Based on a story by Somerset Maugham, The Beachcomber was originally released in Great Britain as Vessel of Wrath. This English version was much franker--and much more fun--than the abbreviated, watered-down US release prints. Even the American version, however, is successful in capturing the spirit of Maugham's tale of slovenly remittance man Charles Laughton drinking and wenching away his monthly allowance in the picturesque Dutch Islands. Elsa Lanchester (the real-life Mrs. Laughton) plays the prim sister of sanctimonious missionary Tyrone Guthrie, who slowly regenerates the wastrelly Laughton. Our hero redeems himself fully through his courageous behavior during a cholera epidemic. This version of The Beachcomber is based on the stage adaptation by Bartlett Cormick; the 1955 remake, which played faster and looser with the Maugham original than the Cormack version did, starred Robert Newton, who plays the local British authority in the 1938 film. The Beachcomber was the only film directed by producer Erich Pommer, who spent most of the 1930s as Charles Laughton's business partner.