Death Ship (1980) - Alvin Rakoff

Death Ship (37)


Alvin Rakoff


Derek Gibson and Harold Greenberg


Jack Hill and David P. Lewis


George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Nick Mancuso and Sally Ann Howes


Avco Embassy Pictures

Release date:

March 7, 1980


Canada and United Kingdom

Did ya know:

The make and model of the derelict mysterious black 'Flying Dutchman like' "Death Ship" was a deserted German World War II freighter which had once been a Kriegsmarine prison ship used for torturing.

Death Ship is striking. The exterior resembles any other small-budget horror movie released in the late-seventies or early eighties. It's muddy and coarse. But Death Ship is surely worth trying out. It has tension and terror. Plus, stages of certain fright. If that's not sufficient. Consider seeing a possessed George Kennedy starring in a movie set on a runaway Nazi ghost ship.

An ocean liner is bearing out on a retirement voyage for its captain. The ship is run into by an unknown dark vessel and draws on water. This causes it to sink. A lot of the voyagers and crew are drown and are killed. But both captains and their families live along with the band leader. They are ultimately "rescued" by that same dark vessel that sank them. A solitary German World War II Nazi torture ship that desires to execute them one by one. To make things worse, the retiring captain becomes possessed by Nazi ghosts and cooperates in the deaths. It's insane.

The movie doesn't come without obvious issues. There are terrible cuts and snags from the dreaded low-budget. But the overall trend of the movie still comes off as dark and foreboding. It's unnerving. One scene is when an individual falls into the hull of the ship. The possessed captain fetches him out utilizing a net full of bones and decomposing corpses. It's brilliant. The man suffers as he yields to despair. The movie slows down in this spot to tack on extra fright and irregularity. That scene is hard to watch. The whole time we get to intense levels of unhealthy quality nazi music. That's enough to contribute to a few rough dreams.

Issues are bound to occur. These headaches are with the condition of the film, dubbing and acting. Sure. But the effects aren't insignificant. In fact a number of them were outstanding. But this film isn't about blood and guts. This horror movie relies on environment. The shots of the inner recesses of this huge abandoned ship are enough to give you the willies. The casting is likewise impressive. Richard Crenna, Nick Mancuso and Saul Rubinek all star or make appearances. The acting is television quality, but it's not the most terrible. And it doesn't take away from the surroundings or how weirdness. Another cool thing is that the movie was written by grind house legend Jack Hill. So that gives Death Ship points.

I found it funny that the most convenient group of people survive the wreckage. Just about everyone featured on board the first ocean liner survived. Moreover, both captains fail to go down with the ship. But those are mere petty criticisms. I admired this picture. The movie touched a lot of buttons for me. It isn't perfect, but there's an attraction. This anti-Semitic murder machine is preposterous. A giant nazi killer ship! I mean what in the hell! George Kennedy as a nazi possessed curmudgeon is the definition of fright. This is a must see for horror fans.