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Phantom Ship

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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. Hart’s 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 Simpson’s 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.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Bela Lugosi, Shirley Grey, Arthur Margetson, Edmund Willard, Dennis Hoey
  • Directors: Denison Clift
  • Writers: Denison Clift, Charles Larkworthy
  • Producers: Henry Passmore
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 28, 2002
  • Run Time: 62 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000648Y8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,826 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Phantom Ship" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mark Savary on June 4, 2002
Format: DVD
Like most movies about real life events, this one is also worthless as history. The film tells the more sensational version of events theorized to have occurred aboard the famous sailing vessel, Mary Celeste, found in the middle of the Atlantic under full sail with no one aboard.
Captain Briggs gathers a crew for the trip to England, but not before stealing his best friend's girl and marrying her. With a crew and his new wife aboard, the ship departs New York. Once out at sea, the cruelty of a seaman's life becomes obvious to the new bride, who quickly chooses to stay below deck most of the time. About half-way through the movie, the crew begins getting bumped off one by one, until the mystery of the Mary Celeste becomes legend.
The original British film ran about 80 minutes, some of which was taken up with a courtroom inquiry into the mystery. Those parts are missing from this, the American version, and the footage is assumed to be lost. It was felt that American audiences in 1935 would either not understand or care about the inquiry angle, so these scenes were excised. Clocking in at 62 minutes, "Phantom Ship" seems somewhat strangely tedious despite the cuts. The dialogue and acting are remarkable only in their lifelessness and lack of believability.
However, the movie is still worth a looksee by Lugosi fans. Lugosi offers us a dramatic performance rather than his usual horror genre type of character. He does an admirable job playing the broken shell of a man who lusts for revenge. His performance (especially towards the end of the film), really sells his act.
Edmund Willard plays Toby Bilson, first mate of the ship. He comes off very well as the menacing bully of the deck, seemingly intent on crushing any element of joy the crew may have in their drab lives of toil.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 21, 2003
Format: DVD
In 1872, the Marie Celeste sailed its way (at full sail) into history when its crew vanished at sea without a trace. The Phantom Ship is a speculative motion picture offering up one solution to the mystery. Filmed in Britain in 1935 (with the original title The Mystery of the Mary Celeste), this movie eased its transition to America (in a slightly condensed form, foregoing the final scenes dealing with early inquiries into the mystery) by including one Bela Lugosi on its cast list. I have to say that Lugosi delivers a remarkable performance in the role of Anton Lorenzen, a down and out sailor with a mysterious yet obviously painful connection to the Mary Celeste. Lorenzen was shanghaied onto a ship in his youth, and the unwanted sea experience he suffered has cost him an arm, turned his hair white, and aged him prematurely. A broken man, penniless, he agrees to join a rag-tag ship's crew being thrown together at the last minute for the Mary Celeste. The ship's captain, Benjamin Briggs brings his newlywed wife on board for the voyage, his love for her having just made his best friend a bitter enemy. At first, the voyage goes smoothly; the sailors fight, sing songs, work, and complain like any normal crew. Then someone tries to attack the captain and is killed; another man dies in the midst of a hurricane; one man is killed after attacking Briggs' young wife. One by one, the entire crew is either killed or disappears.
Lugosi really got to show a great deal of dramatic depth in this movie, something that was often denied him in his American films. He really looks the part of an old, broken man despite this movie being made only four years after he brought Dracula to life. Two scenes stand out from the rest.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bindy Sue Frønkünschtein TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 1, 2004
Format: DVD
THE PHANTOM SHIP (the Mary Celeste) sets sail with a full crew, including the captain, first mate, the captain's new bride, and a motley bunch of sea dogs. Along for the trip is Anton (Bela Lugosi), a one-armed man with a terrible connection to both the ship and her legend. Anton is an ancestor of modern day serial killers. He's bitter, crazy, and extremely dangerous. Bela pulls off the role to perfection, making Anton a bubbling volcano, erupting only when the time is right. He is the master killer, exacting his revenge with stealth and patience. The true horror of this movie is in Bela's portrayal of a man who knows he can take his time with his captive prey. He also shows a great deal of character depth, tossed about by the demons that plague his mind. The rest of the characters are just victims awaiting their doom. Watch Lugosi work his dark magic! I recommend watching it twice in a row. First to see the film, then to watch Lugosi himself. Without him, this would be a 2-3 star movie at best...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chip Kaufmann on March 30, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Although they are renowned today for the series of horror films made between 1954 and 1976, Hammer Films actually got their start back in the 1930s. They only made a few films before going on hiatus until after World War II when they reemerged with a series of low budget film noirs (see my earlier reviews) before embarking on the horror films that would make them world famous. The most successful of these 1930s films was the 1935 MYSTERY OF THE MARY CELESTE which would be released here a year later as THE PHANTOM SHIP (beginning a trend which would last until the 1970s of Hammer Film titles being changed in the U.S.) and shorn of 18 minutes. The missing footage deals with courtroom scenes which open and close the picture. The film is of primary interest today as an early Hammer offering and for the casting of Bela Lugosi in an important role.

Lugosi had come to England following in the wake of Boris Karloff who had come over in 1933 to make THE GHOUL, but by 1935 an outright ban on horror films in Britain had been enacted thanks to the Lugosi/Karloff vehicle THE RAVEN and so Lugosi winds up with a role that really shows his capabilities as an actor not just a screen presence. The film is based on one of the all time great maritime mysteries concerning the ship MARY CELESTE which left New York in 1872 and was found sometime later completely derelict. A lifeboat and a few items were missing but almost everything else was where it should have been including provisions and the crew's belongings. What happened? No one really knows or will know but that didn't stop people from speculating. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a story about it and this movie came up with its own scenario.

Overall the film is good but not great and it's a real curio.
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