MOBY DICK REVIEWED
“Moby Dick” builds off the previous silent film adaptation of “The Sea Beast”. The adaptation plays fast and loose with the Melville story, but it’s still fun. John Barrymore plays Captain Ahab as a scorned lover. After he loses his leg during a previous encounter with Moby Dick, his wedding is called off. That leads his brother to get him all hyped up and ready for some whale murder.
Taking to the high seas, we get an African American playing Queequeg for the first time. I’m not sure who is going to be mad about that casting, but I’m sure someone will find fault. The rest of the film is a jaunty sea adventure focused on animal hunting. You get even more melodrama aboard the Pequod, but it’s all and good fun. However, you can tell the audio limitations of the time hurt some shots. Several devices were bizarrely hidden on the boat and people would always gather around it in threes.
That’s some silent movie production trivia for the younger readers. Melville purists will be annoyed by the film’s loose structure. Honestly, I’d love to see a kid use this film instead of doing a book report. It would make a teacher’s head explode.
- 1.37:1 standard definition transfer
RELEASE DATE: 8/16/16
- Video - 80%80%
- Audio - 79%79%
- Supplemental Material - %0%
- Film Score - 85%85%
The Plot Thus Far
John Barrymore’s second sailing as the carefree scalawag harpoonist, who evolves into the maimed and driven Captain Ahab in the first sound adaptation of Moby Dick, may play fast and loose with Herman Melville (just like its silent predecessor The Sea Beast), but it charts a unique and highly entertaining course. The Great Profile plays Ahab as a lovestruck swain whose romance with a New Bedford parson’s daughter (Joan Bennett) is severed when he loses his right leg in an ill-starred encounter with the Great White Whale, and his jealous brother (Lloyd Hughes) leads him to believe that his once-promised marriage can never be. So Ahab embarks again as the obsessed master of his own ship with a shanghaied crew to once more hunt the mighty mammal. Lloyd Bacon’s vigorous direction, the fluidly mobile camerawork and the spot-on production design create a lustrous period flavor to match the power of the peerless Barrymore – all the way to an ending that may gall Melville purists, but will enthrall fans of splendid studio moviemaking. Thar she blows, indeed.
These DVDs are Manufactured on Demand (MOD).; to order, fans must visit The Warner Archive Collection (www.wbshop.com)