Sunday, July 1, 2012


Lifeboat; war drama, USA, 1944; D: Alfred Hitchcock, S: John Hodiak, Tallulah Bankhead, Hume Cronyn, Mary Anderson, Walter Slezak

The Atlantic ocean, World War II. A British ship is sunk by a German U-boat, which was also destroyed. A dozen people find sanctuary on a lifeboat, including Constance, Kovac, Stanley and Alice. A woman is saved, but not her baby. During the night, she jumped into the sea and disappeared. The crew rescues also Willy, the German captain of the U-boat, which causes a rift between those who think he should be thrown out and those who want to keep him as a POW. Heading towards the nearest German supply boat before they run out of fresh water, Willy kills Smith, whose leg was amputated. The crew then kills Willy. Before they reach the German supply ship, a British ship shows up and sinks it.

Out of only five Oscar nods that were allowed during his lifetime for best director, "Lifeboat" - together with "Spellbound" - is arguably one of the films which did not show Hitchock's mastery in the fullest. He crafted an experimental story that is set exclusively on one lifeboat and succeeds in sustaining the viewers interest until the end, despite numerous potential shortcomings that could have, but did not turn towards the monotone, thanks to a tight drama and 'kammerspiel', yet the movie is surprisingly poor with suspense and is instead just a straighforward 'Robinson Crusoe' survival drama, which is why Hitchcock's similar future 'minimalist thrillers' "Rope" and "Rear Window" proved to stand the test of time far better. The famous director always tried to avoid World War II topics for their 'too obvious suspense' and political films, especially since policies change with time, and even though "Lifeboat" managed to circumvent those two, it is interesting to point out that it is burdened on two fronts for its role of the German captain among the crew - in the past, it was attacked for "humanizing a Nazi", while today, it is objected for stepping into black and white World War II 'propaganda' since it shows not only him, but also another German towards the end, as all the same, rotten people (coincidentally, a third representative, kind American German Smith, says he changed his name from "Schmitz", which is also quite clumsy - alluding that only an Americanized German is a "good German"). Overall, it is a quality drama with a few fine details (the amputation of Smith's leg is not shown - just how someone throws away his right shoe) and camera angles, whereas Hitchcock was especially inventive for smuggling his cameo in such an isolated location in the scene where a protagonist is reading a newspaper showing the famous director in a fat and "thin" photo as an add for imaginary diet product "Reduco".


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