Published on October 17th, 2008 | by Chris0
The Ship That Died of Shame (1955)
In yet another entry from this weeks "Books on film" theme 😀 we get a treat from our friends across the pond. The British borne The Ship That Died of Shame. From Nicholas Monsarrat's book of the same name.
In it, a retired MGB (Machine Gun Boat, took me a bit to realize what that meant) is repurchased by her former crew after the war to take on, shall we say, less honorable deeds than what she had been tasked with. And quite frankly, she doesn't like it very well.
After the war, Captain Bill Randall (George Baker) finds himself somewhat out of sorts with life. He's left his former job and bought himself a boat repair business, which unfortunately just isn't doing well. His wife was killed early on in the war, and he's become fairly down on his luck.
At one of the local service reunions, his old shipmate, George Hoskins (Richard Attenborough) appears, and offers up a proposition, involving none other than the old girl "1087" as she's known. They rescue her from her maritime graveyard and proceed to make a killing smuggling random goods back and forth across the channel.
However, getting involved in such a business exposes them to some rather unsavory elements, which the greed-driven Hoskins weasels his way into, much to the dismay of old 1087. She begins acting more and more strangely during their trips. As the cargo becomes more and more questionable, such as guns and other less harmless items, the gremlins start to manifest themselves in larger ways.
Finally, they're tasked with smuggling a criminal from the continent back to England, and the old girl doesn't want any of it. One thing leads to another and nearly leads to the death of them all.
It really sets that whole idea of the ship as "alive" quite well, I think. I'm sure a lot of Navy men have felt that way about a ship from time to time, and if you've ever wondered what that's all about, then you definitely should watch this.
I guess you could file this one more under the "Twilight Zone" than any war movie, although the opening scene is really quite good in that respect. Overall it is quite a suspenseful picture, one I felt could have easily been attributed to the likes of Hitchcock. Maybe not nearly as polished as he would have done, but director John Irvin comes really, really close.
A littlle known gem, The Ship That Died of Shame shouldn't be passed over just because its "another old movie."