The Ghost Ship – USA, 1943

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The Ghost Ship is a 1943 American psychological thriller film, with elements of mystery and horror, directed by Mark Robson, starring Richard Dix and featuring Russell Wade, Edith Barrett, Ben Bard and Edmund Glover, along with Skelton Knaggs.

The movie was produced by Val Lewton for RKO Radio Pictures as part of a series of low-budget horror films.

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Plot:

Tom Merriam signs on the ship Altair as third officer under Captain Stone. At first things look good, Stone sees Merriam as a younger version of himself and Merriam sees Stone as the first adult to ever treat him as a friend. But after a couple strange deaths of crew members, Merriam begins to think Stone is a psychopathic madman obsessed with authority. He tries to tell others, but no one believes him, and it only makes Stone angry…

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The Ghost Ship was released in theaters on Christmas Eve, 1943. It did well at the box office until Lewton was sued for plagiarism in February 1944 by playwrights Samuel R. Golding and Norbert Faulkner, who claimed that the script was based on a play that was submitted to Lewton for a possible film. Because of the lawsuit, The Ghost Ship was withdrawn from theatrical release.

Lewton disputed the claim, but the court ruled against him. RKO paid the authors $25,000 in damages and attorney fees of $5,000, and lost all future booking residuals and the right to sell the film for airing on television.

Elliot Lavine, a film historian, says that losing the lawsuit deeply disturbed Lewton, leaving him depressed for a significant period of time. The film did not see release for nearly another 50 years.

Fearing the Dark Val Lewton

Buy Fearing the Dark: The Val Lewton Career book from Amazon.com

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val lewton“The pacing is perfect; director Mark Robson doesn’t waste a minute of the film’s brief 69 minute running time. Cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca, who deserved an Oscar for Cat People and would go on to photograph some of the finest noirs ever made, including Out of the Past, keeps that RKO atmosphere slinking across the ship’s deck like a fog.” Goatdog’s Movies

The Ghost Ship is a film that impresses more than it viscerally affects. Perhaps part of this is the lack of any genuine relationships amongst the characters. The Ghost Ship is in desperate need of the humanism that marked Cat People, its sequel, and even I Walked With A Zombie...” Cinelogue

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