Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1944
Directed by
Alfred Hitchcock
96 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


John Huston or John Ford rather than Alfred Hitchcock would be the director one might expect for this wartime film about a group of survivors from a German U-boat attack afloat in the Atlantic.  Despite the close confinement to the single set of the eponymous life-boat and the focus on individuals under stress, there is even here a typical Hitchcockian “thriller” component in the form of the German U-boat captain (Walter Slezak) who the survivors pick up and who we know is treacherous although they do not. Then there’s also the perfunctory model work and back projection and, ever the ironist, Hitchcock manages to insert himself in a tiny cameo involving a newspaper ad for an “obesity slaying” suit.

Based on a John Steinbeck novel, the limitations of the setting are well-handled with a roster of characters: John Hodiak’s alpha male, an acid-tongued journalist (Tallulah Bankhead), a good-natured lug (William Bendix), a wealthy industrialist (Henry Hull) , a black steward (Canada Lee) and so on, responding to their situation in various ways with the central issue being the rights of the German. 

Befitting its propagandistic purpose the film is more a morality play than a survivalist drama (most obviously in the case of the makeshift amputation) but it is an enjoyable one nevertheless as the survivors are more evidence of human frailty than exemplars of good and evil and Hitchcock manages to keep the players in dynamic correlation for the duration.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst