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Lifeboat Review

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A group of survivors from a torpedoed vessel wait aboard a tiny lifeboat to be rescued. They share the space with a man who was part of the crew responsible for the ship's destruction.

★★★★

Although it’s not one of his most famous films, Alfred Hitchcock’s gripping shipwreck survival thriller — from a John Steinbeck story written especially for Hitch — ranks among his most audacious and successful technical experiments in suspense.

Atypically, it doesn’t involve a chase, but it has the isolation factor Hitch so loved, so extreme in this case that he storyboarded every single shot himself beforehand to meet the challenge imaginatively. It’s a claustrophobic affair set entirely, and with remarkable cinematic ingenuity, in a crowded lifeboat (shot, to the misery of the cast, in a chilly studio tank) after their ship’s been torpedoed mid-Atlantic. The nine-strong ensemble represents a social microcosm in an intense character study that touches on class and race, along with the perils of the sea and sabotage from the U-boat survivor in their company.

Sophisticated American theatre legend Tallulah Bankhead is dynamite as the celebrity reporter in diamonds and fur, losing all her possessions bit by bit but growing in seductive allure for the hunky socialist from the engine-room, John Hodiak, while William Bendix as the seawater-slurping salt goes bonkers and Walter Slezak’s German ‘prisoner’ plots against them.Although it’s not one of his most famous films, Alfred Hitchcock’s gripping shipwreck survival thriller — from a John Steinbeck story written especially for Hitch — ranks among his most audacious and successful technical experiments in suspense.

Atypically, it doesn’t involve a chase, but it has the isolation factor Hitch so loved, so extreme in this case that he storyboarded every single shot himself beforehand to meet the challenge imaginatively. It’s a claustrophobic affair set entirely, and with remarkable cinematic ingenuity, in a crowded lifeboat (shot, to the misery of the cast, in a chilly studio tank) after their ship’s been torpedoed mid-Atlantic. The nine-strong ensemble represents a social microcosm in an intense character study that touches on class and race, along with the perils of the sea and sabotage from the U-boat survivor in their company.

Sophisticated American theatre legend Tallulah Bankhead is dynamite as the celebrity reporter in diamonds and fur, losing all her possessions bit by bit but growing in seductive allure for the hunky socialist from the engine-room, John Hodiak, while William Bendix as the seawater-slurping salt goes bonkers and Walter Slezak’s German ‘prisoner’ plots against them.

Along with the psychological intrigue there is romance and wit. And fans will enjoy Hitch’s most amusing trademark cameo: photographed as ‘before’ and ‘after’ silhouettes in a newspaper ad for diet product ‘Reduco’.

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