8 April 2013

Ship of Fools

Ship of Fools 1965
  • Director: Stanley Kramer
  • Based on book by Katherine Anne Porter
  • Cast: Simone Signoret, Oskar Werner, Vivien Leigh, George Segal, Michael Dunn, José Ferrar, Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Ashley
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Simone Signoret  Diabolique, L’armée des ombres and many more in French and English that I haven’t seen
    • Oskar Werner  Fahrenheit 451,  Jules and Jim, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Voyage of the Damned
    • Vivien Leigh – Gone With the Wind
    • George Segal – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf
    • Michael Dunn – The Wild Wild West (TVseries)
    • José Ferrar – Lawrence of Arabia, Moulin Rouge, Voyage of the Damned
    • Lee Marvin – Cat Ballou, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Bad Day at Black Rock
    • Elizabeth Ashley – appearances on various TV series throughout the years
  • Why bought: reminded of how good it was when we saw Oskar Werner in Fahrenheit 451
  • Seen: In the 60’s and the second time now: January 13, 2013 with Hal and YW in our read-book-watch-movie group

It’s very difficult to write fairly about this movie because I’m in the middle of reading the novel – I simply didn’t have time to finish it before the scheduled movie date with YW. I didn’t think it would be a problem. It is.
The book is so powerful and grim that I couldn’t let go of it while watching the movie.
Still I remember so clearly Oskar Werner sitting at Simone Signoret’s bedside on the ship, gazing at her with….their relationship has haunted me since seeing the movie the first time in the 60’s.
In some cases the movie follows the book exactly, including several long direct quotes. In other ways the movie is very different. Jenny’s complex novel character loses most of what’s interesting in the film as does David’s.  Young Elsa is far too pretty and not nearly lumpy enough. Löwenthal is jovial and nice, not nasty. Generally all of the characters are far nicer and much less neurotic, troubled and horrible than in the book.
But this isn’t a book review. This is a movie blog.  And the movie is good.  The acting is good. The story is good. Werner and Signoret live up to my memory of them and give the movie its moments of greatness, along with the jitterbugging (or is it the Charleston?) Vivien Leigh in a ten second sequence.
But it is flawed. It got 4 * of 4 in Maltin but I can’t agree as much as I would like to.  Werner and Signoret get 5 * of 5.  The movie as a whole, less. Maybe next time it will be more when not seen in the overwhelming shadow of the book.

3 * of 5

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