The Ghost Ship


1h 9m 1943
The Ghost Ship

Brief Synopsis

A young innocent signs on with a ship whose captain is going mad.

Photos & Videos

The Ghost Ship - Movie Posters

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Thriller
Release Date
Jan 1943
Premiere Information
New York opening: 24 Dec 1943
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 9m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,240ft

Synopsis

On the docks of San Pedro, Tom Merriam, a young third officer on his way to his first assignment, is warned by a blind beggar about boarding the Altair , the ship to which he has been assigned. Ignoring him, Tom mounts the gang plank and passes Finn, a mute sailor who possesses prescient insight. Tom is welcomed aboard by Capt. Will Stone, then is taken aback when the captain criticizes him for killing a moth. Soon after, the body of a missing crew member is found, dead from a heart attack, prompting Finn to muse to himself about the death and agony that will soon pervade the ship. Once the voyage is underway, a freshly painted giant hook breaks loose and swings precariously over the deck. When Tom comments that the hook should be secured, the captain refuses because the paint job would then be marred. Afterward, the captain challenges Tom's remarks regarding the hook, megalomaniacally asserting his divine right over the crew. After a sailor collapses with appendicitis, an onshore doctor radios instructions to operate. Unable to make the incision, the captain freezes and Tom takes over, successfully completing the surgery. Out of respect for the captain, Tom gives Stone credit for performing the operation. Now short two men, Louie, one of the sailors, suggests to the captain that they pull into port to replenish the crew. Soon after, Louie is scrubbing out a chain locker that contains the ship's anchor. Upon completing the job, Louie signals for the heavy chain to be fed back into the locker. At that moment, the captain jams the escape hatch, trapping Louie beneath the crushing weight of the chain. Tom confides his suspicions that the captain is responsible for Louie's death to Bowns, the first officer. When Bowns dismisses Tom's concerns, Tom tells Sparks, the radio operator, who advises him to mind his own business. Upon docking in San Sebastian, Tom files a complaint about the captain to Charlie Roberts, the head of the shipping office. An investigation is held, but the sailors all testify on the captain's behalf, commending his courage during the surgery and noting Tom's poor judgment in the case of the unsecured hook. Defeated, Tom resigns his post on the Altair . Feeling sorry for the young officer, Ellen Roberts, Charlie's daughter and Stone's sweetheart, arranges for him to meet her younger sister, who lives in San Pedro. On board the ship that night, Ellen tells Stone that her divorce is final and she is now free to marry him, and is shocked when Stone responds that he fears he is losing his mind. On shore, meanwhile, Tom comes to the aid of a fellow crewman involved in a street brawl and is knocked unconscious. Unaware that Tom has decided to leave the ship, the sailors carry him back onboard the Altair , which then sails at midnight. Upon regaining consciousness, Tom, fearful that the captain plans to kill him, asks Sparks to send a wire to the shore, but he refuses. Tom discovers that the lock to his cabin door has been removed and when he is startled by strange noises in the night, he sneaks into the captain's cabin to search for a weapon to defend himself. There, he is confronted by Stone, who insanely rants about authority and defies Tom to find allies among the crew. When Tom turns to the crew for help, they all accuse him of mutiny, except for Finn, who senses the depths of the captain's hatred of Tom. Soon after, Roberts telegraphs the ship, inquiring if Tom is aboard. When the captain hands Sparks a negative reply, the radio operator becomes suspicious and shows the message to Tom. Upon leaving Tom's cabin, Sparks is surprised by the captain, who escorts him along the deck. Sparks lets the message slip from his hand, and it is recovered by Finn. The next morning, the captain informs the crew that Sparks has fallen overboard. When Tom accuses the captain of murdering Sparks, the crew thinks that he is insane and sedates him. Desperate, Finn delivers the message to Bowns, and as the first mate and crew debate over what action to take, the captain overhears their conversation, goes berserk and snatches a dagger from his drawer. As the captain is about to plunge the dagger into Tom's heart, Finn springs from the shadows, and in the ensuing struggle, stabs the captain to death. Reinstated as third officer, Tom sails the Altair to San Pedro, where he is met by Ellen's sister.

Photo Collections

The Ghost Ship - Movie Posters
Here are a few American movie posters for Val Lewton's The Ghost Ship (1943), starring Richard Dix.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Thriller
Release Date
Jan 1943
Premiere Information
New York opening: 24 Dec 1943
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 9m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,240ft

Articles

The Ghost Ship


In a 1951 eulogy printed in the Nation, critic Manny Farber wrote that Val Lewton's "talents were those of a mild bibliophile whose idea of 'good' cinema had much to do with using quotes from Shakespeare and Donne, bridging scenes with a rare folk song, capturing climate with a description of a West Indies dish, and, in the pensive sequences, making sure a bit player wore a period mouth instead of a modern lipsticky one. Lewton's efforts not infrequently suggested a minor approximation of Jane Eyre."

Born in Russia in 1904, Lewton moved to the United States in 1909 with his mother and his sister. A prolific writer, he soon found work in Hollywood and had his first screen credit for arranging the "revolutionary sequences" in David O. Selznick's A Tale of Two Cities (1935). In 1942, Lewton was put in charge of RKO's horror division (known as the "Snake Pit") and during the next four years, he produced eleven films, nine of them dealing with the supernatural. All of his RKO films were B-pictures and none ran longer than 80 minutes. But what made Lewton's films stand out from the pack was not his limited budget; it was, instead, his almost literary reticence, what Manny Farber called Lewton's "psychological fear of creating expensive effects." According to Farber: "He imperiled his characters in situations that didn't call for outsized melodrama and permitted the use of a journalistic camera - for example, a sailor trying to make himself heard over the din of a heavy chain that is burying him inside a ship's locker." Farber's example comes from Lewton's long-unavailable The Ghost Ship (1943).

In his 1973 book on Lewton, Joel Siegel commented that, "The Ghost Ship is among Lewton's finest achievements. One hesitates in making it sound too appetizing, for The Ghost Ship is virtually a lost film." Due to legal complications that resulted from a plagiarism suit, the film was pulled from circulation soon after its release. Thankfully, all of Lewton's RKO films are once again available. Made the year after Lewton's most famous film, Cat People (1942), The Ghost Ship is a psychological sea thriller about a young Third Officer's near-fatal attempts to warn the crew about the captain's descent into madness. Tom Merriam (Russell Wade) boards the Altair, his first ship as an officer, at the specific request of Captain Stone (Richard Dix). The Captain, whose motto is "Who Does Not Heed The Rudder Shall Meet The Rock," sees in the young officer a younger version of himself, and he tells Merriam this, noting that both men are orphans driven to make something of themselves. The physical similarity between Dix and Wade serves to highlight the film's constant reiteration of thematic "doubling" (Russell is repeatedly told how similar he is to Dix, and at the film's end, the sister of Dix's fianc¿ meets Russell and they go off together, an obvious Hollywood coupling).

Dix had been one of Hollywood's great silent stars, making his film debut in 1921. Two years later, Dix landed himself the role as the hero in the modern-day section of DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1923). Despite an Oscar nomination for the early talkie, Cimarron (1931), Dix found good roles increasingly hard to come by, and for the remainder of his career he found work only in B-pictures and serials. The Ghost Ship was a return to form for Dix, whose portrayal of the homicidal Captain Stone is one of the film's standouts.

Although The Ghost Ship came at the tail end of Dix's career, the film marked a beginning for another actor. Tough-guy actor Lawrence Tierney makes his uncredited screen debut here as the jocular Louie Parker. The role is small but important and Tierney's face as he is buried in chain is certainly one of the most memorable images of the film. Tierney would only have to wait two years before his breakthrough performance in the title role of Dillinger (1945) established him as a star. He would go on to star in Born to Kill (1947), The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947), Shakedown (1950), and The Hoodlum (1951), though younger audiences probably best remember him as crime boss Joe Cabot in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992). Tierney died in February, 2002, but in one of his final interviews, he told the following story about Val Lewton. According to Tierney, Lewton "liked to buy things from catalogues. He used to go through the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues. He used to say it was like 'sending myself presents.' He would see something coming in the mail and get excited. He used to say he knew he had seen me before. He would ask me where he had seen me and I'd say I don't know. "Well, have you ever been to California?" I'd tell him no and ask him if he had been to New York, and he'd say "No, very little." Finally, one day he said, "Wait a minute! I figured out where I had seen you before! C'mon, come up." I went up to his studio and there were all these pictures torn out of the Sears Roebuck catalogue, and they were all me when I was modeling for them!"

In addition to Lawrence Tierney, Lewton cast several of his favorite character actors in The Ghost Ship including Ben Bard and the calypso singer Sir Lancelot as Billy Radd. Sir Lancelot also appeared in Lewton's I Walked With a Zombie (1943) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944) and gets to perform three songs in The Ghost Ship - "Blow the Man Down," "Home Dearie Home," and "I'm Billy Radd from La Trinidad."

The film was directed by Mark Robson, who had worked with Lewton the previous year, serving as the editor on Cat People, directed by Robert Wise. Wise and Robson had earlier collaborated on Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), where they shared editing responsibilities (though Robson only received screen credit on the latter film). Robson directed five films for Lewton, though his big break came later, for Champion (1949), with Kirk Douglas. Though not a household name, Robson would go on to direct some of the most esteemed and popular films of his day, including The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), The Harder They Fall (1956), Peyton Place (1957), and Valley of the Dolls (1967), which, while certainly not esteemed in its day (the New York Times opined that, "Bad as Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls is as a book, the movie Mark Robson has made from it is that bad or worse"), has become a cult classic. In 1974, just four years before his death from a heart attack, Robson and Wise again joined forces when they, along with Bernard Donnenfield, formed their own production company.

While somewhat atypical in its lack of supernatural elements, The Ghost Ship is a great example of Lewton's craftsmanship. As director Robert Wise said of Lewton in 1963: "His philosophy, in addition to scaring the wits out of people, was that he had a responsibility to the millions who saw our pictures. He aimed at more than mere exploitable crook shows, and wanted their impact to result from legitimate psychological conflicts. Lewton's pictures were cheaply made, but not cheap."

Producer: Val Lewton
Director: Mark Robson
Screenplay: Donald Henderson Clarke
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Walter E. Keller
Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Editing: John Lockert
Music: Roy Webb, Constantin Bakaleinikoff
Cast: Richard Dix (Captain Will Stone), Russell Wade (Tom Merriam), Edith Barrett (Ellen Roberts), Lawrence Tierney (Louie), Ben Bard (Bowns), Edmund Glover (Jacob Winslow), Sir Lancelot (Billy Radd).
BW-70m.

By Mark Frankel
The Ghost Ship

The Ghost Ship

In a 1951 eulogy printed in the Nation, critic Manny Farber wrote that Val Lewton's "talents were those of a mild bibliophile whose idea of 'good' cinema had much to do with using quotes from Shakespeare and Donne, bridging scenes with a rare folk song, capturing climate with a description of a West Indies dish, and, in the pensive sequences, making sure a bit player wore a period mouth instead of a modern lipsticky one. Lewton's efforts not infrequently suggested a minor approximation of Jane Eyre." Born in Russia in 1904, Lewton moved to the United States in 1909 with his mother and his sister. A prolific writer, he soon found work in Hollywood and had his first screen credit for arranging the "revolutionary sequences" in David O. Selznick's A Tale of Two Cities (1935). In 1942, Lewton was put in charge of RKO's horror division (known as the "Snake Pit") and during the next four years, he produced eleven films, nine of them dealing with the supernatural. All of his RKO films were B-pictures and none ran longer than 80 minutes. But what made Lewton's films stand out from the pack was not his limited budget; it was, instead, his almost literary reticence, what Manny Farber called Lewton's "psychological fear of creating expensive effects." According to Farber: "He imperiled his characters in situations that didn't call for outsized melodrama and permitted the use of a journalistic camera - for example, a sailor trying to make himself heard over the din of a heavy chain that is burying him inside a ship's locker." Farber's example comes from Lewton's long-unavailable The Ghost Ship (1943). In his 1973 book on Lewton, Joel Siegel commented that, "The Ghost Ship is among Lewton's finest achievements. One hesitates in making it sound too appetizing, for The Ghost Ship is virtually a lost film." Due to legal complications that resulted from a plagiarism suit, the film was pulled from circulation soon after its release. Thankfully, all of Lewton's RKO films are once again available. Made the year after Lewton's most famous film, Cat People (1942), The Ghost Ship is a psychological sea thriller about a young Third Officer's near-fatal attempts to warn the crew about the captain's descent into madness. Tom Merriam (Russell Wade) boards the Altair, his first ship as an officer, at the specific request of Captain Stone (Richard Dix). The Captain, whose motto is "Who Does Not Heed The Rudder Shall Meet The Rock," sees in the young officer a younger version of himself, and he tells Merriam this, noting that both men are orphans driven to make something of themselves. The physical similarity between Dix and Wade serves to highlight the film's constant reiteration of thematic "doubling" (Russell is repeatedly told how similar he is to Dix, and at the film's end, the sister of Dix's fianc¿ meets Russell and they go off together, an obvious Hollywood coupling). Dix had been one of Hollywood's great silent stars, making his film debut in 1921. Two years later, Dix landed himself the role as the hero in the modern-day section of DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1923). Despite an Oscar nomination for the early talkie, Cimarron (1931), Dix found good roles increasingly hard to come by, and for the remainder of his career he found work only in B-pictures and serials. The Ghost Ship was a return to form for Dix, whose portrayal of the homicidal Captain Stone is one of the film's standouts. Although The Ghost Ship came at the tail end of Dix's career, the film marked a beginning for another actor. Tough-guy actor Lawrence Tierney makes his uncredited screen debut here as the jocular Louie Parker. The role is small but important and Tierney's face as he is buried in chain is certainly one of the most memorable images of the film. Tierney would only have to wait two years before his breakthrough performance in the title role of Dillinger (1945) established him as a star. He would go on to star in Born to Kill (1947), The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947), Shakedown (1950), and The Hoodlum (1951), though younger audiences probably best remember him as crime boss Joe Cabot in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992). Tierney died in February, 2002, but in one of his final interviews, he told the following story about Val Lewton. According to Tierney, Lewton "liked to buy things from catalogues. He used to go through the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues. He used to say it was like 'sending myself presents.' He would see something coming in the mail and get excited. He used to say he knew he had seen me before. He would ask me where he had seen me and I'd say I don't know. "Well, have you ever been to California?" I'd tell him no and ask him if he had been to New York, and he'd say "No, very little." Finally, one day he said, "Wait a minute! I figured out where I had seen you before! C'mon, come up." I went up to his studio and there were all these pictures torn out of the Sears Roebuck catalogue, and they were all me when I was modeling for them!" In addition to Lawrence Tierney, Lewton cast several of his favorite character actors in The Ghost Ship including Ben Bard and the calypso singer Sir Lancelot as Billy Radd. Sir Lancelot also appeared in Lewton's I Walked With a Zombie (1943) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944) and gets to perform three songs in The Ghost Ship - "Blow the Man Down," "Home Dearie Home," and "I'm Billy Radd from La Trinidad." The film was directed by Mark Robson, who had worked with Lewton the previous year, serving as the editor on Cat People, directed by Robert Wise. Wise and Robson had earlier collaborated on Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), where they shared editing responsibilities (though Robson only received screen credit on the latter film). Robson directed five films for Lewton, though his big break came later, for Champion (1949), with Kirk Douglas. Though not a household name, Robson would go on to direct some of the most esteemed and popular films of his day, including The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), The Harder They Fall (1956), Peyton Place (1957), and Valley of the Dolls (1967), which, while certainly not esteemed in its day (the New York Times opined that, "Bad as Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls is as a book, the movie Mark Robson has made from it is that bad or worse"), has become a cult classic. In 1974, just four years before his death from a heart attack, Robson and Wise again joined forces when they, along with Bernard Donnenfield, formed their own production company. While somewhat atypical in its lack of supernatural elements, The Ghost Ship is a great example of Lewton's craftsmanship. As director Robert Wise said of Lewton in 1963: "His philosophy, in addition to scaring the wits out of people, was that he had a responsibility to the millions who saw our pictures. He aimed at more than mere exploitable crook shows, and wanted their impact to result from legitimate psychological conflicts. Lewton's pictures were cheaply made, but not cheap." Producer: Val Lewton Director: Mark Robson Screenplay: Donald Henderson Clarke Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Walter E. Keller Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca Editing: John Lockert Music: Roy Webb, Constantin Bakaleinikoff Cast: Richard Dix (Captain Will Stone), Russell Wade (Tom Merriam), Edith Barrett (Ellen Roberts), Lawrence Tierney (Louie), Ben Bard (Bowns), Edmund Glover (Jacob Winslow), Sir Lancelot (Billy Radd). BW-70m. By Mark Frankel

The Val Lewton Collection on DVD


I don't want to sound like a bossy second-grade teacher, but you really are going to have to get The Val Lewton Horror Collection.

It's hardly a perfect collection, especially with all the audio commentaries by film historians who wallow in minutia that gets very tiring very quickly. But these facts are clear: (1) Lewton produced some of the best B-movies ever turned out on low budgets and quickie schedules for a Hollywood studio; and, (2) Some of the set's most noteworthy content is on the two discs available only within the five-disc boxed set.

First, some background. Struggling RKO hired Russian immigrant Lewton, then a story editor at David O. Selznick's studio, to head up a unit that would make low-budget horror movies and challenge Universal's dominance in that genre. RKO would have been happy to release monster movies like Universal's, and the studio imposed monstrous-sounding titles on Lewton's movies before scripts were ever penned. But the resultant stories were much more ambitious than that. Instead of using monsters, Lewton's subtle use of the power of suggestion left much of the terror to the viewer's imagination. By withholding shots of the source of terror in favor of foreboding shadows and sounds, and offering stories that usually took place in a contemporary, realistic setting, Lewton forged a distinctive mix in his RKO chillers. (Though he rarely took a writing credit, and never under his own name, Lewton wrote the final screenplay drafts for his RKO movies.)

Lewton's 1942-46 RKO chillers fall into three groups: the first trio of movies (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, The Leopard Man), all directed by Jacques Tourneur; after RKO split up Lewton and Tourneur to spread their talents wider, a mid-section of Lewton movies that often stuck to the style of the Tourneur pictures (The Seventh Victim, The Ghost Ship, The Curse of the Cat People); and, after the so-so financial performance of the straight dramas Mademoiselle Fifi and Youth Runs Wild, the three Lewton productions starring Boris Karloff (Isle of the Dead, The Body Snatcher and Bedlam).

Because the DVDs include two movies (each averages about only 72 minutes in length), the set often mixes titles from these periods on them:

Cat People and The Curse of the Cat People: Cat People, released in late 1942, is undoubtedly the most important Lewton movie, and this disc is the best place for the uninitiated to start. It set the tone for the rest of his RKO movies and, very importantly, was a big hit. Though the producer was forever stuck with imposed titles and tight budgets, its success gave Lewton a measure of creative control over his stories.

In its tale of the ill-fated marriage between a Serbian immigrant (Simone Simon) and a boat designer (Kent Smith), Cat People blends naturalistic staging and supernatural story as Lewton so often would. Irena, Simon's title character, believes she's descended from a line of women who turn into vengeful felines when sexually or emotionally aroused, so she won't consummate the marriage, which cranks up the sexual tension to levels unheard of in 1940s Hollywood movies, especially when Smith's character turns to the chummy co-worker who loves him (Jane Randolph) for advice. The movie's archetypal moments come when Irena stalks her rival through Central Park, and the extended silence becomes broken by a braking bus that lunges into the picture (a trademark Lewton device he'd often repeat) and when the still-stalked rival gets spooked by shadows and noises as she swims alone in a pool. Paul Schrader remade Cat People in 1982, but the original is the better version.

The Curse of the Cat People, out in 1944, is indicative of how Lewton subverted his RKO bosses' orders. Told to make a Cat People sequel, Curse is instead a very involving, very sensitive portrait of a lonely child. With the Smith and Randolph characters now married, following the death of Irena in the first film, their biggest worry is their daydreaming young daughter Amy (Ann Carter), who sees a picture of Irena and conjures up her image as an imaginary friend. Though lacking the visual lyricism of its predecessor, it's one of Lewton's best. Robert Wise co-directed with Gunther V. Fritsch, the first taking over for the second, who RKO fired for finishing only half the movie during the allotted schedule.

I Walked with a Zombie and The Body Snatcher: Another great double feature. The first, made just after Cat People, is more evidence of Tourneur's talent as a visual storyteller. A variation on Jane Eyre transposed to the West Indies, it finds a Canadian nurse (Frances Dee) arriving to her new post in the Caribbean, only to discover her new patient is a catatonic woman once caught in a love triangle between her husband (Tom Conway) and his half-brother (James Ellison), and that the island's native culture is steeped in voodoo. Like Cat People, an eerie chiller that travels far beyond the shocks we associate with horror. Meanwhile, The Body Snatcher is the best of Lewton's three pictures with Karloff (it was the second). Inspired by the Burke-Hare grave-robbing scandal, it's set in 1831 Edinburgh, with its main conflict pitting two former cadaver-stealing allies: a cabman (Karloff) who still digs up graves and a doctor (Henry Daniell) who's graduated to respectability and now only hires people to rob graves. The Body Snatcher, directed by Wise, is a fine example of how Lewton's movies not only avoided monsters, they also avoided outright villains and skillfully mined the moral grey zone.

Isle of the Dead and Bedlam: The first and third Lewton-Karloff collaborations, both also period pieces, are indicative of how Lewton's later RKO movies could be well-crafted, yet not as interesting as intended. The first, about a group of people quarantined on a Greek island during a plague scare, and the second, centered on London's notorious insane asylum of the 18th century, used period paintings and drawing as visual inspiration, so maybe it's not surprising they feel static. They're not bad and they give Karloff roles superior to his usual characters, but they feel flat compared to Lewton's more evocative work.

The Leopard Man and The Ghost Ship: the first of the two discs available only within the set offers two fine movies. The first is Tourneur's rendering of Cornell Woolrich's novel, Black Alibi, about what happens when a deadly black leopard gets loose in a New Mexico town. It's surely more uneven than Tourneur's two previous Lewton movies, yet it has great set pieces, especially when the cat stalks a teen who's been sent to the store by her mother. The Ghost Ship has been one of the most elusive Lewton movies, as it was pulled from release by RKO after a writer filed a plagiarism lawsuit, claiming the movie took elements from a script he had submitted to Lewton's office. Although Lewton never saw that script, RKO lost the case and pulled the movie. As with Curse of the Cat People, made just after it, Ghost Ship comes up with something much better than the mere horror film RKO wanted. Its conflict between the idealistic new third officer (Russell Wade) and the power-mad captain (Richard Dix) on a freighter doesn't just recall The Caine Mutiny, which Herman Wouk hadn't written yet, it also turns into an exploration of authority run amok, an anti-Fascist parable for its wartime audience.

The Seventh Victimand Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy: the second of the boxed-set-only discs contains two essentials. The Seventh Victim,, the first non-Tourneur Lewton movie, directed by Mark Robson in keeping with Tourneur's style, may be the eeriest of the producer's movies. Kim Hunter makes her film debut as a teen who travels to New York City to look for her missing older sister (Jean Brooks), and discovers that her sister became involved with a devil-worshipping cult that now wants her dead. If Lewton's movies stew in the juices of death, grief and loneliness, The Seventh Victim may be his grimmest. It's also his most noir movie, with all of its dangers stemming from human loneliness. A beautiful piece of melancholy.

Running a little under an hour, Shadows in the Dark is literally littered with interview subjects. Do we really need five film historians, four writers and seven directors praising Lewton? An indication of how cluttered it is comes when George A. Romero who, like Lewton, knows a thing or two about movie zombies, is never heard offering his take on Lewton's kind of voodoo-based zombie, much different from Romero's Pittsburgh zombies. Still, this is a good overview of the producer's life and work, and it's hard to argue with any of the praise heaped upon Lewton's movies. They deserve it. Full of family snapshots and home movie footage, as well as the comments of Lewton's son, Val E. Lewton, Shadows of the Dark offers a strong sense of how Lewton's RKO movies reflected his personality: dark, literate, competent.


Most of those film historians in the documentary handle audio commentaries on the set's movies, though there's no commentary for The Ghost Ship, which seemingly has the most interesting "back story." The most worthwhile commentary is definitely the late Robert Wise's, on . It's apparently culled from one long interview with the director, with the interviewer edited out, and it covers all of his movies with Lewton (the others being The Curse of the Cat People and Mademoiselle Fifi).

Wise's first-hand anecdotes are much more interesting than the historians' micro-observations and rabid research, which is often along the lines of "This scene was filmed on October 13, but this insert within it was filmed on November 4." Sorry, stuff like that is just not that interesting. The historians are all well-prepared and speak well, but when I cautiously popped in director William Friedkin's commentary for The Leopard Man—cautiously because Friedkin's The Narrow Margin commentary had some dubious observations — it was really refreshing to hear him say, "Frankly, the movie speaks for itself" in the first minute. Greg Mank's commentaries on Cat People and The Curse of the Cat People also include snippets of his phone interview with the late Simone Simon. For some reason, though, these snippets are often semi-arbitrarily dropped in with no set-up and, like most of the historians commenting, Mank doesn't even open by telling us his qualifications to do a commentary for a Val Lewton movie. When that happens, I just want to ask, "Dude, where's your credibility?"

For more information about The Val Lewton Horror Collection, visit Warner Video. To order The Val Lewton Collection, go to TCM Shopping.

by Paul Sherman

The Val Lewton Collection on DVD

I don't want to sound like a bossy second-grade teacher, but you really are going to have to get The Val Lewton Horror Collection. It's hardly a perfect collection, especially with all the audio commentaries by film historians who wallow in minutia that gets very tiring very quickly. But these facts are clear: (1) Lewton produced some of the best B-movies ever turned out on low budgets and quickie schedules for a Hollywood studio; and, (2) Some of the set's most noteworthy content is on the two discs available only within the five-disc boxed set. First, some background. Struggling RKO hired Russian immigrant Lewton, then a story editor at David O. Selznick's studio, to head up a unit that would make low-budget horror movies and challenge Universal's dominance in that genre. RKO would have been happy to release monster movies like Universal's, and the studio imposed monstrous-sounding titles on Lewton's movies before scripts were ever penned. But the resultant stories were much more ambitious than that. Instead of using monsters, Lewton's subtle use of the power of suggestion left much of the terror to the viewer's imagination. By withholding shots of the source of terror in favor of foreboding shadows and sounds, and offering stories that usually took place in a contemporary, realistic setting, Lewton forged a distinctive mix in his RKO chillers. (Though he rarely took a writing credit, and never under his own name, Lewton wrote the final screenplay drafts for his RKO movies.) Lewton's 1942-46 RKO chillers fall into three groups: the first trio of movies (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, The Leopard Man), all directed by Jacques Tourneur; after RKO split up Lewton and Tourneur to spread their talents wider, a mid-section of Lewton movies that often stuck to the style of the Tourneur pictures (The Seventh Victim, The Ghost Ship, The Curse of the Cat People); and, after the so-so financial performance of the straight dramas Mademoiselle Fifi and Youth Runs Wild, the three Lewton productions starring Boris Karloff (Isle of the Dead, The Body Snatcher and Bedlam). Because the DVDs include two movies (each averages about only 72 minutes in length), the set often mixes titles from these periods on them: Cat People and The Curse of the Cat People: Cat People, released in late 1942, is undoubtedly the most important Lewton movie, and this disc is the best place for the uninitiated to start. It set the tone for the rest of his RKO movies and, very importantly, was a big hit. Though the producer was forever stuck with imposed titles and tight budgets, its success gave Lewton a measure of creative control over his stories. In its tale of the ill-fated marriage between a Serbian immigrant (Simone Simon) and a boat designer (Kent Smith), Cat People blends naturalistic staging and supernatural story as Lewton so often would. Irena, Simon's title character, believes she's descended from a line of women who turn into vengeful felines when sexually or emotionally aroused, so she won't consummate the marriage, which cranks up the sexual tension to levels unheard of in 1940s Hollywood movies, especially when Smith's character turns to the chummy co-worker who loves him (Jane Randolph) for advice. The movie's archetypal moments come when Irena stalks her rival through Central Park, and the extended silence becomes broken by a braking bus that lunges into the picture (a trademark Lewton device he'd often repeat) and when the still-stalked rival gets spooked by shadows and noises as she swims alone in a pool. Paul Schrader remade Cat People in 1982, but the original is the better version. The Curse of the Cat People, out in 1944, is indicative of how Lewton subverted his RKO bosses' orders. Told to make a Cat People sequel, Curse is instead a very involving, very sensitive portrait of a lonely child. With the Smith and Randolph characters now married, following the death of Irena in the first film, their biggest worry is their daydreaming young daughter Amy (Ann Carter), who sees a picture of Irena and conjures up her image as an imaginary friend. Though lacking the visual lyricism of its predecessor, it's one of Lewton's best. Robert Wise co-directed with Gunther V. Fritsch, the first taking over for the second, who RKO fired for finishing only half the movie during the allotted schedule. I Walked with a Zombie and The Body Snatcher: Another great double feature. The first, made just after Cat People, is more evidence of Tourneur's talent as a visual storyteller. A variation on Jane Eyre transposed to the West Indies, it finds a Canadian nurse (Frances Dee) arriving to her new post in the Caribbean, only to discover her new patient is a catatonic woman once caught in a love triangle between her husband (Tom Conway) and his half-brother (James Ellison), and that the island's native culture is steeped in voodoo. Like Cat People, an eerie chiller that travels far beyond the shocks we associate with horror. Meanwhile, The Body Snatcher is the best of Lewton's three pictures with Karloff (it was the second). Inspired by the Burke-Hare grave-robbing scandal, it's set in 1831 Edinburgh, with its main conflict pitting two former cadaver-stealing allies: a cabman (Karloff) who still digs up graves and a doctor (Henry Daniell) who's graduated to respectability and now only hires people to rob graves. The Body Snatcher, directed by Wise, is a fine example of how Lewton's movies not only avoided monsters, they also avoided outright villains and skillfully mined the moral grey zone. Isle of the Dead and Bedlam: The first and third Lewton-Karloff collaborations, both also period pieces, are indicative of how Lewton's later RKO movies could be well-crafted, yet not as interesting as intended. The first, about a group of people quarantined on a Greek island during a plague scare, and the second, centered on London's notorious insane asylum of the 18th century, used period paintings and drawing as visual inspiration, so maybe it's not surprising they feel static. They're not bad and they give Karloff roles superior to his usual characters, but they feel flat compared to Lewton's more evocative work. The Leopard Man and The Ghost Ship: the first of the two discs available only within the set offers two fine movies. The first is Tourneur's rendering of Cornell Woolrich's novel, Black Alibi, about what happens when a deadly black leopard gets loose in a New Mexico town. It's surely more uneven than Tourneur's two previous Lewton movies, yet it has great set pieces, especially when the cat stalks a teen who's been sent to the store by her mother. The Ghost Ship has been one of the most elusive Lewton movies, as it was pulled from release by RKO after a writer filed a plagiarism lawsuit, claiming the movie took elements from a script he had submitted to Lewton's office. Although Lewton never saw that script, RKO lost the case and pulled the movie. As with Curse of the Cat People, made just after it, Ghost Ship comes up with something much better than the mere horror film RKO wanted. Its conflict between the idealistic new third officer (Russell Wade) and the power-mad captain (Richard Dix) on a freighter doesn't just recall The Caine Mutiny, which Herman Wouk hadn't written yet, it also turns into an exploration of authority run amok, an anti-Fascist parable for its wartime audience. The Seventh Victimand Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy: the second of the boxed-set-only discs contains two essentials. The Seventh Victim,, the first non-Tourneur Lewton movie, directed by Mark Robson in keeping with Tourneur's style, may be the eeriest of the producer's movies. Kim Hunter makes her film debut as a teen who travels to New York City to look for her missing older sister (Jean Brooks), and discovers that her sister became involved with a devil-worshipping cult that now wants her dead. If Lewton's movies stew in the juices of death, grief and loneliness, The Seventh Victim may be his grimmest. It's also his most noir movie, with all of its dangers stemming from human loneliness. A beautiful piece of melancholy. Running a little under an hour, Shadows in the Dark is literally littered with interview subjects. Do we really need five film historians, four writers and seven directors praising Lewton? An indication of how cluttered it is comes when George A. Romero who, like Lewton, knows a thing or two about movie zombies, is never heard offering his take on Lewton's kind of voodoo-based zombie, much different from Romero's Pittsburgh zombies. Still, this is a good overview of the producer's life and work, and it's hard to argue with any of the praise heaped upon Lewton's movies. They deserve it. Full of family snapshots and home movie footage, as well as the comments of Lewton's son, Val E. Lewton, Shadows of the Dark offers a strong sense of how Lewton's RKO movies reflected his personality: dark, literate, competent. Most of those film historians in the documentary handle audio commentaries on the set's movies, though there's no commentary for The Ghost Ship, which seemingly has the most interesting "back story." The most worthwhile commentary is definitely the late Robert Wise's, on

TCM Remembers - Lawrence Tierney


A SCREEN TOUGH GUY WHO WAS MEANER THAN A JUNKYARD DOG

Lawrence Tierney, one of the screen's toughest tough guys, died February 26th at the age of 82. He first startled audiences with his impassioned work in the 1940s but Tierney's rowdy off-screen life eventually pushed him out of the limelight. Though he kept working in small parts, Tierney found a new generation of fans with a few memorable roles in the 80s and 90s.

Tierney was born March 15, 1919 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in New York and was a track star in school before becoming interested in acting. (His two brothers also became actors though they changed their names to Scott Brady and Ed Tracy.) He went through the usual period of stage appearances before getting bit parts in little-remembered films. His first credited role was in Sing Your Worries Away (1942) but Tierney quickly made his mark playing the title role in Dillinger (1945). A string of memorable roles followed in films like San Quentin (1946), The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947), Born to Kill (1947) and the Oscar-winning circus drama from director Cecil B. DeMille, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) in which Tierney played the villain responsible for the epic train wreck toward the film's conclusion. However, Tierney had a knack for real-life trouble and was arrested several times for disorderly conduct and drunken driving. By the end of the 50s he only found sporadic acting work, sometimes not working for several years between films. During this period his best-known work was in Custer of the West (1967) and Andy Warhol's Bad (1977).

Slowly in the 1980s, Tierney landed small but frequently noticable parts in Hollywood films such as Prizzi's Honor (1985) and The Naked Gun (1988). He appeared on TV shows like Hill Street Blues, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Seinfeld (as Elaine's father). In 1992 that changed when Quentin Tarrantino cast Tierney as the crime boss in Reservoir Dogs, an unforgettable part that gave him new fans. While the subsequent roles or films didn't get any bigger, Tierney was finally a recognized name. One of his oddest roles was the half-hour Red (1993) based on the infamous mid-70s Tube Bar tapes where a real-life bar owner responds with startlingly over-the-top remarks to prank phone calls. (If that sounds familiar it's because The Simpsons based Moe's responses to prank calls on these tapes. Tierney provided a voice in the 1995 Simpsons episode "Marge Be Not Proud.") Tierney's last film appearance was in Armageddon (1998)!

By Lang Thompson

CHUCK JONES, 1912 - 2002

Animator Chuck Jones died February 22nd at the age of 89. Jones may not have boasted quite the name recognition of Howard Hawks or John Ford but he was unquestionably one of the greatest American directors. His goals might have been primarily to entertain, which he did so wonderfully that his 50 and 60 year old cartoons seem fresher than most anything produced in the 21st century. But Jones displayed a sense of movement, timing and character barely equalled elsewhere. Literary critics have a saying that while there are no perfect novels there are certainly flawless short stories. Several of Jones' cartoons reach a perfection that Hawks and Ford could only have dreamed about.

Jones was born September 21, 1912 in Spokane, Washington but grew up in Hollywood. As a child he would watch films by Charlie Chaplin and others being made in the streets, absorbing the process and supposedly even appearing as an extra in Mack Sennett shorts. After graduating from L.A.'s Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts), Jones started selling pencil drawings on street corners. He soon landed a job in 1932 with ground-breaking animator Ub Iwerks as a cel washer (somebody who removes ink from the expensive celluloid frames so they could be reused). The following year Jones began to work for Leon Schlesinger Productions which was sold to Warner Brothers. There he directed his first film, The Night Watchman in 1938.

Jones would stay at Warners for almost 25 years until it closed the animation division. Here is where Jones did some of his most-beloved work, putting Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner, Marvin Martian and numerous others through many of their most memorable exploits. Who can forget Bugs and Daffy's hilariously convoluted arguments about hunting season in Rabbit Seasoning (1952) and Duck Rabbit Duck (1953)? Or the Coyote's tantalized, endless pursuit of the Road Runner? What's Opera Doc? (1957) sending Elmer and Bugs to Bayreuth? A cheerfully singing and dancing frog that, alas, only performs for one frustrated man? Daffy tormented by the very elements of the cartoon medium in Duck Amuck (1953)? That's only a fraction of what Jones created while at the Warners animation studio, affectionately known as Termite Terrace. This building on the Warners lot boasted an array of individualist talents that Jones, like Duke Ellington, could pull into a whole. There was voice artist Mel Blanc's impeccable timing, writer Michael Maltese's absurdist love affair with language, music director Carl Stalling's collaged scores and perhaps best of all a studio that knew enough to just leave the gang alone so long as the cartoons kept coming.

After Warners shuttered its animation division in 1962, Jones moved to MGM where he worked on several Tom & Jerry cartoons, his inimitable lines always immediately apparent. In 1966 he directed How the Grinch Stole Christmas from Dr. Seuss' book, one of the finest literary adaptations. A feature version of Norman Juster's classic The Phantom Tollbooth followed in 1969. Along with his daughter Linda, Jones was one of the first to see the value of original animation art and in the late 70s began a thriving business. (For more info see http://www.chuckjones.com.) Jones made cameo appearances in Joe Dante's Gremlins (1984) and Innerspace (1987). In 1989, he wrote a touching and funny memoir, Chuck Amuck, that's pretty much essential reading.

Jones won an Best Short Subject Cartoons Oscar for The Dot and the Line (1965), having earlier been nominated twice in 1962. His Pepe LePew film For Scent-imental Reasons (1949) and public-health cartoon So Much for So Little also won Oscars though not for Jones himself. In 1996 he was awarded an honorary Oscar "for the creation of classic cartoons and cartoon characters whose animated lives have brought joy to our real ones for more than a half century."

By Lang Thompson

GEORGE NADER, 1921 - 2002

Actor George Nader, best known for the B-movie anti-classic Robot Monster, died February 4th at the age of 80. One-time co-star Tony Curtis said, "He was one of the kindest and most generous men I've ever known. I will miss him." Nader was born in Pasadena, California on October 19, 1921 and like many other actors started performing while in school. His first film appearance was the B-Western Rustlers on Horseback (1950) and he made other appearances, often uncredited, before the immortal Robot Monster in 1953. This dust-cheap, charmingly inept film (originally in 3-D!) features Nader as the father of Earth's last surviving family, everybody else having been wiped out by a gorilla in a diving helmet. Shortly after, Nader landed major roles in RKO's Carnival Story (1954) and with Curtis in Universal's Six Bridges to Cross (1955), bringing a beefy charm that earned him numerous fans. As a result, in 1955 Nader shared a Golden Globe for Most Promising Male Newcomer. He then appeared in numerous lower profile studio films before closing out the decade playing Ellery Queen in a short-lived TV series. He relocated to Europe in the sixties where he found steady work. As secret agent Jerry Cotton, he made a series of spy thrillers which earned him a cult reputation in Europe, starting with Schusse aud dem Geigenkasten (aka Operation Hurricane: Friday Noon) (1965). The eighth and final entry in the series was Dynamit in gruner Seide (aka Dynamite in Green Silk) (1968). His film career ended in the mid-70s when a car wreck damaged his eyes so that he could no longer endure a film set's bright lights. Nader began writing novels, most notably the recently reprinted Chrome (1978), an acclaimed science fiction novel with openly gay characters.

By Lang Thompson

TCM REMEMBERS HAROLD RUSSELL, 1914 - 2002

Oscar-winning actor Harold Russell died January 29th of a heart attack at age 88. As a disabled veteran whose hands had been amputated in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Russell won Best Supporting Actor but also an honorary award "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans." This made Russell the only person to receive two Oscars for the same role. Russell was born in Nova Scotia on January 14, 1914 but grew up in Cambridge Massachusetts. He joined the US Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor and while training paratroopers lost both hands in an accidental explosion. He then made a training film where director William Wyler saw Russell. Wyler was so impressed that he changed the character in The Best Years of Our Lives from a man with neurological damage to an amputee so that Russell could play the part. After winning the Oscar, Russell followed Wyler's advice and went to college, eventually running a public relations company and writing his autobiography. He made two more film appearances, Inside Moves (1980) and Dogtown (1997), and appeared in a few TV episodes of China Beach and Trapper John MD. Russell made waves in 1992 when he decided to sell his acting Oscar to help cover expenses of his large family. The Motion Picture Academy offered to buy the statue for $20,000 but it sold to an anonymous bidder for $60,000. About the other statute, Russell said, "I'd never sell the special one. The war was over, and this was the industry's way of saying thank you to the veterans."

By Lang Thompson

TCM Remembers - Lawrence Tierney

A SCREEN TOUGH GUY WHO WAS MEANER THAN A JUNKYARD DOG Lawrence Tierney, one of the screen's toughest tough guys, died February 26th at the age of 82. He first startled audiences with his impassioned work in the 1940s but Tierney's rowdy off-screen life eventually pushed him out of the limelight. Though he kept working in small parts, Tierney found a new generation of fans with a few memorable roles in the 80s and 90s. Tierney was born March 15, 1919 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in New York and was a track star in school before becoming interested in acting. (His two brothers also became actors though they changed their names to Scott Brady and Ed Tracy.) He went through the usual period of stage appearances before getting bit parts in little-remembered films. His first credited role was in Sing Your Worries Away (1942) but Tierney quickly made his mark playing the title role in Dillinger (1945). A string of memorable roles followed in films like San Quentin (1946), The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947), Born to Kill (1947) and the Oscar-winning circus drama from director Cecil B. DeMille, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) in which Tierney played the villain responsible for the epic train wreck toward the film's conclusion. However, Tierney had a knack for real-life trouble and was arrested several times for disorderly conduct and drunken driving. By the end of the 50s he only found sporadic acting work, sometimes not working for several years between films. During this period his best-known work was in Custer of the West (1967) and Andy Warhol's Bad (1977). Slowly in the 1980s, Tierney landed small but frequently noticable parts in Hollywood films such as Prizzi's Honor (1985) and The Naked Gun (1988). He appeared on TV shows like Hill Street Blues, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Seinfeld (as Elaine's father). In 1992 that changed when Quentin Tarrantino cast Tierney as the crime boss in Reservoir Dogs, an unforgettable part that gave him new fans. While the subsequent roles or films didn't get any bigger, Tierney was finally a recognized name. One of his oddest roles was the half-hour Red (1993) based on the infamous mid-70s Tube Bar tapes where a real-life bar owner responds with startlingly over-the-top remarks to prank phone calls. (If that sounds familiar it's because The Simpsons based Moe's responses to prank calls on these tapes. Tierney provided a voice in the 1995 Simpsons episode "Marge Be Not Proud.") Tierney's last film appearance was in Armageddon (1998)! By Lang Thompson CHUCK JONES, 1912 - 2002 Animator Chuck Jones died February 22nd at the age of 89. Jones may not have boasted quite the name recognition of Howard Hawks or John Ford but he was unquestionably one of the greatest American directors. His goals might have been primarily to entertain, which he did so wonderfully that his 50 and 60 year old cartoons seem fresher than most anything produced in the 21st century. But Jones displayed a sense of movement, timing and character barely equalled elsewhere. Literary critics have a saying that while there are no perfect novels there are certainly flawless short stories. Several of Jones' cartoons reach a perfection that Hawks and Ford could only have dreamed about. Jones was born September 21, 1912 in Spokane, Washington but grew up in Hollywood. As a child he would watch films by Charlie Chaplin and others being made in the streets, absorbing the process and supposedly even appearing as an extra in Mack Sennett shorts. After graduating from L.A.'s Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts), Jones started selling pencil drawings on street corners. He soon landed a job in 1932 with ground-breaking animator Ub Iwerks as a cel washer (somebody who removes ink from the expensive celluloid frames so they could be reused). The following year Jones began to work for Leon Schlesinger Productions which was sold to Warner Brothers. There he directed his first film, The Night Watchman in 1938. Jones would stay at Warners for almost 25 years until it closed the animation division. Here is where Jones did some of his most-beloved work, putting Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner, Marvin Martian and numerous others through many of their most memorable exploits. Who can forget Bugs and Daffy's hilariously convoluted arguments about hunting season in Rabbit Seasoning (1952) and Duck Rabbit Duck (1953)? Or the Coyote's tantalized, endless pursuit of the Road Runner? What's Opera Doc? (1957) sending Elmer and Bugs to Bayreuth? A cheerfully singing and dancing frog that, alas, only performs for one frustrated man? Daffy tormented by the very elements of the cartoon medium in Duck Amuck (1953)? That's only a fraction of what Jones created while at the Warners animation studio, affectionately known as Termite Terrace. This building on the Warners lot boasted an array of individualist talents that Jones, like Duke Ellington, could pull into a whole. There was voice artist Mel Blanc's impeccable timing, writer Michael Maltese's absurdist love affair with language, music director Carl Stalling's collaged scores and perhaps best of all a studio that knew enough to just leave the gang alone so long as the cartoons kept coming. After Warners shuttered its animation division in 1962, Jones moved to MGM where he worked on several Tom & Jerry cartoons, his inimitable lines always immediately apparent. In 1966 he directed How the Grinch Stole Christmas from Dr. Seuss' book, one of the finest literary adaptations. A feature version of Norman Juster's classic The Phantom Tollbooth followed in 1969. Along with his daughter Linda, Jones was one of the first to see the value of original animation art and in the late 70s began a thriving business. (For more info see http://www.chuckjones.com.) Jones made cameo appearances in Joe Dante's Gremlins (1984) and Innerspace (1987). In 1989, he wrote a touching and funny memoir, Chuck Amuck, that's pretty much essential reading. Jones won an Best Short Subject Cartoons Oscar for The Dot and the Line (1965), having earlier been nominated twice in 1962. His Pepe LePew film For Scent-imental Reasons (1949) and public-health cartoon So Much for So Little also won Oscars though not for Jones himself. In 1996 he was awarded an honorary Oscar "for the creation of classic cartoons and cartoon characters whose animated lives have brought joy to our real ones for more than a half century." By Lang Thompson GEORGE NADER, 1921 - 2002 Actor George Nader, best known for the B-movie anti-classic Robot Monster, died February 4th at the age of 80. One-time co-star Tony Curtis said, "He was one of the kindest and most generous men I've ever known. I will miss him." Nader was born in Pasadena, California on October 19, 1921 and like many other actors started performing while in school. His first film appearance was the B-Western Rustlers on Horseback (1950) and he made other appearances, often uncredited, before the immortal Robot Monster in 1953. This dust-cheap, charmingly inept film (originally in 3-D!) features Nader as the father of Earth's last surviving family, everybody else having been wiped out by a gorilla in a diving helmet. Shortly after, Nader landed major roles in RKO's Carnival Story (1954) and with Curtis in Universal's Six Bridges to Cross (1955), bringing a beefy charm that earned him numerous fans. As a result, in 1955 Nader shared a Golden Globe for Most Promising Male Newcomer. He then appeared in numerous lower profile studio films before closing out the decade playing Ellery Queen in a short-lived TV series. He relocated to Europe in the sixties where he found steady work. As secret agent Jerry Cotton, he made a series of spy thrillers which earned him a cult reputation in Europe, starting with Schusse aud dem Geigenkasten (aka Operation Hurricane: Friday Noon) (1965). The eighth and final entry in the series was Dynamit in gruner Seide (aka Dynamite in Green Silk) (1968). His film career ended in the mid-70s when a car wreck damaged his eyes so that he could no longer endure a film set's bright lights. Nader began writing novels, most notably the recently reprinted Chrome (1978), an acclaimed science fiction novel with openly gay characters. By Lang Thompson TCM REMEMBERS HAROLD RUSSELL, 1914 - 2002 Oscar-winning actor Harold Russell died January 29th of a heart attack at age 88. As a disabled veteran whose hands had been amputated in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Russell won Best Supporting Actor but also an honorary award "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans." This made Russell the only person to receive two Oscars for the same role. Russell was born in Nova Scotia on January 14, 1914 but grew up in Cambridge Massachusetts. He joined the US Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor and while training paratroopers lost both hands in an accidental explosion. He then made a training film where director William Wyler saw Russell. Wyler was so impressed that he changed the character in The Best Years of Our Lives from a man with neurological damage to an amputee so that Russell could play the part. After winning the Oscar, Russell followed Wyler's advice and went to college, eventually running a public relations company and writing his autobiography. He made two more film appearances, Inside Moves (1980) and Dogtown (1997), and appeared in a few TV episodes of China Beach and Trapper John MD. Russell made waves in 1992 when he decided to sell his acting Oscar to help cover expenses of his large family. The Motion Picture Academy offered to buy the statue for $20,000 but it sold to an anonymous bidder for $60,000. About the other statute, Russell said, "I'd never sell the special one. The war was over, and this was the industry's way of saying thank you to the veterans." By Lang Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Very shortly after its theatrical release in December of 1943, producer Val Lewton was sued for plagiarism by Samuel R. Golding and Norbert Faulkner, who claimed that Lewton based his script on a play which they had written and submitted to Lewton's office at the time "The Ghost Ship" was being developed. Although Lewton had the opportunity to settle out of court, he chose to have the case tried. Despite Lewton's claims that their manuscript was returned unread, the court ruled against Lewton and RKO (a decision held up at appeal), and "The Ghost Ship" was withdrawn from circulation. It remained unavailable for viewing for the next 50 years.

RKO had built an expensive ship set for their 1938 production Pacific Liner (1938). Val Lewton was given instructions to come up with a film that could use the still existing set.

Notes

Although a Hollywood Reporter production chart places Eve March in the cast, her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to an August 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, Dr. Jeron Criswell, who served as technical consultant on this picture, was an authority on psychic phenomena and extra sensory perception. The picture was withdrawn from distribution after writers Samuel R. Golding and Norbert Faulkner brought a plagiarism suit against RKO, alleging that The Ghost Ship was based on their 1942 play A Man and His Shadow. In August 1950, RKO lost the suit, and was ordered to withdraw the film and pay Faulkner and Golding $25,000 in damages.