Moby Dick (1956)
“I do not fear Moby Dick; I fear the wrath of God.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
The film is beautifully shot (in Wales, Portugal, and Spain) with a strong sense of authenticity, both for locale and period detail:
Scenes with The Whale are impressive as well, especially considering how challenging it was to get anything workable at all on screen:
John Huston’s assertion that this was the most challenging film he ever made (which is saying a lot) rings true; one seriously worries for the safety of all while watching brutally realistic scenes at sea:
The performances across the board are excellent, with Peck especially noteworthy as Ahab (he was an inspired second choice), Genn excellent as Starbuck, Basehart appropriately peripheral as Ishmael, and von Ledebur stoically menacing as Queequeg (shout-out to make-up creator Charles E. Parker as well):
Orson Welles has a fine cameo early in the film as a pastor giving a sermon about — naturally — Jonah and the whale:
Also on view are Bernard Miles and Harry Andrews as shipmates:
… and Royal Dano as a man named Elijah who tries to warn the men about their treacherous journey:
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
One thought on “Moby Dick (1956)”
A no-brainer must-see, as an effective adaptation (by Ray Bradbury) filmed by a master director.
I have a feeling that I finally read ‘Moby Dick’ after it was referenced in ‘Zelig’ (in which the Woody Allen character doesn’t want to admit that he never read it… and only *begins* reading it on his deathbed). I’ve always felt that the novel had rather universal appeal because of what the whale represents.
Although it was made by my favorite director, it’s not a film that I return to often – but I do return to it every couple of years (maybe that’s often enough). It’s as powerful each time. I once even saw it at a movie theater (at a revival cinema house in Tokyo) so I know the impact it can have on a larger screen. (It also looks rather good now in its blu-ray form.)
The entire cast is excellent – led, of course, by Peck in one of his best performances (it’s right up there with Atticus Finch – and, honestly, I can’t say that Peck has ever been one of my favorites but it’s cool seeing him come up to the plate like this).
All told, this is a stirring achievement on a number of levels. In the early ’90s, Bradbury finally wrote a book of reminiscence: