Saturday, November 26, 2005

LIFEBOAT (1944) - Alfred Hitchcock

Lifeboat is the best shipwrecked-without-landing-on-the-island-movie you’re going to see. That may not be saying much since its only competition would be…what, Open Water? It’s Survivor without the island or immunity challenges but with actual drama in place of a high school popularity contest.

The movie feels a little textbook, but not necessarily in a bad way. How else are you going to propel a movie that stays stranded on the water the whole time? You really have no other choice but to throw a bunch of dramatically and diametrically opposed characters together on raft and let them fight it out amongst themselves until the food, water and narrative runs dry (which it does a bit at the end). It’s also good if it happens to take place during WWII and there’s a German or two on board. And an amputation. And a Hume Cronyn.

Large parts of this movie do play like Off-Broadway On theWater. But Hitch makes the best of it by keeping the stakes high and his great ensemble cast busy. Tallulah Bankhead as a debutante reporter is probably the performance most people will remember. And, indeed, it is the showiest. But the sad-sack desperation of William’s Bendix pug-ugly New York galoot stole the show for me. All the guy wants is to keep his leg long enough to share one more dance at the Roseland with his old gal when he gets back. Nevermind that he may never make it back at all. Even a big dumb galoot’s gotta have dreams.

No comments: