Wednesday, April 21, 2021

#2,556. The Last Voyage (1960)

Released more than a decade before The Poseidon Adventure, The Last Voyage is a concise yet oh-so-effective disaster film about a cruise ship that runs into serious trouble on the high seas.

Cliff Henderson (Robert Stack) is relocating to Japan, and along with his wife Laurie (Dorothy Malone) and daughter Jill (Tammy Marihugh) he boards the SS Claridon, which is Asia bound. Under the command of Captain Robert Adams (George Sanders), the SS Claridon is an old ship, and is scheduled for the scrapyard once this voyage is complete.

Unfortunately, the Claridon will never make it to Japan; after a fire breaks out in the boiler room, the entire ship is rocked by a devastating explosion. Along with opening a gaping hole in the side of the vessel, the explosion has all but destroyed the Henderson’s state room, pinning Laurie’s leg under a beam.

As water pours in, the crew, including First Officer Osborne (George Furness), the Chief Engineer (Jack Kruschen), and Second Engineer (Edmond O’Brien), works quickly to save the ship and get as many passengers into the lifeboats as they can, while Cliff and crewman Hank Lawson (Woody Strode) try to free Laurie before the SS Claridon sinks to the bottom of the Pacific.

Directed by Andrew L. Stone, The Last Voyage generates a great deal of tension throughout, and on several different fronts. First, the movie follows the crew as they try to keep the ship afloat, and slowly realize doing so is an impossible task. Bulk heads flood, walls collapse, and more explosions set the stage for the inevitable. In addition to the crisis at hand, a conflict arises between the Captain (well played by Sanders) and his subordinates. Through it all, Captain Adams remains determined to bring his dying vessel into dock in one piece, and is slow to alert the passengers of the impending danger (his crew continually presses him to do so). Yet despite his stubbornness, the captain isn’t entirely demonized (we understand his motivations, even if we - like his crew - believe he’s making a mistake) and we even sympathize with him as the pressure mounts.

Then there’s the drama surrounding Cliff Henderson and his family; after saving his young daughter (a very tense sequence), Cliff rushes out to find someone to help him free his wife. As The Last Voyage progresses, her situation becomes more dire, and Dorothy Malone does a fine job conveying the many emotions her character experiences as she waits to be rescued (including the realization she might not be rescued in time).

Each and every subplot is well-developed, and while it may not feature as star-studded a cast as The Towering Inferno or The Poseidon Adventure, every performer in The Last Voyage gives their all (including the narrator, cast member George Furness, who recounts the events as if speaking from some time in the near future). All this plus the well-realized special effects (which netted the film its sole Academy Award nomination) help make The Last Voyage a disaster flick that’s every bit as strong as its ‘70s counterparts.
RATING: 8 out of 10 (This is a good one!)

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