Saturday, 21 September 2013

After failing 3 film schools, I've seen Death Ship - 1980 UK-Canadian horror directed by Alvin Rakoff, and it's special.

This film stars George Kennedy as the Captain, Richard Crenna as his deputy, Sally Ann "Truly Scrumptious off Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" Howes as his wife, some Canadian child actors as their kids, Nick Mancuso and Victoria Burgoyne as lovers, Saul Rubinek as the first victim, an annoying comedian/entertainer/compere and Kate Reid as the Shelley Winters-esque middle-aged widow.

Its about a cruise ship that thanks to recycled footage from the 1959 MGM film The Last Voyage is sunken, rammed by the titular Nazi concentration/torture ship. Seven survivors rescue their captain, who is possessed by the Nazi Captain, board the living but abandoned (seemingly) Nazi ship, and all crazy mayhem ensues.

It was written by Jack Hill, the American director behind among other films Foxy Brown, Coffy (both 1973), Spider-Baby (1968) and the Big DollHouse (1971), but directed by the husband of one-time Dr. Who companion Jacqueline "Barbara" Hill, as he was Canadian unlike Jack Hill (who was American), and plus Rakoff had directed 1977's Harry Alan Towers-produced UK/Canadian/South African potboiler King Solomon's Treasure and the Canadian disaster film City on Fire in 1979 with Henry Fonda, a post-Cassandra Crossing/Earthquake Ava Gardner and the 'serious era' Leslie Nielsen. This is nuts. No other film has death by eating 40-year-old Nazi boiled sweets that turn middle-aged widows into pustule-faced mutants that have walked off the set of Doctor Who - Mawdryn Undead (1983). Or seeing BBC boats 'n' sex soap Howard's Way actress Burgoyne killed merely via blood showered on her Psycho-style, just pure normal Nazi blood. Or having Nazi propaganda films being projected on your chest being fatal!

For trash films, it's recommended with each performance full of insanity, especially the possessed Kennedy. Even the child actors aren't that bad, as they are Canadian not winsome Americans....

Plus it was double-billed in the UK by Barber-Dann with Phobia (1980) by John Huston, starring Paul Michael Glaser, realising if his Starsky and Hutch co-star David Soul did horror well with Salem's Lot (1979), he could go better in Canada with a legendary director, and a script by Hammer vet Jimmy Sangster, plus King Solomon's Treasure and Battlestar Galactica actor John Colicos, but it is rubbish. Huston wastes his talent. It is grey, rubbish, bare of any shock value, and even as a Canadian guilty pleasure, totally fails.

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