Saturday, January 25, 2020

DEATH SHIP (1980) Blu-ray Review

Death Ship (1980) d. Rakoff, Alvin (Canada/UK) (91 min)

Crusty and cranky Captain Ashland (George Kennedy) is taking his luxury cruise liner out for one final spin on the ocean before retirement, with trusty second-in-command Marshall (Richard Crenna) along for the ride and waiting in the wings to take over. But when their ship is blindsided by another vessel, all passengers are sent down to Davy Jones’ locker with the exception of Ashland, Marshall and his family (Sally Ann Howes, Jennifer McKinney, Danny Higham), ship’s steward Nick (Nick Mancuso), his girlfriend Lori (Victoria Burgoyne), and kindly old religious nut Sylvia (Kate Reid). (Bandleader Saul Rubinek also ends up in the life raft, but is done away with so quickly, it barely counts.) Surprise, surprise, the derelict ship that took them out circles back around for another go, they all climb aboard, and mayhem predictably (and sporadically) ensues.

I had been meaning to catch up with this for years, based upon the awesome poster art (blatantly ripped off by Dark Castle for Ghost Ship in 2002). However, I had never heard anyone talk favorably about it enough such as to make it a priority. Well, thanks to the KRYPTIC ARMY, I finally can scratch it off the list, even if the voyage was hardly five-star material. Granted, there are a few memorable moments in this yarn about a derelict Nazi “torture ship” (was that a thing?) cruising around the ocean, fueled by bad vibes and the occasional dollop of human blood, mowing down unsuspecting cruise ships and then luring the survivors on board its own decks to make mincemeat of them one by one.

However, said memorable moments are interspersed with endless passages of director Rakoff moving the camera around the empty decks showing us that (*GASP*) there’s no one on board! We see phonograph record needles and cargo netting winches and all manner of seafaring equipment operate on its own because, you know, that’s just terrifying stuff.

Oscar winner Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, Strait-Jacket) spends more than half the movie in a coma, but revs back up in the final reel once he’s possessed by the Nazi spirits milling around the joint. Crenna (Rambo, Leviathan) wears a beard and tries to keep his annoying kids from becoming fish food, while Mancuso (Nightwing) trades time rolling around with naked Burgoyne and rolling around with rotting human corpses. (Burgoyne’s blood shower is one of the aforementioned highlights, as is Reid’s encounter with some 40-year-old poisoned peppermints.)

Bottom line, it’s not terrible, but it’s also not great. According to various sources, Jack Hill’s (Spider Baby, Foxy Brown) original story (co-written with David P. Lewis) was messed with quite a bit by TV hack director-turned-screenwriter John Robins, so one can only wonder how he might have brought it to the screen had he been allowed to direct.


Brand New 16x9 anamorphic (1:78) widescreen HD master from the original InterPositive

Isolated music track from the original 3 Track Mag sound

Deleted scene

Watch in "Katarina’s Nightmare Theater" format or play feature only.

"Learn What the Ship is Saying" featurette

Original trailer

Death Ship is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Scorpion Releasing and can be ordered HERE:


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