(directed by John Huston, 1956)
***** (out of 5)
> I was under the mistaken belief that I’d seen this old Hollywood chestnut, from having seen intermittent chunks of it in heavy rotation on TV, but as I settled in to watch this classic from the beginning, I realized there where big chunks of the film I had not seen, once edited to accommodate commercials.
. It was a controversial film at the time it was released, in 1956- the year of my birth. It’s well known that director John Huston (who adapted the screenplay with great sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury), wanted his crusty father Walter to play the intense Captain Ahab, but his dad died before financing could be arranged, and the studio insisted that a big name actor anchor the film. Strangely, Gregory Peck received the first bad reviews of his career in the part, criticized for being too handsome and not salty enough in the classic role. Stupidly, he took these criticisms to heart. Stupidly, because he is absolutely wonderful in the role. After seeing the performance from start to finish, I can’t quite imagine any other actor in the part. Peck is simply mesmerizing in every scene, he seethes, he roils he rages, but is particularly effective in the quieter interludes, where he is openly ruminating on the nature of his obsession with the white leviathan who took his leg and scarred his face. The black-and-white cinematography is first rate, and while it’s hard to judge the adaptation having never been able to successfully make it through the book, the cinematic storytelling is taut and compelling, the dialogue poetic, and the final reel, devastating, iconic, unforgettable!
. This film is awesomeness itself. MOBY DICK is great cinema.
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