Alan Ladd decides to join a whaling crew in the Antarctic as a ship’s mate, as a favour to Joan Tetzel, whose father has died. The old man was apparently a former fleet captain who leapt from the bow of a company ship. It is said to be suicide, Tetzel thinks otherwise. Ladd thinks Tetzel is fetching. Joseph Tomelty is a ship captain, Niall MacGinnis is the drunk doctor on board, Basil Sydney is co-owner of the ship also on board, and Jill Bennett is a spunky Norwegian captain of a whaling vessel. Stanley Baker is Sydney’s son and one-time flame of Tetzel whom Sydney is very protective of.
Dull 1954 cheapie from the usually reliable Mark Robson (“The Seventh Victim”, “The Harder They Fall”, “Inn of the Sixth Happiness”), was one of a few British films Ladd made around this period. It’s less shoddy-looking than “The Red Beret”, but it’s still pretty lifeless and poorly scripted. A major disappointment given the presence of several 007 alumni in the credits (writer Richard Maibaum, producer ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, and it was also shot at Pinewood- yeah, I stretched it a bit on the last one)
The cast looks great on paper, but plays differently in actuality. Ladd is OK in the lead, though his introductory scenes (roughing up a dodgy acquaintance) are laughable. Tetzel, who was one of the few bright spots in Hitchcock’s “The Paradine Case”, is fairly horrid as the love interest. I’m not sure what was going on with her at the time, but she’s really off in this one. The talented Welsh actor Stanley Baker never really gets a chance to do much as the far too obvious villain, his character is left on the sidelines for far too long to be effective. MacGinnis, and especially Bennett steal their every scene, and provide the film’s only memorable moments.
Shockingly frank (and fully endorsed) footage of whaling practices not really frowned upon at the time, will definitely offend sensitive types (and likely many others, myself included) and further shows that this C-grade film really ought to have been forgotten. The screenplay is by Alec Coppel (“Vertigo”, “The Black Knight”, another British film with Ladd), Max Trell (“New Mexico”, with Lew Ayres), and Richard Maibaum (“Dr. No”, “From Russia With Love”, “Goldfinger”, “Licence to Kill”). Supposedly based on a novel by Hammond Innes (“The Wreck of the Mary Deare”), which I haven’t read.