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Lifeboat
     

Lifeboat

4.0 12
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak

 

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Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944) has come to DVD is a special edition, with a pair of special features -- one is a commentary by Drew Casper, who holds a professorial chair named in honor of Hitchcock and his wife Alma; the other is a documentary on the making of the movie. Casper spends a great deal of time telling us what we're actually seeing, and calls

Overview

Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944) has come to DVD is a special edition, with a pair of special features -- one is a commentary by Drew Casper, who holds a professorial chair named in honor of Hitchcock and his wife Alma; the other is a documentary on the making of the movie. Casper spends a great deal of time telling us what we're actually seeing, and calls attention to himself a great deal, with his mannerisms and commentary -- it's like a performance piece for him, rather than a real analysis of the movie itself, although he does let some important information get through to us. Strangely enough, Casper is a lot more effective in the featurette The Making of Lifeboat: The Theater of War, in which he shares screentime with others, including the director's daughter -- it's a matter of less being more, and in this case a lot less is a lot more; it gives us the hard background on the movie. There's also a still-frame gallery that makes a good supplement to the featurette, though the most interesting still are used in the latter. The movie has been given a generous 20 chapters, and gets a razor-sharp full-screen (1.33-to-1) transfer. The sound is good and loud and detailed as well, and it is a pleasure to watch in this format, although it has always looked good on screen in this reviewer's memory.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Although Lifeboat is seldom mentioned when the subject of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films comes up, this 1944 drama deserves more recognition than it’s gotten from aficionados who blather on about Psycho or North by Northwest. Few filmmakers would have been willing to undertake the challenge of building an entire film around a small lifeboat bobbing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; the “action,” such as it is, is confined to a tiny space. The actors have no mobility, and there are no picturesque interiors or lavish sets to lend production value. Truly, a film like this is a daunting challenge for any director. And here’s the interesting part: Hitchcock himself came up with the idea. He entrusted the concept to novelist John Steinbeck, who fleshed out the story before turning it over to scriptwriter Jo Swerling. Hitch then selected a cast headed by Tallulah Bankhead, a brittle actress well known for her frosty characterizations. She was well suited to play the pampered journalist who finds herself among the few survivors in a lifeboat following the torpedoing of their ocean liner by a German U-boat during World War II. Character actor William Bendix, an unlikely choice to play opposite Bankhead, portrays a sailor who loses his leg in the attack, and John Hodiak impresses with his turn as a hard-boiled Nazi hater who regards with understandable suspicion the lone German survivor, played by Walter Slezak. Henry Hull, Heather Angel, Hume Cronyn, and Mary Anderson also contribute similarly memorable performances. Although the story is a little slow getting underway -- it takes a little while to get everybody in the boat and establish their characters -- the director maintains a steady pace and even manages to build suspense. Lifeboat may lack the bravura sequences that distinguish the typical Hitchcock thriller, but it’s an intense, gripping drama in its own right and essential viewing for fans of the master.
All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Lifeboat shows what the disaster films of the '70s and beyond might have been like if they were shorn of their special effects and forced to concentrate on character rather than activity -- and if they were directed by a true master, of course. Today's audiences, weaned on The Poseidon Adventure et al, might find the basic setup (toss in a handful of characters from every walk of life and force them to work together for their mutual survival) a little trite, but director Alfred Hitchcock and his (credited and uncredited) screenwriters take this premise and create a gripping, taut, suspenseful, and thoroughly captivating piece of cinema. Hitchcock, of course, deserves praise for keeping visually interesting a story with such a limited setting, but he deserves even greater credit for the marvelous work he pulls forth from his cast. In what is arguably the only film role that takes advantage of her unique talents, Tallulah Bankhead delivers a tour de force performance that is simply mesmerizing. Bankhead establishes the character clearly and precisely within the first few seconds -- a cynical, ironic, self-centered woman; she should be rather repulsive, but Bankhead makes her playful and appealing. She anchors the film but does not overshadow it, allowing the likes of John Hodiak, Hume Cronyn, and William Bendix to shine as well. There are moments in the film that don't quite work (usually when it crosses the line from war drama to war propaganda), but overall, Lifeboat is an engrossing, often thrilling and sometimes unsettling cinematic experience.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/18/2005
UPC:
0024543172260
Original Release:
1944
Rating:
NR
Source:
20th Century Fox
Region Code:
1
Time:
1:36:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by film professor Drew Casper; The Making of Lifeboat; Still photo gallery

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Tallulah Bankhead Constance Porter
William Bendix Gus Smith
Walter Slezak Willy, the German submarine commander
John Hodiak John Kovac
Hume Cronyn Stanley Garett
Mary Anderson Alice MacKenzie
Henry Hull Charles 'Ritt' Rittenhouse
Canada Lee George "Joe" Spencer
Heather Angel Mrs. Higgins
William Yetter German Sailor

Technical Credits
Alfred Hitchcock Director
James Basevi Art Director
Hugo W. Friedhofer Score Composer
Rene Hubert Costumes/Costume Designer
Frank E. Hughes Set Decoration/Design
Thomas K. Little Set Decoration/Design
Kenneth MacGowan Producer
Glen MacWilliams Cinematographer
Emil Newman Musical Direction/Supervision
Guy Pearce Makeup
Maurice Ransford Art Director
Fred Sersen Special Effects
Dorothy Spencer Editor
John Steinbeck Screenwriter
Jo Swerling Screenwriter

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Lifeboat
1. Main Titles [1:04]
2. Sunk [4:29]
3. All Aboard [6:44]
4. The American Way [2:58]
5. Burial at Sea [1:07]
6. Taking Command [3:58]
7. Underway [6:06]
8. For Rosie [3:31]
9. On the Wrong Course [3:04]
10. A Married Man [11:08]
11. Sitting Duck [5:04]
12. The Master Race [4:30]
13. From the Gutter [2:13]
14. Flesh and Blood [3:18]
15. Raising the Stakes [6:32]
16. A Beautiful Sound [2:20]
17. True Colors [1:45]
18. Q Is for Quitters [:48]
19. Bait [4:02]
20. Danke Schön [5:11]

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4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw this movie many years ago while doing my homework. It had to wait. This movie shows people handling one of the worst situations a person can face: will I get home. I will finally get to see it again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I watched this movie in a college class I was taking on Alfred Hitchcock. It was one of the best movies I had seen. To be able to pull off such a successful story line with the only scenery as a small Lifeboat was truly genious. It was suspensful as are all his movies & he amazingly was still able to make his cameo appearance. I highly recommend this movie.
oldplanec46 More than 1 year ago
an excellet example of Hitchcock and WW 2 films. A little preachy,but the actors all excellent, you couldn't get a cast like this together today. The studio system at it's best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
It was good. Nuff said! I dont want to give to much away, so I won't say anything. You have to watch it to find out.....That or just go online and find a good online review of the movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not a fan of war-themed movies but this one goes beyond the traditional war movie. The complexity of the characters alone is magnified by their sitation and though one might expect a predictible ending, this one exploded into higher drama as the movie concluded. Let's never remake this one - the original is too good to improve on.