Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Michael Redgrave, Barbara Mullen, James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Finlay Currie
Director: Roy Boulting
Release Date: 4 December 1942
Length: 112 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: TV
My Rating: 2/5 stars
The main character, David Charleston (Michael Redgrave) is a light-house keeper who has pulled himself out of the outside world because he could not persuade his fellow Britains of the very serious threat that Hitler posed to all of Europe. He was a war correspondent and knew the real situation on the European mainland, but could not convince his complacent fellow citizens to see the shadow of war looming over them so he gave up, chucked it all in and retreated to a small town on Lake Michigan where he passed the time talking to ghosts from a ship that sank in a storm leaving no survivors.
I was interested in the premise of this movie when I read the little blurb, but found myself very disappointed in the film as a whole. I found this movie too preachy and too depressing.
The ghosts all take the time to tell their personal stories: a coal worker with a bad lung condition who left his children behind with relatives to travel to California to try and make his fortune with his wife, who is expecting their 10th child; a female suffragette in her 40s who believes that women deserve equal rights and opportunities far ahead of her time; an Austrian doctor, his wife and daughter who was on the verge of discovering anesthesia before he left his home; and a few other random assorted passengers, including the captain of the ill-fated vessel.
The first half of the movie is presented as a flashback on the main character’s life that is very anti-war and rather depressing, even though it is absolutely correct. The second half is all about the ghosts’ lives before they died and why they were on their way to California in the first place. All of them have quite depressing endings to promising beginnings: a family man so proud of his children, but cannot afford to take care of them; a suffragette who gives up on her cause and regrets not marrying and having children; and a doctor who believed those around him and gave up on his revolutionary treatments, leaving everything behind. I felt like the director was up on his soapbox the entire time and was pretty tired of being preached at by the end. The message is to not give up because you never know when you are close to a great accomplishment or discovery, but I just ended up pretty down and kind of bored. There is no real resolution at the end, either, as there is more of a “hopefully ever after” attitude. Whatever.
Anyway, I felt like I wasted my time watching this movie as, even though I agree that the writers and director had valid points and messages that they were trying to get across. I just don’t like being preached at so obviously, especially when I was expecting a more entertaining ghost story! This is a very obvious anti-war movies that features a lot of interesting historical stories, but just cannot present them in a relevant or entertaining way. If you want to show the clips of the ghosts’ lives to a history class or something, I could see that the movie would have a little bit of value in that respect, but otherwise give this one a pass.
This movie shows scenes of war including information about World War II including genocide, concentration camps and the like. There is also violence, despair, injustice and other frustrating themes. Recommended for ages 12 and up.