The Ghost Ship (1943)

7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Different type of story

Film has an odd tone

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Ghost Ship

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  December 24, 1943

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Anchors away!

Tom Merriam (Russell Wade) is taking his first trip on the Altair with Captain Will Stone (Richard Dix).  As the trip progresses and a man is killed in an accident, Merriam realizes that Stone’s behavior seems erradic and odd.  Challenging Merriam at a tribunal, Merriam accidentally becomes trapped on the ship…and Stone is seeking revenge.

Directed by Mark Robson, The Ghost Ship is a suspense-horror thriller produced by Val Lewton.  The movie was met by mixed reviews, and faced legal problems.  Lewton was accused of stealing the script, and the film was put out of circulation for fifty years.

The Ghost Ship is a weird movie.  Despite being a film called “The Ghost Ship”, the film a very straight forward suspense film.  With no ghosts and no supernatural elements, the movie (like a lot of Lewton’s films) is almost a bait-and-switch for viewers.


Oh you wacky little mute…you’ve stolen my heart!

The story has a strange tone and flow.  Though it is rather creative and suspenseful, it takes a long time for the suspense to get going.  There are a couple of odd deaths at the beginning of the film to lead you to suspect it could be a ghost story, but the second half of the film involves a cat-and-mouse game of survival between Merriam and Stone which works much better.

The movie has more clout than some of Lewton’s other productions.  Cimarron Oscar nominee Richard Dix is good as the captain over the edge and Russell Wade is rather flat at the strapped Merriam.  Edith Barrett plays the only real female in the film and is a veteran of Lewton’s I Walked with a Zombie.  Calypso singer Sir Lancelot and Lawrence Tierney also have small uncredited roles.  I also like Finn the Mute played by Skelton Knaggs…and his fight with Dix at the end.


Oh my a giant phallic symbol…or just a big ass knife to murder you with…

The movie looks rather good despite the low budget.  The movie reused the set of Pacific Liner (1939) and was written to utilize it.  It is obvious pretty set based but the use of light and shadows gives the film a classy and noire style.  In particular, the ending scene where Merriam is bound and cannot move is quite tense and nicely shot…it helps make the movie and give it the punch it needs (I just wish there were more moments like this early on).

The Ghost Ship is a movie that probably should be seen more.  Due to its history of being out of circulation, the movie has both a bit of notoriety but that also means little play.  This movie doesn’t have much of a female role in it and many critics note that it has a homosexual undertone.  There are a few odd moments between the captain and Merriam, but for the time it was made, I don’t know if this view is more imposed in hindsight.  It is an interesting take on a rather interesting movie…regardless, check out The Ghost Ship for a short and different “horror” movie.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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