Phantom Ship (1935) Poster

(1935)

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6/10
Rare Lugosi!
Norm-3023 June 1999
This fictional story is based on true event -- the finding of a ship with no one on it.....and gives a plausible "explanation" of what MIGHT have happened.

This film is notable for Lugosi's dramatic performance; it's one of the (very) few films that he was able to show his dramatic (as opposed to horror) side.

This is a VERY difficult film to find.....but worth watching for Lugosi's performance alone!
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6/10
Not historically accurate but a good movie.
ChuckStraub13 February 2005
The Mary Celeste was a real ship that was found adrift in good condition, with its cargo intact, in the Atlantic with no one aboard and no record of what happened to them. It's one of histories great mysteries of the sea. This film is very loosely based on this event but it has many of the facts wrong. The film cannot be viewed as a historically correct movie about the real Mary Celeste's voyage. As an example, the captain gets married just before they sail. In reality the Captain was married for some time and had a child that was on the voyage. The child was absent from the movie. There are many more inaccuracies. The accuracy of the personalities of the ship's crew is also very questionable. The movie has taken huge liberties with the facts. Ignoring that this is supposed to take place on the Mary Celeste, this is still a pretty good drama/mystery. I was happily surprised to find that this is one of the very early films from Hammer studios. The atmosphere and settings were great and the characters interesting. Overall the acting is good. Bela Lugosi really stands out with a great dramatic performance and is excellent in his role. The quality of the film and sound are not the greatest but acceptable considering it's age. This USA version is what remains of an earlier and longer British version which I presume is lost but it's still a decent movie. Hammer studios, Bela Lugosi, 1935, isn't that enough to have you take a look at this movie?
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8/10
Lugosi In A Great, Though Atypical Role
Denison Clift's "The Mystery Of The Mary Celeste" aka. "Phantom Ship" of 1935 is a great movie starring Bela Lugosi in a great though atypical role. Many people seem to dislike this movie and I don't really see why. Maybe some people have mixed feelings about "Phantom Ship" because Lugosi's character is not the ingenious super-villain he often played, but an unshaven and scruffy sailor. In my opinion, however, Lugosi's role not being typical doesn't downgrade his excellent performance, and "The Mystery Of The Mary Celeste" is a highly atmospheric Horror Mystery and, by the way, one of the first movies produced by the legendary Hammer Film Productions.

The fictional story, which was inspired by the tragic case of the real-life ghost-ship 'Mary Celeste', is of course not historically accurate. Some characters have the names of real-life members of the "Mary Celeste" crew, but the rest of the story is pure fiction. I don't see this as negative either, however. First of all, movies don't always have to be historically accurate to be good. Second, this movie doesn't claim historical accuracy, the beginning clearly says that the story was only inspired by the tragedy of the Mary Celeste.

The great Bela Lugosi is, once again, brilliant in his role, and some of the other cast members, such as Edmund Willard or the heavily tattooed Gunner Moir also deliver great performances."The Mystery Of The Mary Celeste" is impressively filmed, and the dark, sometimes haunting atmosphere and menacing character of the sea are excellently brought to screen. The film's musical score is also great, occasional songs sung by characters contribute to the movie's atmosphere, and the background score in some other scenes contributes to the suspense.

"The Mystery Of The Mary Celeste" is a highly atmospheric, excellently shot and vastly underrated movie. Lugosi fans can't afford to miss this. Highly Recommended! 8/10
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7/10
Bela Lugosi's finest hour
jluis198416 May 2006
Hammer Film Productions is famous for the production of Gothic horror during the 60s and 70s; however, way before becoming the legendary horror house, the company had a brief but brilliant encounter with the genre. The film was an ambitious entry in the horror/mystery genre starring horror icon Bela Lugosi and based on the famous case of the abandoned ship, the "Marie Celeste".

"The Mystery of the Marie Celeste" (or as it is known in the U.S., "The Phantom Ship") presents a fictional theory on the mysterious disappearance of the entire crew (complete with the captain's family) of the tragically famous ship. The plot deals with a mysterious murderer who is killing the crew one by one. Arthur Margetson is Captain Benjamin Briggs, who is taking his bride Sarah (Shirley Grey) in his tragic last trip. The crew includes Bela Lugosi and Edmund Willard among others, all of them possible victims, or killers.

The film is very well done for a low budget, and it is very well written, with very interesting characters and a perfectly crafted mystery. Sadly, several minutes of film were cut for the American release and it's the only version that has survived. The original British version (with a runtime of approximately 80 minutes) is apparently lost. The movie still works with the cuts, but one is left to wonder how deep the development of the characters was in the original.

Director Denison Clift had a small career as a director (he was primarily a writer), but he manages to create great atmospheres and builds up the suspense and the mystery with good care. Clift focuses more on the story than in the visual composition and lets the actors do the trick, they are without a doubt the film's highlight. The superb performances of the cast give life to the story and make the experience even more enjoyable.

Arthur Margetson is very good as the stubborn and stoic Capt. Briggs, but Shirley Grey is a bit weak as the romantic interest (contrary to the real story, in the film the couple has no children). Edmund Willard and Bela Lugosi steal the show, the first one as the violent Tobey Bilson, and Lugosi as the mysterious Anton Lorenzen. The two of them give outstanding performances and are the soul of the movie. While Bela Lugosi will always be remembered as Dracula, is in this movie where he can display his dramatic talent in a very demanding role as the emotional Lorenzen.

The film feels claustrophobic at times being that the only location is the ship, but this adds to the feeling of paranoia and suspense that grows among the crew. The lack of flamboyant visual imagery may turn off horror fans not used to the slow pace of older films but the films moves at a perfect rhythm. Another small flaw is that the rest of the cast is at times either unconvincing or over-the-top; however, Lugosi, Willard and Margetson make up for this.

While "The Mystery of the Marie Celeste" is not the classic film that "Dracula" or "White Zombie" are, it is a fine film that successfully mixes horror and mystery and displays the great talent Lugosi had, a talent that was sadly forgotten and went underused during most of his career. This film is an often forgotten shiny spot in the stories of both Lugosi and Hammer Productions, and therefore a must-see for anyone interested in Lugosi's life or in Hammer's history, as it is probably the finest performance of an iconic figure. 8/10
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8/10
Bela Lugosi at his best!
ivinia17 April 2005
This movie has recently been released as a cult classic for $1. Yes, ONE dollar. Didn't come in a standard DVD case, but a thick card-stock 'envelope'. It's packaged as 'Phantom Ship'. I couldn't pass that up and quickly added it to my collection...

The movie was of surprisingly good quality. Usually movies from this era (mid 30's) suffer from static and there is difficulty understanding the dialog at times because of the bad sound quality. Visually, the sets were extremely realistic and detailed. You could tell when the occasional stock footage was used, but it fit well with the movie.

The story is based on an possible answer to the mystery of the Mary Celeste. The Mary Celeste was a sailing ship loaded with 1,700 barrels of alcohol that left New York on November 7, 1872 bound for Genoa, Italy. On board were the captain, his wife, their young daughter, and a crew of eight. The ship was later found drifting at sea - no one on board.

The movie seems to deviate from the story in that the captain is single and has his fiancée with him. There is no daughter. One by one, people start to disappear as the crew realizes there is a murderer aboard the ship. The writer tried to build up a cast suspects.

Was it the crew member sent by the captain of another ship who had also proposed to the captains fiancée? When he sent that crew member on board, he told him to do whatever he needed to do...and maybe he could be a second mate someday.

Was it the sadistic second mate on the Mary Celeste? He seemed to love beating and torturing people.

Maybe it was one of the shanghaied (kidnapped) members of the crew. One of which threatened to kill the second mate and made it clear he was going to get even.

Maybe Bela Lugosi's character. A man who had been shanghaied years before on the Mary Celeste and wanted revenge for the brutality he had suffered.

One by one, people were killed. Each time the remaining crew would grow more paranoid and suspicious. I must confess that I was never quite sure who exactly was guilty until the very end. There were just too many possibilities. This made the movie unpredictable and enjoyable. The acting was superb throughout. The interaction between crew members and the atmosphere were extremely well done.

I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a scary mystery, any Bela Lugosi fan, or anyone who enjoys movies from the 30's.
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7/10
A Good Acting Effort
Hitchcoc3 February 2010
While this isn't the greatest film in history, the Marie Celeste is a puzzle and it's fun watching her self-destruct. Lugosi showed some real chops in this film. Not long after Dracula, we get to see him play a character who is filled with vengeance and fury. Lugosi makes him a really sympathetic person who has obviously been wronged and has seemingly given up on life. The relationship of the captain and his wife on board this strange ship is a bit strained. Why would he do this? Also, there has to be a reel missing from this film. There are a couple of deaths that simply happen but we aren't privy to them. I've always enjoyed the claustrophobic milieu that is a ship, no escape available for anyone, and this one uses that closed in atmosphere pretty well. Still, it is pretty unsatisfying at times.
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4/10
"When this ship sails, death sails on her."
classicsoncall9 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Reading some of the positive posts on this film leads me to wonder whether I watched the same movie. There's probably only one reason to catch this picture, that being the presence of Bela Lugosi. However with the bad editing of what survives in the American release of "Phantom Ship", even Lugosi's performance raises eye brows at times.

The story attempts to portray what might have happened on board the 'Mary Celeste', a ship out of New York harbor in 1872 bound for Italy, and found adrift and derelict in the mid Atlantic on December 5th of the same year. The speculation left this viewer disinterested as soon as the body count started to mount, especially when the ship's Captain Briggs (Arthur Margetson) attempted to pin down the whereabouts of his crew and who 'might' have possessed a gun when a bullet was fired into his stateroom. There's no time to build empathy with with any of the crew members, primarily because no one's around long enough. Ultimately, Lugosi's character confesses to murdering the crew over having been shanghaied aboard the same ship six years earlier. Then, in a moment of crazed paranoia, he jumps overboard to seal the deal.

Besides Lugosi, the only other character bringing any gusto to the proceedings is first mate Bilson (Edmund Willard), and he does so by flogging his own men. A side story involves Captain Briggs as a newlywed with his wife Sarah aboard, but his leadership turns out highly ineffective. Apparently, the couple were allowed to escape the ship in the scenario presented, so Lugosi could complete his mission.

Devotees of films of the 1930's through the '50's will recognize Ben Welden as one of the men on board ship. He usually played cheap hoods in gangster films and early TV shows. The best though had to be the tattooed fat guy who almost made it to the end; watching him prompts one to get up and take a shower as soon as the film is over.
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7/10
Phantom Ship
Scarecrow-8820 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A film which takes a stab at providing a story of why the Mary Celeste yielded a vanished crew. Bela Lugosi stars as weary and browbeaten Anton Lorenzen whose mental state has been devoured after having been shanghaied on board the Mary Celeste many years prior to another invite aboard that damned ship. He seeks revenge on the man who roped him and threw him overboard for the sharks, Capt. Benjamen Briggs' assistant Toby Bilson(Edmund Willard)and will change his name joining the crew(he has only one arm which might serve as an example of that ill-fated day). Briggs(Arthur Margetson)has on board his soon-to-be bride Sarah(Shirley Grey)as they sail for another location on the plans of matrimony, but someone on board is killing the crew one by one. Briggs will have to find the madman before there's no one left to guide the Mary Celeste. Clasping the bible into his bosom, Anton seems trustworthy, if a bit off-kilter..he does save Briggs' wife from a near-rape by a member of the captain's crew and seems sorrowful for the taking of a life. But, when someone tries to shoot Briggs, the film really becomes a series of bodies being found until nearly everyone is gone..including several leads who just disappear from the screen. Soon it's down to three people and we get a clear indication who it just might be.

We're not far removed from the silent era and that transition truly shows in the poor delivery of dialogue by many of the cast members. It wasn't a quality print that I watched, but it didn't detract too much from the experience. The film never lost my interest thanks to the mind-boggling performance from Lugosi..I can't put his performance into words. Lugosi's all over the map leaping from trustworthy sea-farer to complete loony in a single take. He's always interesting, that's for sure. I'm not sure I'd call him awful, but it's almost hard to describe..certainly a change-of-pace role where he has an opportunity to take his character into depths of sorrow and madness at a moment's notice. I didn't think it was that well directed or acted, I did feel the film should've showed more action than is shown particularly the fates of leads Arthur Margetson and Shirley Grey as the proposed couple to be wed. I'd say this is a film best recommended to Lugosi enthusiasts and the curious in general.
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4/10
PHANTOM SHIP (Denison Clift, 1935) **
Bunuel19769 March 2007
I had always been interested in checking out this seafaring thriller due to Bela Lugosi's involvement; still, now I can't help feeling that the over-age star was miscast in the role of a hapless 'old man of the sea' who bears an Ahab-like grudge against the "Mary Celeste" and is also something of a religious fanatic (the inspiration for this was, perhaps, Boris Karloff's impressive turn in John Ford's desert adventure THE LOST PATROL [1934]). That said, his final descent into madness (uncommonly vicious for the time but, then, the film is based on a factual incident!) is fairly well handled.

Ultimately, however, the British-made picture fails to rise above its 'quota quickie' status - Lugosi himself fared much better with the later DARK EYES OF London (1939) - and can't honestly compare with the similar Val Lewton-produced THE GHOST SHIP (1943); moreover, it is fatally compromised by the director's baffling decision to keep much of the central action off-screen (either due to budgetary limitations or he must have been an admirer of Tod Browning)! Considering some of the choppy editing involved, though, I'm inclined to believe the film's official length as given by the IMDb - i.e. 80 minutes, rather than the 62-minute version I saw (culled from the Image DVD).

There's also the insipid - but mandatory - romantic interest to contend with here, to say nothing of various songs by the leading lady (with piano accompaniment) and an organ-playing sailor, which are a chore to sit through...but the latter musical instrument's come-uppance at the hands of the angry first mate does provide some unintended hilarity!

P.S. Though it hadn't been officially named as yet, the company that made this film is actually Hammer Films; as a matter of fact, I first came upon PHANTOM SHIP (under its original title of THE MYSTERY OF THE MARY CELESTE) via a still in an article about the famed British "House Of Horror" in an early 1980s periodical...
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5/10
The Mary Celeste's mystery is like "and then there were none"
jcholguin18 July 2001
In history the crew of the Mary Celeste disappeared and this film attempts to show a possible recreation. Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Anton Lorenzen, a mad crazed man seeking revenge against the crew of the Mary Celeste is wonderful. None of the crew can remember what Lorenzen looks like so he is able to join the new crew. One by one crew members are murdered or just disappear until one person remains. But when the floating ship is found there is no one aboard. An interesting tale to watch even if predictable.
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5/10
Creaky, dull British maritime mystery
AlsExGal8 March 2021
A crew set out to sea on the Mary Celeste, circa the 1870's, only to face foul weather, mysterious motives, and murder. The odds are stacked against them as all sorts of seafaring bad luck omens pop up, from 13 crew members, to a black cat onboard, to a woman (Shirley Grey) on the ship. Also starring Bela Lugosi as a crazed one-armed sailor and Arthur Margeston as the square-jawed captain

No one knows what occurred on the real Mary Celeste, which was found adrift with all crew missing. The storyline that the film concocts is silly and lurid, and only vaguely entertaining. Lugosi, who looks terrible, hams it up uncontrollably, and his accent is so thick that his voice is dubbed near the end when what he says is important. This was only the second film produced by Hammer, which 20 years later would become synonymous with British horror.
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8/10
Hollywood Dropped the ball with Bela
dadabigalow30 May 2009
Well I woke early this morning and just finished viewing Image Entertainment's "Phantom-Ship" Bela Lugosi (1935). I must say I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a pretty good. Especially since the only copies I've every seen for sale are unusually @ 'The Dollar Store" or in the Walmart 2$ bin, sandwiched in a triple feature combo DVD with the likes of "Coffin of Dr. Blood" and "The Screaming Skull".

The DVD transfer was pretty good. I suspect it was made from a good 35mm print. I would have like to seen a special feature or 2 (Commentary, Maybe a small Feature on the "Making of" or the "Restoration of", like Image did with Kino on some of the other older films. On a Side-Note: Is it just me or is Edmund Willard (who played Toby Bilson) a spitting image of Lon Chaney Sr. I bet that wasn't by accident.

I must say that the more Odd-ball rolls I've seen lately that Bela did in his lifetime. The more impressed I am with his acting. And the more disappointed I am in the Hollywood of the 30's. I single out the 30's from the 40's - 50's because that was where I think they missed the boat. (no pun intended) Bela had so much more to offer us.

Today's Hollywood is always giving actor's a 2nd or 3rd chance to show us the greatness they are capable of. Look at Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler". If Tom Hanks work in the 30's would we have ever seen anything from him after "Turner & Hooch"? He would be stuck making "Beethoven 6 in 3D" or "Marley & Me, Pt.II".

Im not saying it's a great film, It has many flaws. But it was enjoyable to watch. As I watched the "Phantom Ship" especially Bela in the (I've killed one of my fellow men) scene. It started me thinking, what could Bela have done with the Spencer Tracy roll in "Captains-Courageous"? I suspect Hollywood owes Bela and the rest of the "Viewing Public" an apology.
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6/10
Decent old movie about the greatest maritime mystery of all times
Coventry6 July 2009
"The Mystery of the Mary Celeste" is a much cleaner-sounding and more suitable title for a dramatic story that is based on the true events of what is widely considered as the greatest maritime mystery of all times. The alternate title, "Phantom Ship" merely just cashes in on the successful horror movie reputation of its lead player Bela Lugosi and makes this film sound like a bona fide ghost story, which it definitely ain't. The journey of the Mary Celeste is pretty much doomed from the beginning, at least according to its superstitious crew members, because the newlywed captain brings his wife on board. The women aboard omen turns out to be true when the ship successively encounters devastating thunderstorms and inexplicably sinister accidents with deadly casualties among the crew members. Could the Mary Celeste really be cursed or is there simply a whole lot of foul play involved, like for example sabotage by the man whose marriage proposal was recently rejected by the captain's lovely wife? "The Mystery of the Mary Celeste" is a really ancient film – nearly 75 years old now – and that is noticeable in literally every tiniest detail. Probably this film already looked dated in the 40's already, what with its very rudimentary decors and hideously abrupt editing. For fans of that typically 30's style, the film is definitely worth checking out, as it bathes in ominous atmosphere and cheap awkwardness. The psychedelic ending is definitely far ahead of its time and I can image it must have upset a lot of tender souls back when the film played in theaters. Of course, the writers had to come up with some sort of sudden and abrupt twist in order to remain faithful to the Mary Celeste mystery and leave the several possible theories wide open. The immense ship was found floating around unmanned in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872. There wasn't any material damage or signs of struggle, but none of the crew members was ever seen or heard from ever again. The ideal scary cinema concept, in other words.
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9/10
A Dark Dark Voyage with Bela
magicshadows-9009815 January 2017
This is a wonderful little thriller with Bela in top form. We have a very strange tale here, set in late 1800's. If you don't wish to probe the darkness of humanity you may not find this tale interesting. A sea captain (Margetson) wants to marry and take his bride (Shirley Grey) on his next voyage. A strange wish to say the least. Another sailor, Anton Lorenzen (Lugosi) has just returned from sea a shattered man, a victim of being shanghaied.

Lugosi learns the Mary Celeste is set to sail so he joins the crew, intent upon righting a wrong. Margetson is ruthless, but less so than many of the other men aboard the ship. There is a strange tension aboard the ship. Margetson stole Grey from an old friend, so even the romance seems doomed. First mate Bilson (Edmund Willard) is a ferocious thug and he is responsible for much of the dread and mayhem aboard the Celeste. The ship is portrayed as a hell hole. The men who sail her are soulless monsters capable of any crime. Grey witnesses many of the cruelties and she (and the viewer) wonders why he asked her to sail with him.

Lugosi is a quiet and gentle man as shown by his kindness to the cat. Willard sees the cat on the ship and tries to throw it overboard, but with one arm, Lugosi thwarts Willard and saves the cats life. Yet Lugosi will show no kindness to the devils responsible for his current state. During a vicious storm, sailors begin to disappear one by one.

Frankly I'm flabbergasted that the film is rated so lowly. It is unfortunate that the complete film is presumed lost. The missing 20 minutes would be very welcomed. But the guts of the tale remain and it's not a shining one for humanity. Dark, brooding and at the center, gentle Bela enacting revenge one murder after another. This film is close to a masterpiece.
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Weirdly Compelling
dougdoepke11 September 2014
Based on an actual happening, a mysterious sailing ship with no crew is discovered in the middle of the ocean. The movie unravels the puzzle behind the crew's disappearance.

I wanted to shower after this 60-minutes. This has got to be the grungiest ship's crew in movie annals. The men actually look like they were shanghaied from a waterfront fleabag. Certainly, there was no attempt by the British production to sanitize the visuals, either the men or life aboard ship. Apparently, only an edited version of the 1936 original survives. Thus, the narrative is pretty choppy, leaving holes in the storyline (e.g. characters who just disappear without explanation). Still, between the fragmented narrative, the muddy photography, and the ugly, cramped shipboard, the effect is almost surreal. While, Lugosi's mystical traveler adds an additional slice of exotica.

Too bad we'll probably never know what happened aboard the real Marie Celeste. I remember being fascinated as a boy by the mysterious account of a deserted ship with meals still lying on serving tables. It's as though the crew were suddenly plucked into thin air. Anyway, this movie account is pretty fanciful, but still manages an unsettling aura, thanks in large part to Lugosi's disturbing changes. This edited version is no artistic triumph but does manage a weird appeal all its own.
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6/10
Decent.
MartinHafer6 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
In 1872, the Mary Celeste (that is the correct spelling) was found adrift. All of the crew were gone and to this day no one knows what happened to them. This film is a fictionalized account of what might have occurred. It stars a variety of little-known actors other than Bela Lugosi in a supporting role as a...well...rather crazy man. Because he acts pretty weird AND because he was the big-name actor, it came as no surprise that he was the man who killed off the unfortunate crew. Sure, other people could have been the guilty party, but I really think this surprise ending wasn't all that much of a surprise.

As far as the film goes, it's a decent little B-movie--made on a slight budget with few of the usual frills a "bigger" film might get. The use of minimal incidental music might be seen as a minus, but considering the mood they were looking for, the sea chanteys and occasional music worked well. The biggest minuses were Lugosi's over-acting and the lack of the element of surprise. Still, it's a decent time-passer and stands up pretty well after all these years.
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Bon Voyage...
azathothpwiggins6 October 2020
Warning: Spoilers
The Mary Celeste sets sail with a full crew, including Capt. Briggs (Arthur Margetson), his new bride (Shirley Grey), the first mate, and a motley bunch of sea dogs. Also aboard is Anton (Bela Lugosi), a man with a terrible secret. Anton is not what he might appear to be. He's a bitter, insane, extremely dangerous man. Lugosi plays him as a seething volcano, only erupting when the time is right. Anton exacts his vengeance with stealth and patience.

The true horror of THE PHANTOM SHIP is Anton's relentless stalking of his captive prey. There's also a great deal of character depth in Lugosi's portrayal, giving us a man tossed about by the demons that plague his mind. The rest of the cast are mere victims awaiting their doom. Loosely based on the true story, this movie is worth at least two viewings: Once, to see the film itself, and a second time, simply to watch Lugosi work his dark magic...
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5/10
Hammer Time
boblipton30 March 2020
The MARY CELESTE sets sail with a rather undistinguished-looking crew -- unless you're into tattooed accordionists, or think an unshaven Bela Lugosi is prepossessing. There's also Shirley Grey as a passenger. Odd things happen, like someone trying to shoot Miss Grey through a porthole, and soon the entire cast is going to pot.

This movie has the distinction of being the second production of Hammer Films, and the first to be distributed in the United States. There's some nice shipboard camerawork by Geoffrey Faithfull and Eric Cross, and one nice stunt, but that's about the limit of its excellence. It's the last movie directed by writer Denison Clift, who wrote the story it was based on. If the dialogue was particularly interesting .... the soundtrack of the copy I looked at was pretty poor, and I couldn't tell.
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6/10
Seabound mystery
Leofwine_draca7 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
THE MYSTERY OF THE MARY CELESTE is one of five films made by the fledgling Hammer Films back in the 1930s before they stopped making movies for over a decade, only returning to full-time film production in 1947. Some of those five films are now lost, but this one remains, albeit in a shortened version in the form of the American print entitled PHANTOM SHIP. It's a story of a seabound mystery in which a number of sailors go missing, one by one, while the captain tries to figure out which of the crew is responsible. Oddly, this is a straightforward murder mystery, eschewing the supernatural solution you might expect from the subject matter. It's a bit dated and creaky overall, but it benefits from a nice performance from Bela Lugosi as the salty old sea dog along for the voyage, and it has a little of the Hammer magic that would come to the fore over twenty years later.
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5/10
"When this ship sails, death sails on her."
utgard147 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Fictionalized account of the Mary Celeste, a ship found adrift in 1872 with no trace of the crew. Well the mystery is solved now: Bela Lugosi did it. Backtracking a bit, the movie starts with a love triangle involving the captain of the ship, his friend another captain, and a woman they both propose to. She chooses the Mary Celeste's captain. Then the ship sets sail with the captain's wife on board and crazy one-armed Bela as part of the crew. Things are fine for a little while, then Bela saves the wife from being raped by another crew member. After that he seems to snap and then we get the 1930s equivalent of a slasher film, with everyone being killed off one by one.

It's a little stiff, of course, given the time in which it was made. The main reason to see it is Bela, who hams it up nicely. His speech after killing the rapist should have earned him an Oscar. And again later when he recounts how he lost his arm, a second Oscar for that. Not really but it's fun to think of a world in which that happened. Unfortunately the static direction and creaks & groans make this a rough watch. Business picks up once the killing starts. Too bad we'll never see the original British version, as all that's left is this shortened American version. Maybe it was better. Then again, maybe it was worse and all that was cut was a lot of unnecessary stuff from before the ship even set sail. I can imagine some schlub thinking that drama about the captain's wife was interesting.

One final note: I was a little surprised to hear one character utter a couple of racial slurs, including the N word. As a fan of classic films I'm used to "how things were" and all that, but there generally seemed to be a line and a sense of decorum about what could be shown and said in films, even in the Pre-Code days. Perhaps it's because this was a British-made film, but that wouldn't explain how it made it into the American cut. Anyway, to be fair, the line is in fitting with the character who uses it as he's a rough, mean-spirited sort of cuss.
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6/10
The Dawn Of Hammer Films
Prichards1234517 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Or to be precise, this is actually the second film from the small UK studio that twenty years later was to revive the horror genre. Hammer had a policy of importing American stars in their early years, and this movie is no exception: Bela Lugosi himself plays the leading role of Anton Lorenz, an interesting irony in that Hammer was to give us Lugosi's equally iconic replacement for Dracula, Christopher Lee.

Lugosi gives a fine, shaded performance as a broken down salty sea dog who still maintains a fearless dignity. The movie itself is a speculation on what might have happened to the legendary Mary Celeste, which was found drifting in 1872 with no one on board - and it's a pretty good one, though it suffers from some choppy story editing.

The version I've seen is the American version - The Phantom Ship, which I believe is shorter, and that may account for the rather large number of off-screen disappearances and deaths. Somebody constantly appears to be discovering a body, or that someone has vanished, most jarringly when the Captain and his bride simply disappear. Lugosi's account of what happened to them is brief and perfunctory, and yet we have been encouraged to invest time in these characters.

Saying that the movie is pretty good and feels authentic, with plenty of opportunities for Lugosi to show off his versatility, something he was largely denied in Hollywood. His fans will find much to enjoy.
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5/10
Uneven, but gritty and effectively grim, tale based on an actual "ghost ship" legend.
capkronos12 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
On November 1872, a brigantine merchant ship by the name of The Mary Celeste set sail from New York Harbor carrying a supply of commercial alcohol to be dropped off in Europe. On board were the captain, his wife and 2-year-old daughter and an experienced seven-man crew. Around a month later, the ship was discovered abandoned and floating in the Atlantic Ocean. Everyone on board was gone and none of them were ever seen or heard from again. This eerie tale would go on to become a famous ghost ship legend, inspire stories or be directly referenced by everyone from Arthur Conan Doyle to Stephen King to Dean R. Koontz, be the subject of an article published in Strand Magazine (supposedly written the ship's sole survivor - a stowaway not even listed on the log - and commonly written off as a literary hoax now) and also be the basis for this low-budget British film, which doesn't exactly stick to all the facts. This one drops the child from the story, adds additional crew members and a jilted lover subplot, changes nationalities and eventually provides an explanation for the events on board. It is also noteworthy as the first genre picture from Hammer Film Productions, as well as containing a pretty good performance from classic horror star Bela Lugosi.

As for this film, it begins as Capt. Benjamin Briggs (Arthur Margetson) wins over the affections of Sarah (Shirley Grey) from his friend Capt. Jim Morehead (Clifford McLaglen). Fuming, Jim agrees to help Benjamin fill a vacant spot on the crew with one of his men, and then secretly promises a crewman money and advancement if he causes some trouble on board. Also on board the ship is depressed, penniless, one-armed, hard-drinking Anton Lorenzen (Bela Lugosi), who seems to have fallen on hard times and had a tragic experience last time he was out at sea. The captain, his wife, Anton, gruff first mate Toby Bilson (Edmund Willard) some seaman and a cook/steward all set off to sea and one-by-one end up being mysteriously murdered (most off-screen) until all is explained at the finale. The storyline itself is pretty muddled and confusing and the dark, grimy photography, overbearing lighting and choppy editing splices mix to keep this in "Poverty Row" territory. However, it's still interesting at times, entertaining enough to pass an hour of your time and the confined ship setting creates a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere. The film also has flogging, an attempted rape, suicide, a (hard to make out) shark attack and corpses casually thrown overboard by various crewman, which makes it a bit grittier than usual for this time.

One thing that has harmed the film (other than the highly uneven technical credits) is that many scenes have been removed. Apparently, some court room scenes bookended the film, and footage was also shot of some of the characters escaping to an island. All of that is now missing and believed to be lost, but it may have helped clarify some of the muddier plot points. The fact that the two lead characters simply vanish from the film, only to be briefly discussed later as if of little importance, is also pretty unsatisfying. Fans of Lugosi will definitely enjoy his work here though, and this movie will likely be of most interest to the actor's fans.
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3/10
Creaky tale of a ship who's crew goes missing has little beyond a unique Lugosi performance to recommend it
dbborroughs5 June 2006
I always wanted to see this movie because I heard it had a real Lugosi performance, and it certainly does. The problem is the rest of the movie is god awful and damn near unwatchable.

The plot has the Ship Mary Celeste going to see with a mad man in the crew slowly killing off the crew. Of course this doesn't fit with history, but who cares...its an explanation of what happened. This creak fest is laughably bad and I pretty much lost interest when the bar owner with the bowler hat and Christmas tree ear ring showed up.

Lost Classic? I think not. I think this is just bad. Its an over cooked pot boiler thats leaked all over the stove thats just a mess that some one really should clean up.
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3/10
Awful, pointless movie
funkyfry28 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
A captain marries and takes his bride on a sea journey with a crew full of saboteurs and "shanghaied" malcontents. This is but the first extremely improbable event in this nearly senseless movie. Lugosi bears a grudge against the whole ship for having been "shanghaied" himself years earlier, and he takes out his revenge by killing everyone on board.

The problem with this movie is that although there's no mystery, none of the actual killing (or much else) is shown until the film's climax. It's very short. The actors seem to have been let completely free by the director to overpower the camera, and of course Lugosi takes this up -- at one point, it looks like the editor cut Logosi's hysterics with a straight razor and threw his hands up in despair!

There is no explanation for what happens in the last reel of the film, and I suspect that this U.S. print we're now seeing on DVD is a mutilated film, cut for distribution. Apparently, if there every was a movie here, it's now gone.

Fans of Hammer Film Productions might be intrigued by the idea of a Hammer film from the 30s with Bela Lugosi, but they will certainly be disappointed if they expect even a minimum of quality or interest. Just one of the many mistakes Lugosi made in his long career.
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7/10
Monte Bela
southdavid20 May 2021
I really love the "Secret History of Hollywood" Podcast, and a new spin off show "The House of Hammer" has recently been released, chronicling the history and output of the legendary British production company. They began with "The Mystery of the Mary Celeste", Hammer's second ever film - the first, "The Public Life of Henry the Ninth", is currently considered "lost media". For it's release in America, under the title "Phantom Ship" approximately 20 minutes of footage was cut and is also considered lost now. However, at just over an hour, that cut is available on Youtube and it was that, I watched.

Having recently married, Captain Benjamin Briggs (Arthur Margetson) and his wife Sarah (Shirley Grey) set sail on the Marie Celeste, transporting alcohol from America to Genoa, in Italy. His first mate is Bilson (Edmund Willard), a bruiser who keeps his men disciplined with violence and isn't above a 'shanghai' if the crew appears short. One volunteer though is Anton Gottleib (Bela Lugosi) a one-armed but experienced sailor, but whose trauma on a previous voyage has effected his confidence.

It is pretty tough to judge the film properly. It's around 86 years old at time of writing and was only the second film that the burgeoning company made. Much of the editing is brutal, though its' hard to say whether the blame for that should land with the original team, or with whomever made the cuts for the American release. Either way, scenes often end midsentence - especially notable with the very last scene, where a character is clearly still talking though the dialogue has been replaced by the swell of music, and the "The End" card. There are scenes missing that you think must have been shot as, whilst trying to keep my review spoiler, the fates of two key characters are told to us, rather than shown.

The story is reasonably solid though, settling into a "Ten Little Indians" style whodunnit, where characters keep disappearing and the suspicion grows on board that one of them must be responsible. Again, keeping this as spoiler free as I can, I did think that the film did as good as job as it could of attempting to misdirect us from the perpetrator. The performances are a bit of a mixed bag, with Lugosi standout, as you might imagine but some of the others blandly and emotionlessly repeating lines.

In fairness, despite the difficulties of watching and following what was happening, and the seemingly key scenes missing, I did somewhat enjoy "Phantom Ship", particularly for Lugosi's performance.
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