Night #12: The Mystery Of The Mary Celeste (1935)

Directed By: Denison Clift

Ok so I made a mistake. I’ve always loved the story of the Mary Celeste and due to pressing time I needed something that was reasonably short. On top of that the poster art was nicely atmospheric so why not give this one a go?

Starring Bela Lugosi you would expect some sinister shenanigans, but this doesn’t quite offer that. It’s a murder mystery that’s largely lacking in mystery altogether. Even worse, in a 60 minute film it’s 20 minutes before they’re off at sea. And so this goes on in that choppy way that old movies do. There’s abrupt cuts and the feeling that you’re seeing a truncated version of a longer film. That’s not necessarily the case of course, it’s just that things were cruder then and less finessed. Oddly enough though IMDB does list a running time of 80 minutes and a title of Phantom Ship so I’m not sure what’s happening there.

It’s also another Amazon con job. Like The Most Dangerous Game from last week, this looks to be another public domain effort, so the picture is washed out (Appropriate since we’re at sea…sorry, just trying to make the best of it) and the sound is so bad that I completely lost track of who had just been killed at some points, offering the only surprise in the whole thing.

Sometimes hunting around for movies you haven’t seen before like this you hope that you get to unearth some forgotten gems, but more often than not the reality is these remain forgotten for a reason. The only real noteworthy element here is Lugosi’s performance. He was written off as only being Dracula, but he showed that he had real dramatic chops. Had he been given more of a chance then I have no doubt he would’ve been fondly remembered for his acting, instead of just one role.


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