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