The Phantom Ship (1935) - Denison Clift

This historical mystery piece thats brought to us from Hammer films is based on a true story. The story of the Mary Celeste, a ship that was found with the entire crew missing. Bela Lugosi, note the credit on the poster as Dracula, brings the best performance of his career. Aside, of course, from Dracula. 

The crew of the Mary Celeste find themselves stuck on board their vessel with a murderer about. The film does a good job of trying to build suspense by putting certain crew members in baited situations. The horror in the movie is really subtle and is laying groundwork for similar films in the future. Nothing really "scary" happens other than the uneasy feeling you get from being stuck on that ship.

This isn't that fantastic of a film. It isn't the worst either. It serves best as a catalyst for some pretty decent character acting. The lead crew members of the ship, including the Captain did a great job. Lugosi, however, takes the cake. His part is so good that it actually propels the film a few notches. It's a shame that this happened to be the first and last Hammer picture that Bela had ever been in. Gunner Moir, a heavily tattooed and brutish sailor, gives a standout performance as well. 

It really could have been a lot worse. Usually horror movies at sea don't fend well. This one unfortunately happens to fall by the wayside. If you are a film student then this is a good movie to catch up on Bela Lugosi's work. Check it out. 

Bela's Best
  • Bela Lugosi shot this feature in England after The Raven (1935) and prior to The Invisible Ray (1936). Filming lasted from mid July-August 1935.
  • Only the second production from Hammer Films, who did just four features in the 1930s before going into hiatus until 1946.