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The Mystery of the Marie Celeste

Phantom Ship

UK 1935
produced by
Henry Passmore for Hammer
directed by Denison Clift
starring Bela Lugosi, Shirley Grey, Arthur Margetson, Edmund Willard, Dennis Hoey, George Mozart, Johnnie Schofield, Gunnar Moir, Ben Welden, Clifford McLaglen, Bruce Gordon, Gibson Gowland, Terence de Marney, Edgar Pierce, Herbert Cameron, Wilfred Essex, James Carew, Mondi DeLyle, Alec Fraser, Charles Mortimer, Graham Soutten, J.B. Williams
story by Denison Clift, screenplay by Charles Larkworthy

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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1872: Captain Benjamin Briggs (Arthur Margetson) is to commandeer the Mary Celeste on her way from New York to Europe, and at the same time, this journey is also supposed to be his honeymoon, as he has just married Sarah (Shirley Grey), a woman he has stolen from his best friend (and fellow captain) Jim (Clifford McLaglen). The journey is doomed right from the start though, as it proves to be almost impossible to (legally) get a crew, and ultimately, Briggs and his sadistic first mate Bilson (Edmund Willard) have to shanghai almost the entire crew - safe from Lorenzon (Bela Lugosi), an old drunk, and a sailro borrowed from Captain Jim - whom Jim has paid to kill Briggs.

The journey that follows proves to be consequently bumpy right from the beginning: Sarah is appalled by rough manners that only fully emerge on open sea, especially by the sadistic ways of Bilson, she is almost raped by one of the sailors and only just saved by Lorenzon, who kills the sailor as a consequence much to his own shock, Jim's assassin is killed when he tries to murder Briggs, and so on. But what's worse, soon more and more crewmen end up dead, killed, and despite the captain's investigations, the killer cannot be found. Ultimately, even the Captain and his wife end up dead when they try to abandon ship, and finally the crew is down to three, Bilson, Lorenzon and another sailor - and since Bilson knows he isn't the killer and figures Lorenzon can't have done it, he kills the third man in cold blood ... big mistake since Lorenzon actually is the killer, and he has saved Bilson for last because he is the cause for his killing spree: Many years ago, it turns out, Lorenzon was shanghaied to sail with the Mary Celeste, and broken on board by the sadistic ways of Bilson, even almost killed in shark-infested waters ... and now he finally gets his revenge and kills Bilson with great joy. But if he was borderline mad up to now, Lorenzon then goes completely bonkers and ultimately goes overboard in a state of insanity ...


The first ever film of legendary British production house Hammer, made a good two decades before it rose to fame (and notoriety) - and yet with a film that is already borderline horror and features one of the horror greats of the 1930's, Bela Lugosi.

That all said, is The Mystery of the Marie Celeste a great movie though?

The answer unfortunately is no. The film certainly has its creepy moments, its mystery story certainly is interesting and compelling, and Bela Lugosi gives a very subtle performance that certainly has to be ranked among his best - but the rest of the cast delivers only mediocre performances, the directorial effort is less than engaging and at times even stagey, and while the storyline as such might be great, the writing as such is rather dull and fails to take full advantage of the situation.

That all said, The Mystery of the Marie Celeste might not be great but it isn't too bad a film either, it's certainly an interesting high seas mystery that leaves something to be desired, but also has its strong points.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD