The mystery of the half-brig Mary Celeste is a true and tragic tale of the sea. She sailed from New York with a crew of eight on November 5, 1872. A month and a day later, the ship was found under full sail without a person aboard. The lifeboat and some navigational instruments were gone but the provisions and all the crew's belongings were still in place. The ship's log offered no explanation. No trace of the captain and his family or the crew was ever found. "Phantom Ship," the American edition of the British 1935 Hammer horror film "Mystery of the Mary Celeste," offers a cinematic telling of this famous seafaring riddle starring "Dracula's" Bela Lugosi as seaman Anton Lorenzen, a religious zealot who may just be the key to this mystery.
From the Contributor
Denison Clift was a story writer, novelist and playwright before he entered the film industry in 1918. After writing the screenplay for William S. Harts Wolves of the Rail, he spent a period of time as a contract writer for Fox Studios and then got into direction himself. He made a mark with feature films like Demos (1921) and The Love of Mary, Queen of Scots (1923). PHANTOM SHIP/The Mystery of the Mary Celeste (1935) was a daunting and hugely successful undertaking starring the famous Bela Lugosi, and earned him widespread recognition. He continued to work as a freelance screenwriter, this always having been his primary passion and forte.
THE PLOT: The American ship Mary Celeste was found drifting in the middle of the Atlantic on December 5, 1872, abandoned and derelict. In this reconstruction from the records of the Attorney General at Gibraltar, the story starts at New York Harbor in 1872, where Captain Benjamin Briggs (Arthur Margetson) is hard pressed to find a crew for the Mary Celeste. The ship has a reputation for being jinxed. However, he intends to sail at all costs, for he intends to marry the exquisite Sarah Briggs (Shirley Grey) on high seas. Captain Morehead (Clifford McLaglen) has already asked for her hand, and is willing to make a considerable sacrifice for her, but he loses out to the headstrong Briggs. On the dock, the drunken, one-armed sailor Anton Lorenzen (Bela Lugosi) arrives at Simpsons Bar, aged years beyond his time after a mishap at sea. When Capt. Briggs talks the local loan shark into shanghaiing a crew for him, he manages to lure Lorenzen into signing up with the promise of unlimited booze. But Capt. Briggs is still one man short, and approaches Morehead. Bent on revenge for being cheated out of his love, Morehead plants a saboteur on board. With an unwilling crew on board, the deck is set for disaster.