Review of 'Moby Dick'

moby_dick.jpg Ishmael (Richard Basehart) is a young seaman looking to experience a different world so signs on with, “Pequod” a whaling ship out of Massachusetts accompanied by his friend, a heavily tattooed Polynesian harpooner named Queequeg (Friedrich von Ledebur). The mysterious Pequod captain Ahab (Gregory Peck) is obsessed with finding a mysterious “white whale” that, on a previous encounter, resulting in the loss of one of his legs. At sea the crew is ecstatic to come across a large group of whales and quickly set about their easy harvest until Ahab calls of the hunt to chase the whale. Despite the crews apprehension Ahab guides the ship far away to his ultimate reckoning with the white beast…

A surprisingly good depiction of the classic Herman Melville novel of the same name that also realistically depicts the classical whaling industry (perhaps a bit too much with several fairly gory scenes for the time the film was made). The story has been, as might be expected, greatly simplified favouring the simple narrative concentrating on Ahab's obsession and ultimate destruction. The sets are amazing with only the great white whale not entirely satisfying.

Friedrich von Ledebur is amazing as the quixotic Queequeg with his unerring accuracy with the harboon and Richard Basehart as Ishmael is a suitably innocent narrator providing us, as viewers, a view of a world now lost. There is something a bit too aloof and distracted with Peck's performance that does not entirely convince. Here he is more of an obsessed God than a lost, human soul. I have to say his completely unconvincing peg leg and unsuccessful attempt at aging make-up distracts any time it is seen, effectively taking us immediately out of the story. Peck here is more channelling a demonic Lincoln than a old whaler whose ultimate fate is more of a side note of the story than what should have been the focus.

Huston seems here to be more interested in a good action film featuring an unrelatable caricature of a man rather than the very specific tragedy of human obsession and so we lose the entire focus of the story. Having said that, it is a good action film and anytime you see Peck on the screen, it is a treat. I just wish the film could have allowed us to more deeply resonate in the ultimate human tragedy of the book.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2020-04-26

Directed by: John Huston

Studio: Moulin Productions Inc.

Year: 1956

Length: 116 minutes

Genre: Melodrama

Other reviewed films by John Huston: