Friday, January 21, 2011

Andrew L. Stone - The Last Voyage (1960)

Can't wait for Titanic to be released on home video? Here's something that will hold you over--a terrific disaster movie made in 1960 before disaster movies were in vogue, MGM/UA Home Video release The Last Voyage (ML101193, $40). After the establishing shot of the passenger ship, the film opens on a note received by the captain, George Sanders, saying that there is a fire in the engine room. It closes, 91 minutes later, with the final debris sinking into the deep. The characters are flawed but never simple cut-outs--the captain, for example, makes both good and bad decisions as he tries to hide the initial problem from his passengers and stave off the inevitable as long as he can. Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone star as the two passengers the narrative chooses to focus upon--the rest of the characters with significant parts are all crew members--with Malone trapped beneath a steel girder after one of the boilers explodes and Stack working desperately to free her. Even the horrid child actress who plays their daughter has a few genuinely affecting moments. The film is consistently exciting, smartly paced, realistic and grandly staged (the special effects are quite good). It was ahead of its time when it was first released, but we're surprised it hasn't gathered a stronger cult following since then, though with the popularity of the Titanic change. The picture is presented full screen but cropping appears to be minimal (it actually seems to be very slightly windowboxed). The color transfer looks fine, with accurate fleshtones (Malone glows, even as she nears apparent death) and crisp hues. The monophonic sound is okay and the film has not been closed captioned. The chapter encoding and jacket guide are passable.

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