DEATH SHIP. (1980) A GHOSTLY HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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DEATH SHIP. (1980) DIRECTED BY ALVIN RAKOFF. STARRING GEORGE KENNEDY, RICHARD CRENNA, SALLY ANN HOWES, NICK MANCUSO, VICTORIA BURGOYNE AND SAUL RUBINEK.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. This ghostly horror film completely blew me away. I’d been You-Tube-ing ‘ghost ships’ and related stuff, on account of having read some really scary true-life stories about same in John Robert Colombo’s TRUE CANADIAN GHOST STORIES, an excellent book I read over Halloween. Then a clued-in FB friend recommended DEATH SHIP, and I was intrigued enough to give it a go.

It stars George Kennedy as the main character, a Captain Ashland, the captain of a cruise ship who’s on his last cruise before handing charge of the ship over to Richard Crenna’s Trevor Marshall. I love George Kennedy.

He was one of those very masculine old-school actors like Paul Newman or Steve McQueen, although I’m not sure if he was ever treated as romantic lead material. Very unfair, as I’ve personally always fancied him, this big giant bear of a man with his gruff deep voice and commanding demeanour. My ideal man, in fact, lol.

He was terrific in DALLAS as JR Ewing’s enemy, Carter McKay. I also loved him in the Western movie BANDOLERO! as July Johnson, the straight-down-the-line sheriff who pursues a couple of criminals (played by James Stewart and Dean Martin) into Mexican bandit territory because they’ve brought with them as a hostage the woman that he, July, loves. Alas, the woman, played by the stunning Raquel Welch, prefers bad boy Dean Martin to good guy George Kennedy, and in the end no-one really gets what they want. Sigh. Such is life.

Anyway, Captain Ashland is a grumpy bastard who maintains he went to sea to captain a ship and sail the seven seas, not to pander to the gushing socialites who all want to be able to say that they’ve sat at the captain’s table for dinner while they were cruising. I see his point, but on the other hand I see theirs too. No point going on a poxy cruise unless you can say you’ve chowed down at’t’ captain’s table, lol.

His pandering to vacuous socialites gets cut brutally short on this, his last trip, however. The cruise ship is scuppered by another vessel that comes at them out of nowhere and blows the whole lot of ’em out of the water in a POSEIDON ADVENTURE-style maritime catastrophe. This other vessel is the titular DEATH SHIP. Climb aboard at your peril…

The survivors, cast adrift in a lifeboat, have no choice but to board the ghostly vessel. The survivors are, neatly and coincidentally, Captain Ashland; his successor-to-be Trevor Marshall and Marshall’s wife and two cute kids, Robin (a girl) and Ben, who are allowed the full run of the ghost ship in a highly irresponsible manner that would earn their parents a rap on the knuckles today; a sexy young couple called Nick and Lori who were having sex when the iceberg, sorry, the ghost ship, struck (that’s the way I’d like to go, by the way, lol); the ship’s comic (bet he doesn’t find his new gig too bloody funny!) and a random old lady passenger, who are the ghost ship’s first two disposable casualties. Oh yes, the ghost ship wants to kill them all, didn’t I say? Cue evil snigger.

The ‘death ship’ is magnificent in its rusty, cobwebby state of dereliction and decay. We don’t know if it’s a ghost ship as such or what those in the maritime business would call a ‘derelict’ ship, a real ship that somehow lost its crew and passengers and now sails the seven seas rudderless, a navigational hazard if it should happen across another vessel in its path.

What we do know is that the ship is a relic from Nazi Germany, a so-called ‘interrogation ship’ where ‘enemies of the state’ were taken and tortured horribly for what bits of information they possessed. Out at sea, miles from anywhere, who was there to hear you scream? We also know that ghostly, unseen hands operate the rusty, dusty machinery and direct it towards hurting, maiming or even killing the passengers now in its evil clutches.

I love the way that they only show you the bare minimum of ghostliness in the film, and the way that Nazi Germany and the ‘Forties, the time when this ship was peopled with real-life seamen (titter, seamen!), are revealed to us in little bite-sized snatches, rather than in huge chunks of flashback.

There are the bunks with the pin-ups of Betty Grable and stars of ‘Forties German cinema plastered around them; the ‘Forties music on the record player and the home cinema with film footage of Hitler and his minions playing on a loop; the German voice issuing orders through the speakers in the radio room; a mere glimpse of the German naval captain on his bridge.

Then there is the ‘interrogation room’ itself, no more than a brutal torture chamber, and the Freezer Room, possibly the saddest place on the whole entire God-forsaken ship. And God doesn’t seem to have ever had a place on this carrion ship of death and decay and hopelessness, and it’s certainly not God who’s steering its eerie, lonely course now.

The ship of doom is having a very unhealthy effect on Captain Ashland. I love the bit where the sensible, Daddy-ish, woollen jumper-clad Trevor Marshall comes to his wife and says: ‘The ship has caused Captain Ashland to take on the persona of a German naval captain, it’s like it’s possessing him in some way!’ Or words to that effect, anyway.

It’s the funniest bit of the film, which is definitely not a comedy. It’s like something out of THE SIMPSONS, that line is. You half expect to hear Lisa Simpson, the voice of reason, saying: ‘Well, d’uh! Everyone’s already worked that out, Dad…!’

So now, Captain-to-be Marshall has to save his wife (played by Sally Ann Howes, or Truly Scrumptious from CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG) and unruly children and the sexy young couple (who just can’t seem to keep their kit on!) from the gruesome machinations of Captain Ashland, who has a definite kind of ‘The Shining’ thing going on with the ship of death.

And he- Captain Ashland- now resents Trevor Marshall as well, thinking it’s Marshall’s fault he’s losing his captaincy, and not his own complete and utter ability to be a ‘people person.’ He’s out for Marshall’s blood, and, as long as he’s being evil, the ship of death is determined to help him…

The ship itself is terrifyingly creepy, from the untenanted radio room, where a crackly long-dead German-speaking voice issues its instructions through the speakers, to the long echoey corridors where the sound of loudly clanging doors can be heard, unnervingly, from up ahead. It’s kind of like the Overlook Hotel from THE SHINING, peopled by ghosts and the bad energies from the awful deeds that took place there, but on sea instead of on land.

The Death Ship sailed the seven seas (Are there really seven? Can someone actually count them for me, please?) long before there was a Captain Ashland or a Trevor Marshall, and it will sail them long after those two men have returned to the dust from which they came. I can’t recommend this superbly spooky British-Canadian horror film heartily enough. It’s captured my imagination in a way that nothing else this year has. Full steam ahead for frights and frolics…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

STEPHEN KING AND GEORGE A. ROMERO PRESENT: CREEPSHOW 2. (1987) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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CREEPSHOW 2. (1987) PRESENTED BY STEPHEN KING AND GEORGE A. ROMERO. BASED ON STORIES BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY MICHAEL GORNICK.

STARRING LOIS CHILES, GEORGE KENNEDY, DOROTHY LAMOUR, STEPHEN KING AND TOM SAVINI AS ‘THE CREEP.’

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a loving tribute to the timeless era of EC comics. Can’t you just see Stephen King as a nipper in the ‘Fifties and ‘Sixties, running to spend his pocket money on the horror comic books that must have at least partially inspired him to write his novels? Bless his buttons. What a gory-minded kid he must have been, lol. A delight to have in your class at school or on your Halloween sleepover. ‘Now Stephen dear, it’s your turn to tell a spooky story…!’

Anyway, this is an anthology film like its predecessor CREEPSHOW (‘I want my cake…!’) and features three scary tales, only one of which I found actually scared me, haha. The first vignette features Hollywood actors George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour as an elderly couple of store-keepers, Ray and Martha Spruce.

Their general store is dying on its feet, situated as it is in the town of Dead River, whose name says it all. The town is all but deserted, and it’s been a long time since any customers were able to pay cold hard cash for their purchases. The local Indian Chief is a case in point.

He comes into the store one day and presents Ray and Martha with a little bag of Indian treasures. You keep these until we can afford to pay you for all the goods we’ve bought on credit, he tells them. Don’t make beggars out of us now, he warns when Ray tries to give the stuff back. He leaves the shop all pleased with himself, unaware of the tragic little tableau that’s going to play out at the general store when his back is turned.

The store is robbed at gunpoint by none other than the Indian Chief’s nephew Sam Whitemoon. Sam, a real asshole of a guy with a whole bag of chips on his shoulder, is sick to the back teeth of being an impoverished Indian in a deadbeat town.

He’s inordinately proud of his good looks and long shining black Indian hair and he hopes to go to Hollywood to make his fortune in the movies. Well, why not? After all, there are a million other good-looking guys in Hollywood just queuing up to be busboys or barmen or waiters, so why shouldn’t Sam Whitemoon be one of them, lol…?

He and his two accomplices have to leave town for the bright lights of Los Angeles a little sooner than they’ve anticipated, however, when a double tragedy occurs during the robbery. They’ve reckoned without the retribution dished out by Old Chief Woodenhead, the wooden sculpture of an Indian Chief that’s stood outside the poor old general store since time immemorial. There’s gonna be a massacre tonight…

I loved THE RAFT, the middle vignette, in which four really annoying college students all get as high as kites and drive out to this lake that’s all deserted for the winter. They strip off and swim out to this raft thing in the middle of the lake. That’s when they notice this sort of moving floating mass on top of the water that’s getting closer and closer to them.

They reckon it’s some kind of oil slick and it’s certainly gooey enough and messy enough to be an oil slick, but what kind of oil slick pulls you under and strips the flesh from your bones like a school of starving piranha fish? No oil slick these college jocks and stoners have ever heard of, anyway.

On their floating raft in the middle of the lake, in full sight of their car and dry land, they’re trapped as effectively as if the lake were an ocean and there was no dry land for miles and miles and miles. I read the short story that inspired this particular vignette and it was eerily effective.

The final vignette, THE HITCH-HIKER, tells the story of a super-privileged married woman who clearly doesn’t know on what side her bread’s buttered. She risks her position as the wife of a rich lawyer to have sex with a much-younger-and-handsomer-than-her-husband male prostitute, for whose favours she has to pay cash. Well, I suppose if you’re highly-sexed and you’re not getting the good stuff at home… But still, paying for it when you’re a woman? It seems like madness to me. Men should be bloody well paying us, lol.

Anyway, one night when she’s driving back home from a vigorous sex session with Mr. Gigolo, she runs over a hitch-hiker in a yellow rain-slicker who’s looking for a ride to Dover. She decides to scarper from the scene of the crime and is horrified when she realises that the hitch-hiker she’s sure she killed is following her home…

Stephen King has a cameo in this one as a truck-driver who stops on the road when he sees a crowd gathering around the fallen hitch-hiker. He has a whole vignette to himself in the original CREEPSHOW movie as a goofy farmer. My favourite cameo of his in his own films is the one he has in MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE. Remember when he was trying to get money out of the ATM machine: ‘Honey, this machine called me an asshole…!’

Did this vignette form the basis for the movie I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, by the way? It’s got the just-won’t-stay-dead hitch-hiker in the yellow rain slicker and the night-time hit-and-run accident that left him for dead on the freeway. It certainly seems likely.

Anyway, enjoy CREEPSHOW 2 which, as I said initially, won’t really scare you but it’s a loving homage to the creepy comics you might have perused as a young ‘un if you’re an American male of a certain age, lol.

Here in Ireland I don’t think we ever really did the creepy comics thing. I only ever remember being able to get the English BEANO and the DANDY and the girly comics like the BUNTY and the MANDY.

These comics were great too, don’t get me wrong, but American kids were privy to an entire horror-and-superhero comic-book culture that we never really had over here so we Oirish were deprived in that way, sadly. However, in our favour we do have Mr. Tayto and Father Ted. Enough said.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor