneuver the boat. As he does so he accidentally knocks Constance down, and she loses her 'priceless footage' into the ocean. His name is Kovac.

Commentary: Anyone else seeing an antagonistic relationship transmuting into romance later? Uggh, I hate that trope with a passion.

Another man finds his way to the lifeboat and is hauled aboard. He is the radioman, and reports there wasn't enough time to send out an S.O.S. thanks to a German shell from the U-Boat. He also reports there are more survivors floating out there. He'll be referred to as Sparks.

Scene 06: As the search continues, three more people are found on a piece of floating debris. One of them is a hurt man. The others are a man and a woman, both of whom seem in good shape. Our hurt gentleman is Gus. Our nurse is Alice and the uninjured man is Rittenhouse, who Constance refers to as simply Ritt. He calls her Connie.

The unhurt gentleman is a prior acquaintance of Constance - who is the only one who still looks as fresh as a daisy and ready for brunch. As they get caught up with their tales of survival in the background, in the foreground, the injured man is being attended to. The woman with them is a nurse and reports she needs to attend to his leg. He has gotten a piece of shrapnel embedded in the limb.

Commentary: I like the way that we shift focus in this scene without the actors sitting still and quiet. It gives the scene life, which is important here because the environment itself is so flat (I don't say flat as in a bad way - it is just we have one small boat and a lot of fog, so attention is really solidly on the actors, even in medium and long shots, because we don't have anything distracting to look at).

Scene 07: The cameras focus glides between the two small groups. The injured man is a helmsman from the bridge. We continue to switch between Connie and Ritt talking about their mutual misadventure and the 'crew' dealing with Gus' leg injury. Ritt's story involves playing poker and his being unable to grab up his winnings from the pot before making a run for it.

Kovac had grabbed a twenty from the water during his swim to the lifeboat and tries to return it now (showing us that his character will be hard-bitten, but honest and decent, so that he'll be 'worthy' of Constance, despite their clearly different social classes). Ritt tells him to keep it as salvage, but when Connie refers to Ritt by name, something passes over Kovac's features and he insists the man take his money (showing there will be antagonism from Kovac toward Ritt, which we'll hear all about eventually - though Ritt seems entirely clueless about who this man is or why he's being a jerk - I take this back, there was no specific reason supplied, apparently it is just a class thing).

Constance during this whole period is handling everything with a wry sense of humor and aplumb, while doing her best to also be upper-crusty about it all as well.

Commentary: Constance is a difficult one to read this early in the film. She's got that whole 'wealthy class' thing going, which is front and center when she is interacting with the 'blue collars', but she's never quite unlikeable either. I believe I remember that Tallulah's worry when she took the part was that her character would be unlikeable - and you can see her making the effort to keep the audience on her side until she can start warming up to Kovac later (Urrggh). BTW: Kovac is played by John Hodiak, but he looks like Martin Landeau.

Gus' shrapnel is removed and he complains about his run of luck. He's shipped out four times and never made it to Europe, yet. He appears to be a magnet for injury. Nurse reports that his leg is cut pretty deeply. He worries about ending up with a "gimp leg" that will interfere with his ability to Jitterbug. She's more worried about bleeding and infection, though no one expects that they'll be spending more than a day waiting for a rescue ship, at this point.

As the group is settling in for their wait and getting to know each other, another voice calling for help comes from the sea.

Scene 08: The voice belongs to Joe, the steward who helped Connie into the lifeboat. He will, cringingly, be referred to as 'Charcoal' ... and, yes, he would be black. He's carrying an unconscious woman in one arm (Mrs. Higley) and in his other arm, her baby.

They're quickly helped aboard the crowding lifeboat. Joe reports that Mrs. Higley fought him when he tried to save her. She tried to drown herself and the baby after the ship sank (so she'll be our hysterical broad getting in the way of everyone else's survival).

Alice works on giving the baby CPR. As Ritt is telling the coming-to Mrs. Higley that she and her baby are going to be fine now, Alice shares a look with Connie and gives her a shake of the head. The baby is already dead.

The Higley woman is in a state of shock. She looks vaguely Barbara Steele-ish, so we're gonna call her Barbara. Barbara snatches up her baby briefly with a "I'm not quite here" smile. Alice tells the others to let her have her baby until after she falls asleep, at which time the implication is they'll give the tiny corpse over to the sea.

Scene 09: Shortly after, a pair of hands is seen by Gus. Another survivor is clinging to the lifeboat and trying to haul themselves aboard.

This is our German survivor, 'Willy'.

Scene 10: Constance speaks German and communicates with the man. He states he was a crewman aboard the U-boat, following orders, and that he regrets being compelled to sink their vessel and bomb their lifeboats. Kovac takes exception to his being allowed onboard and orders him thrown back into the water, which Constance and Gus refuse.

Things become more tense between Connie and Kovacs as he insinuates that she may be a German agent, herself. After all, she's sticking up for the Nazi, was already in the lifeboat looking fresh and clean, like she already knew she was going to take a trip over the side and she speaks the German language.

Kovac argues for throwing the German overboard and watching him drown. Gus quickly sides with him, as he used to be named Schmidt, but had to change it because he was ashamed of his German heritage thanks to the Nazi regime. Ritt argues that they can't break international law by deliberately killing a survivor of a disaster, no matter what his origin, but concedes he will abide by the majority opinion.

There are arguments all around, with Sparks arguing that the Nazi is now a prisoner of war and subject to protections until such time as he can be turned over to the proper authorities. Joe chooses to stay out of it completely, though he is given an equal vote. When they ask Barbara, she dreamily states that her baby is dead, and then collapses in a faint.

As she collapses, Willy grabs the baby before it can hit the deck of the lifeboat. Barbara can't stand this and launches an assault on him, with the others scrabbling for her flailing hands.

Commentary: Amusingly, if you're sick like me, you'll note she actually clobbers her dead baby more than she actually hits Willy.

Barbara snatches her baby back from the Nazi's arms and rocks him/her in her arms as the others look on.

Scene 11: Later it is late afternoon or early evening. The fogs have lifted. They give the baby over to the sea with a prayer.

Scene 12: Later still and a cold breeze is blowing over the tiny boat. Everyone is clearing the stuff that is of no survival use. They make plans for the next day to construct a sail to help them navigate. Barbara is sitting in the chair that was fished out by Connie and Kovacs early on... her hands are still arranged as if she is holding her baby, which Connie finds especially upsetting.

Barbara comes around again, sounding much better than she had earlier after her nap. She admires Connie's mink that they've draped over her. Then she asks after Johnny, so we finally find out the sex of her deceased child.

She starts asking in a growing anger what they've done with her baby, as everyone stares at her in discomfort. It falls to Connie to remind her that Johnny was dead. This makes Barbara turn on Willy, accusing him of murdering her infant.

As expected, she builds up to a freak-out, attempting to leap overboard to find her infant in the vast darkness of the sea.

The rest wrestle her back into her seat and tie her down with a rope. The German proves he is entirely evil by yawning and lying down to nap, completely unconcerned with the results of his ship's actions.

Scene 13: At the dawn the following day, Ritt - manning the rudder - is in a fitful doze. His hand bops Sparks in the head, waking him up. Sparks wakes Ritt, who jokes he should be court-martialed for falling asleep on his watch. They discuss their situation - including the details that much of their supply rations were destroyed, which is worrying. The last time Sparks was adrift, it was 43 days before a pick up found them. There is not nearly enough supplies if it takes that long for a rescue this time.

Constance awakens next. She complains about the cold and wishes she had her fur. This brings to her attention that Barbara is missing!

They see a rope still tied to the chair that they had Barbara tied to, but one end had come undone, allowing her to leap into the sea overnight. She's still dragging at the end of the rope, tied to the boat... Kovac cuts her free.

Commentary: Somehow, I find this scene even more disturbing than the baby scenes. That taut rope over the side and everything that implies puts a tension in my gut. Poor not-really-named-Barbara Mrs. Higley....

Scene 14: Later in the day, the German is shiftily checking a compass that he has stashed. Meanwhile, the rest are working on the sail or rationing out crackers.

They begin to get organized under Ritt's direction to take responsibility for various things that will need to happen for them to survive until rescue.

There is some more tension as Kovac again mentions pitching Willy over the side, as he is a consumer of their resources. No one acts on this suggestion.

Scene 15: The sail is put up.

Gus and Alice talk a bit. We get some personal details about Gus' life back home. In the meanwhile, Connie asks Kovac about the clasp on her bracelet. This allows him to offer some constructive criticism about her articles. He tells her that her pieces are always about herself, as if the war were a play being put on for her benefit.

She's about to give him a salty reply, but is interrupted by the sail boon being locked in place through some cooperative effort.

The next trick is to decide on a course. Ritt suggests they try to head toward the last course of their ship - which was Bermuda. No one knows exactly where that is, however, since their compass is broken.

Connie asks the German - who we know has a compass, but who is hiding this from the group for reasons that will be made clear in a bit.

The German points in a direction, but Kovac immediately objects to following his suggested course. Ritt states that they'll follow the German's course, but Kovac points out that no one elected him as skipper. This produces an argument about who is going to take charge of their boat.

Connie tells everyone that they do have an actual skipper aboard, and nods toward the German. Ritt points out he was just a crewman, but something in the bearing of the survivor has pointed out differently to her. She calls out for the captain in German, and he instinctively answers her, confirming her suspicion that he was no meer crewman.

Connie suggests that their situation hasn't changed: The German is the only one of them familiar with the waters in the region and should determine their course. As Ritt points out, he is just as anxious to get to safety as the rest of them, but Kovac tells everyone he's taking command himself. Connie at first tries to object, but there is another vote and everyone feels better with an American in charge ('natch).

Of course, Kovac doesn't know where they're going anyway. He asks Sparks which way they should head, and even though he isn't as sure as the German, Kovac goes with his suggestion instead. The German tries to insist they're heading further out to sea, but is ignored.

Scene 16: Kovac makes a deck of cards out of material taken from Connie's bag and starts a game of poker with Ritt. In the meanwhile, the German keeps shifting his position, suspiciously. Sparks is at the rudder and Alice keeps occupied by talking to him about their respective personal histories.

This is interrupted by Gus unwinding his bandage. When Alice goes to find out what he's doing, he complains it is too tight. She's worried about what she sees - his leg has swollen up (we don't get to see this, we just hear about it). The German says something - recognizing how badly it looks (infection is setting in).

The German and Connie converse, and I do recognize "amputate" in the discussion. The German insists to Connie's disbelief that they have to do so to save Gus' life.

There is more discussion about trying to perform a surgery in their present circumstance. The German captain claims to have been a surgeon in civilian life and can perform the necessary amputation. This is something that Kovac is immediately suspicious of, but Alice says she has never even assisted on such a surgery and Connie points out it doesn't matter what Kovac thinks, it doesn't change the fact that the leg must come off.

Scene 17: At first, Gus refuses to cooperate with removing his leg. This is due to his girl back home, who he is desperate to keep, but she loves dancing. He's convinced that if he loses his leg, he'll lose her. Kovac intimates quite strongly that Rosie is a player and she isn't worth risking his life for.

Connie takes a more soft-sell tactic, sympathizing with Rosie's independent nature and her heart of gold. But, she points out, that right now Rosie is back home putting on a show of being carefree, while all the while she's being torn up by uncertainty and heartache over Gus. And now, he's ready to die and leave her crushed because he won't trust her to love him more than what he could do with two legs. The guilt trip works and Gus agrees to the leg removal.

While Connie is telling the German that they can proceed, Kovac is whispering something to Ritt. They have no anesthetic on board of course, but in one of the valises of Connie's, she has brandy. They proceed to get Gus shnockered.

With Gus now bombed, he becomes a bit combative and flirty. He first complains about Kovac's comments about Rosie, then about his having joined the Merchant Marine, when he could have gone to work in a factory instead. Finally, he asks Connie for a big kiss, which she grants with good humor.

Joe has a flute tied around his neck that he had saved from the wreck before going into the water. Gus now asks why he's stopped playing and Joe starts up a tune for him as Alice is preparing bandages, tape, and the other accoutrements they'll need to keep him from bleeding out during the amputation.

Commentary: Gus is a bit rough around the edges, but he's a really likable guy and the thought of this amputation fills me with dread considering the circumstances. Hitchcock does a good job of dragging out the pre-operation sequence, so that the tension builds up to when that first incision is made. Connie also shows herself to be much more likable and 'down to earth' then she appeared immediately following the wreck. Kovac continues being an all around ass, but *minor spoiler* he turns out to be correct in being so distrustful of their 'captive'....

Scene 18: While Gus is still obsessing on Kovac's statements about the freewheeling Rosie, the others huddle around a lighter. The Captain sterilizes a jackknife over the tiny flame.

Commentary: This build up is minutes long and is really excruciating as we wait for them to get to the cutting off of Gus' leg. And, that shot of the knife tells us how long this is going to take and the horror that performing this procedure actually is. Tension filled scenes is a Hitchcock calling card, and this scene really is an excellent example of how tension can be drawn out, but not get boring or 'time wasting'. Just waiting for the scene to get over with puts knots in my stomach.

Gus finally passes out after hitting Kovac for what he implied about Rosie's lack of good virtue. Sparks is trying to hold the boat steady, but the wind and waves have picked up considerably while they were all waiting for Gus to get smashed enough to proceed. This not only adds to the complications they're facing, but it also acts as a bad omen for this procedure under these circumstances.

We don't see the bloody results of the surgery, of course - we are in a movie from 1944, after all. But, the gruesomeness is telegraphed by Connie being taken ill and light headed as she retrieves more bandages for Alice. Ritt is also taken ill by the blood and the waves and Joe helps him lean over the side to be sick.

Scene 19: With the operation completed, Gus lies unconscious, while Ritt and Kovac get back to their poker game. The wind continues blowing making the seas rough. The German captain continues to sneak glances at his compass.

Conversation returns to their course with the German stating he isn't sure they're on course for Bermuda, supposedly because of current drift. He continues to state it is difficult to be sure of their course without a compass (which he does have).

Commentary: Since I can't read a compass, I have no idea what it is pointing out, but I believe the idea is that the German doesn't want to get to Bermuda at all (British territory). I believe he is misdirecting their course, but isn't telling them straight out that they're on the correct one in order to supply plausible deniability should his fellows figure it out on their own. Other than responding to Connie's addressing him as Captain, he's very clever.

Scene 20: The suspicious questioning by Kovac is interrupted by Gus, who has come to. Connie gives up one of her cigarettes for him. The last one, as a matter of fact, but she does so with a kind smile for him after a brief look of panic (we all know how smokers are ... *smile*).

Gus asks how long before they reach Bermuda. Kovac admits that at the moment, they're unsure of their exact course. He gives voice to his suspicions again about the German U-boat commander, telling the others that the German knows where the other U-boats and German supply ships in the area are. He could try to mislead them into Nazi hands. Gus is the only one who gives him support in remaining vigilant - everyone else has bought into the idea that the German is at least vested in helping them get to land.

With himself so outnumbered, Kovac tells Sparks to go ahead and start following the German's suggested course. The German suspiciously turns away looking a tad smug and checks his hidden compass, again, suggesting that he has known English better than he has let on to this point.

Scene 21: That night, poor Sparks is STILL at the rudder. Connie and Alice talk a bit about a comment made earlier. You see Alice, just before Gus' leg distracted them, said she was glad the ship was torpedoed. Now, Connie returns to it and Alice admits she didn't mean it and it was stupid to say. What she meant was that she had been dreading arrival in London, due to married man troubles.

Connie is sympathetic, but falls into slumber as they talk.

Commentary: She's far more tolerant than I would have been. Not only was her statement stupid, as she admitted, but it was in extremely poor taste considering the death toll so far. Sorry you got involved in a sucky relationship with a married man, Hon, but tough shit. Blurting out that comment about the ship sinking should have resulted in a hard slap to the face; you're just lucky Gus' leg problem interrupted and that I wasn't aboard. I'm surprised that there wasn't more anger expressed toward Alice by SOMEBODY, like Kovac.

Alice, not ready to sleep, sits up with the never-sleeping Sparks (More romance in the air? Really?). She starts blabbing to him about her drippy love life gone wrong and he manages to not tell her that her problems don't really amount to a kettle of fish compared to the deep doo-doo their currently in. We also see that Connie was faking her falling to sleep thing. I'd like to believe she was just bored, but I think the idea is that she is deliberately pushing Alice toward Sparks. Because in the middle of a disaster, it's so important for new romances to blossom....

Alice gives poor, put-upon Sparks her entire affair story and alas, we don't cut to someone else.

Scene 22: Once Alice is finished with her tale of romantic woe (for now, anyway), Sparks mentions the beautiful night sky. It is clear and full of stars and I start seeing a romantic kiss in store and feeling a bit ill. But no, I'm faked out. Instead, Sparks goes into a story about his assistant aboard ship and the night before their torpedoing. You see, he was out on the deck with this fellow, Nolan, and he was pointing out the planets to Sparks. Well, looking at the sky now, he realizes that Bermuda is in the direction of Mars... but they're headed in the direction of Venus, which is in the same general direction they want to travel, but isn't correct at all.

He and Alice stare off screen toward the German as he adjusts his course.

Scene 23: The next morning is dank and grey with a storm in the offing. The survivors, minus the German (who is still sleeping) are conferring about his apparent trickery. Ritt, rightly, points out that they don't know he was deliberately misleading them, but Kovac has wanted to throw the Nazi overboard since they rescued him.

As they talk, Alice asks about a previous incident we saw where he asked Connie for the time. She tells them that he had looked at his own watch just beforehand, and now finds it odd that he asked for her time, if he had a watch of his own (actually, the compass). In addition, Sparks now recalls that he squinted up at the sun after asking for the time - something that would be done to figure out navigational coordinates by the position of the sun.

Ritt points out how circumstantial this all is and that it can't prove a thing on its own.

Kovac decides he wants to get a look at the German's watch. He appoints Joe, who used to be a pickpocket in a former life, to get it. Joe balks at first, but when he asks if he's being ordered to, Kovac confirms this.

Joe wakes up the captain with a blast of flute, and as he sits up "falls into him". He easily picks the compass from his pocket and turns it over to Kovac. In the meantime, the boat is starting to pitch more violently as the storm on the horizon moves closer to their position.

Scene 24: With the discovery that the German has had a compass this whole time, Kovac decides to execute the captain with his knife. The others, excepting Gus, tell him that they don't agree with that. Kovac tells them he isn't asking their permission and Gus tells him to kill the Nazi now. There is another interruption in this argument when the rough seas throw Sparks overboard. The German takes the rudder, while the others try to retrieve Sparks, who is hanging onto the anchor line for dear life.

Meanwhile, everyone is being swamped by the ocean. Sparks is 'rescued' when he basically gets lifted up and thrown back into the boat.

The German interrupts the attempts to lash Gus to the mast to keep him from being washed overboard, because of his weakened condition, to order them to man the bilge pump and to bail water. He tells them to think of the boat first, or they're all lost... and he does so in ENGLISH.

Things get more desperate as the sea fills the boat far faster than it could ever be bailed out. The rations and fresh water are washed overboard, along with the few possessions that Connie managed to retain. As it looks like they're going to all drown, Connie and Kovac finally kiss. The mast for their makeshift sail breaks in half and flies off into the storm.

Scene 25: Post storm, everyone is still alive and intact, but their survival is in even more doubt than before. The German sings a folksong to Ritt's accompaniment on Joe's flute and rows across the now placid ocean. The others have fashioned a fishing line and are trying to catch a fish with no bait.

Kovac finds this all funny - except not in a ha-ha way... more in a (insert the Simpson's Nelson) HAH-hah way. With the storm having blown them so far off course, their only chance at survival now is for the German to take them to a supply ship in the area. Kovac isn't happy with this plan, not looking forward to their futures in a concentration camp, but Willy tells him it is logical. The only ones who can help them now are his fellow Germans.

Everyone is wiped out by the heat, lack of food and water, but the German is surprisingly fresh and strong despite hours of rowing.

The group tries to get their minds off of their thirst by discussing baseball and lying about. Gus starts talking about taking Rosie to the ballgame that afternoon, pointing to something being seriously wrong with him... something other than that gangrene leg that they removed. There isn't much to be done about it however.

Scene 26: As Ritt starts up on that flute again and the German boisterously sings, Gus is up to something involving a cup and his shoe lace... I don't know. Connie plays footsie with Kovac and Sparks (who everyone is calling Stanley by now, but it's too late for me to change) plays with Alice's hair. I suddenly want another storm.

We cut back to Gus, who has used his shoe lace around the cups handle (AHHHH, I say in understanding) to lower the cup down into the sea water. He's thirsty enough to drink the salt water, which of course, is only going to exacerbate his dehydration. The German captain notes this, but doesn't do anything to stop him or alert the others.

Alice sees however, and stops Gus from sipping it.

Scene 27: We get a brief shot of the German sizing up the rest of them, and I have a bad feeling about Gus' future. At the back of the boat, Connie continues her unrelenting flirting with Kovac as he rudders the boat (finally, Sparks was given a rest). She asks him about a large tattoo with initials, he asks about her bracelet. Both avoid answering - blah, blah, blah.

They kiss, and then he pushes her away and accuses her of 'slumming' with him.

He rushes off to play cards with Ritt, again, leaving Connie a bit put out. While they're playing, Ritt starts talking about a menu at a restaurant he particularly enjoys and Connie throws a fit, brought on by hunger, thirst, and now rejection. She has a breakdown into sobs, which the German watches with a trace of amusement because he's evil.

In the meantime, the focus is taken off Gus, so he can retrieve that cup and string.

Scene 28: Connie rejoins Ritt and Kovac, where they quickly gain everyone else's attention by continuing to play poker for higher and higher stakes. Ritt gets a four of a kind and goes for a monster bet to wipe out his debt to Kovac and wipe out all of his makeshift chips, as well.

He gets entirely too smug with a "put up or shut up". He had been steadily losing nearly every hand up until this point. A sudden gust of wind blows the cards out of his hand and out into the ocean just as he's ready to lay down.

This is too much and he turns on Kovac, accusing him of marking the cards and going for his throat.

All of the fighting ends, however, as Gus and Captain German realize it is raining. The group sets about collecting rain water while it is falling.

In an absolutely cruel twist of fate, they get out a tarp rescued from the sail during the storm before it was lost, but then the rain stops as suddenly as it started. With everyone looking skyward into the returned sun with looks of utter disbelief, Gus returns to his salt water.

Scene 29: Later in the late afternoon, the German continue rowing and not looking nearly as dehydrated as he should. Everyone is sleeping, except for Gus who is busy muttering to himself down memory lane. The German gives him shifty glances.

Gus is hallucinating badly and talking to Rosie and a bartender named Pete. In the midst of this, he sees the German taking swigs of fresh water he has collected and then secreted in the formerly empty brandy bottle. That is why he's so fresh, while everyone else looks like they're approaching their last leg.

Gus tries to tell Sparks about the water, but he lets slip in that he just had a drink with lots of ice, too, so Sparks takes it as all part of the same delusion and ignores him. Gus goes to the bow of the boat with Willy to confront him about the water, but gets sidetracked with more talk about Rosie and her finding out about his leg. The German tells him things will be fine, after warning him not to wake the others as they're all so tired.

He also takes this opportunity to tell Gus that Rosie is waiting for him and he should go to her. Poor Gus. Willy points out Rosie off in the distance, and when Gus is distracted he gives him a small push over the side.

Scene 30: Gus struggles to stay above the surface and calls for help, but Sparks is the only one who hears, but he isn't quite conscious himself. He blows off Gus' calls for help. The German begins rowing again, leaving Gus to drown.

Sparks has come awake enough to glance in Gus' space, and not finding him there he snaps awake. He asks the German where Gus went, which he answers forthrightly that he went over the side. Sparks wakes up everyone else. The captain reports how painful it was to listen to Gus babbling all night long. He further reports that Gus went over the side by his own choice, which is why he didn't feel like he should interfere. Gus was in pain, dying of hunger and thirst. He mercifully chose to respect his decision and let him go.

Sparks remembers that Gus was trying to tell him something before his trip over the side. The German continues to talk about Gus' peace, but the others are staring at him with suspicion over his not helping Gus.

Alice mentions that Gus was suffering of horrible thirst, like the rest of them... but....

Connie and her both notice that the captain doesn't appear to be suffering the way they are. In fact, his eyes are moist and he's sweating, while the rest of them don't have any more water to cry or perspire away.

Scene 31: Sparks remembers that Gus was trying to tell him about Willy's water, which Joe - who has moved up to the bow, finds easily enough tucked in the captain's shirt. The German wrestles it away from him, but drops it, shattering the bottle on the deck of the boat.

He smugly tells the others that he filled the flask from the boats reserves before the storm washed it away, just in case (I told you he was quite clever). He also reports that he was hiding food pills from them that he had rescued from the U-boat before abandoning ship. Alice, in particular, looks ready to beat him to death with her bare hands.

He equally informs them that to survive one must have a plan. He tells them it is not to worry over however, as soon they'll reach the supply ship and everyone will have water and food. He makes to start rowing again as everyone else is glaring daggers at him.

Scene 32: Well, perhaps everyone would have stewed but realized there was little to do but hate him from afar, but his smug and self-satisfied attitude is more than Alice can bare coming on top of Gus' loss. She rushes him and everyone else rushes after her. She pummels him with her fists. Joe tries to pull her off, but everyone else seems more interested in joining her in revenge.

Sparks, in particular, takes a plank of board after the German and beats him in the head. Alice returns to the fray, not having sated her desire to hurt Willy. Not so smug now, are you Captain Idiot. Uh, I mean Schiffskapitan Idiotin.

The good U-boat captain finds himself going over the side next. And without rescue this time.

Commentary: This is actually a pretty brutal scene, despite our not actually seeing him drown. Alice, Sparks, Ritt, Connie and Kovac all beat on him as he's floundering against the side of the boat. Ritt - after all of that talk about 'prisoner of war rights', takes the discarded boot of Gus and beats the German with it. The only one who doesn't join this mob mentality is Joe, who also doesn't actually step in to stop them after Alice pushes him away and rejoins. I have to wonder if there was very specific reasons not spoken of for this decision... (1) Was it considered to provocative for a black man in 1944 to be seen beating a white man - even a German Nazi - in a movie? (2) Could Joe have felt restrained from raising his hand to the German, even if no one else would have said anything to him? (3) Could Joe have witnessed or known of such lynchings in the past (true, these may have been much more common during the Civil Rights struggle, but I have no doubt they occurred way before that) and that is why he couldn't participate in this? (4) Could Joe be the only one thinking clearly about what will happen to them all if the German is lost without getting them to the right coordinates (although, once rescued I think he'd find it not much of one when he's returned to Germany, assuming he wasn't simply executed on the spot for being non-Aryan). (5) Or could it be none of these things and Joe is simply a decent man who doesn't lose control of his emotions, like Ritt has done?

Scene 33: In the aftermath of their execution of Willy, the group sits apart from one another, silent and gazing out over the sea. Rittenhouse monologues aloud about not understanding Willy at all. Why he first tried to kill them all, then tried to save them all, but letting Gus slowly die of thirst at the same time... he asks what you do with people like that, which seems a strange question to ask, as it was apparently answered already - you dump them in the ocean and beat them into submission so they drown.

They also now contemplate that they're probably all doomed now. Joe looks to God for a rescue. Sparks tells Alice that if they'd gotten out of this, he was going to ask her to marry him and wonders what she would have said (I would like her to say, "Like that would last... hell, no, we don't even know each other yet!")

Naturally she replies that she probably would have said yes, instead. He asks her to marry him, no matter what the outcome, which is sweet if empty.

Connie replies angrily that she's glad that's settled and asks now what. Ritt regrets not having children or getting remarried following his wife's death some eighteen years prior. What he most regrets however is joining a mob that killed a man.

Connie is angry at this too, describing them as not a mob at all. She tells them that a mob would have been cowed by a man they rescued who wanted to ship them all off to a concentration camp. She angrily accuses the men of being a bunch of quitters and folding up in front of her. She demands that they start taking action to save themselves.

She tells them that they're not done yet and gets them back to the idea of fishing. They complain that they've tried that and they haven't any bait to attract attention, but she belatedly (I was already way ahead of her here) reponds that her diamond bracelet will be bait enough (sparkles, you know).

Scene 34: The new fishing plan is put into action with a piece of the jewelry as bait. This naturally works, but amusingly, this is also the moment that they see a ship on the horizon and heading toward them. They immediately forget about the raw fish plan, and though Connie tries to grab the line, it goes off into the ocean with their saving meal.

Meanwhile, everyone else focuses on the rudder to steer the boat toward the ship.

Scene 35: The ship, it turns out, is the German supply vessel. It sends out longboats to pick them up, but their only partially relieved to be rescued. As they're all contemplating coffee and food aboard ship, it begins to signal to their lifeboat.

In yet another cruel twist of fate, the longboat turns around to head back to ship without them!

But it isn't the Germans being cruel in abandoning them. They're trying to run because an ally ship has marked them and is firing shells upon their heads. Our group tries to get their own tiny boat out of the way, while at the same time watching as the German supply vessel is put in the exact position that they were at the beginning of our tale.

You wouldn't think that their day could get any worse than this mess, but as a shell hits the German's lifeboat, blowing it to smithereens, the supply ship engages their engine. Alas, our survivors boat has drifted right into their path and is about to be mown down.

They take refuge in the bottom of their lifeboat as the ship barrels down on them and shells explode all around them. The ship passes near them, but misses. However, the possibility still exists of them being blown to hell by their own side's shelling barrage.

Scene 36: As they watch the supply ship sail away from them, it is struck by a direct hit and goes up in flames, raining debris down on their tiny craft. The vessel goes down fast.

In the distance, but closing is the allied ship doing the bombing. Ritt gets excited that it appears they really are going to be rescued this time, but then curbs his enthusiasm until it actually happens. Connie very suddenly bursts into sobs.

When the wave passes, she gets out her lipstick to make herself presentable to the boys rushing to their rescue. There is banter among them.

A pair of hands suddenly come over the side... a fellow survivor, but this time of the German ship. They pull him aboard, but then Ritt - deeply scarred by Willy - insists with hatred and rage that they throw him back. The German is just a boy, but he does have a gun - though not for long. Ritt tells Connie that the Germans aren't people like the rest of them and they have to throw him away, but Kovac advocates mercy and turning him over to their rescuers when they arrive. A nearly, but not quite, 180-degree turn from who they were before.

The German boy asks if they aren't going to kill him, and everyone considers the assumption in that statement....

We close out on a very dumb last line by Connie, as rescue is imminent.

The Good: The acting is uniformly excellent.

The tension in some scenes is also excellent, especially the slow build up to removing Gus' leg.

The clever German captain was interesting, until he turned too smug (stupidly) at the end.

Gus' decline and his murder was sad. I was sure that the captain was going to talk him overboard, where he would drown thinking he was with Rosie. But, no, it wasn't that peaceful - despite Willy's claim to the contrary.

The Bad: Well, the German tended to be e-e-evil for no other reason than to be the villain.

The old 'romance in the midst of disaster' trope... and unconvincing ones at that.

The ending with the German was screwed up a bit. I got the feeling there was some sort of point being made about how the Germans weren't that much different than the allies when all was said and done, but none of our characters seemed to have gotten it in the slightest, undercutting that point drastically. Instead it suddenly turned into a "oh, those Germans and their assumptions" moral, which may have been necessary due to the period of the film making, but was nonetheless jarring. Also, I have no idea what the hell Connie was trying to say with her last line - it was completely nonsensical.

The Score: I enjoy the setting and the characters for the most part, but I don't think this is brilliant film looking on it from the present. The trials of survival part of the script is really good, but then they have to include everyone's personal stories and the developing romance angle and it undercuts what had been gripping. I like Willy's deviousness, but then the script again undercuts what had been developed by making him arrogant onto dumbness, blowing his development as a clever, underhanded villain.

I liked the movie, but IMDB has this scored at nearly 8 out of 10. I don't think it is that good. 3.50 out of 5

Tags: review lifeboat

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