A merchant marine, Tom, fresh out of training, takes a job as third officer aboard the Altair
. He quickly comes to realize that Captain Stone, master of the Altair
, is at the very least dangerously abusive in his application of "authority" and possibly a murderer, as well. A man named Louis - who had been critical of Stone's policies - turns up dead, buried under a mound of chain after being locked inside the chain compartment as the anchor was being withdrawn. Captain Stone as much as admits the murder to Tom.
Tom presses charges against Stone when the Altair
makes land but Captain Stone is well-connected within the shipping company and the other men testify that Stone has done nothing wrong as far as they've seen, so all the hearing does is embarrass Tom. Hell, it comes out that Tom was so incompetent he didn't even order the men to secure a cargo hook in rough seas, which led to a lifeboat being smashed and several of the men being injured while trying to secure it as it bashed around. It was actually Captain Stone who refused Tom's request to secure the hook but there are no witnesses to this fact aside from Tom himself, Stone having made sure no one else was around both times Tom begged the captain to allow him to secure the hook. Stone is an experienced bully, see, and knows enough to make sure there's always a scapegoat on hand.
Tom, to his credit, resigns his post on the Altair
, even though Stone says there will be no sour grapes. Too bad for Tom that he decides to intervene when he sees some racist sailors accost a black man and gets beaten unconscious for his trouble. He awakens aboard the Altair
. I'm sure you see where this is going.The Ghost Ship
has a tight script and an able cast (but for one exeption - more on this later), so why did I put it in Bad Movies? Well, it's boring. I'm not sure how it can be, what with its brief length and really rather fast pacing, but it is. Director Mark Robsen has an almost Frank Darabont-like way of wringing tedium out of setups that would seem to be impervious to such. Half-ton cargo hook knocking sailor and lifeboats around? What must be a couple tons of chain piling on top of a guy? A man waking up right back in the middle of the very horrible situation he narrowly managed to escape just a moment ago? In Robsen's hands, all this thrilling stuff somehow comes off as decidedly soporific. I hate to be too harsh on him, though. This was a b-picture and probably made under extreme financial and time constraints.
I mentioned above that the cast is able, with one exception. They certainly are. None of them are what I'd call great actors but they all do fine in their roles. Then there's the one. Would you look at that, it's my old friend, Skelton Knaggs! Yes, the same Skelton Knaggs I once declared to be The Worst Actor Ever on the strength (?) of his performance in Isle of the Dead
, even though he only had like one minute of screen time and maybe five lines. His, er, performance in The Ghost Ship
did nothing to make me reconsider granting him that esteemed title. Here, he plays a mute who often stares off into space, thinking to himself about how much it sucks to be a mute. I don't know if he did his own voiceover narration because there's no way in hell I'm watching even one minute of Isle of the Dead
the one minute with him in it - again to see if it's the same voice, so he gets a pass on the lifeless vocal part of his performance. However, the utter failure of the rest of his performance is inarguably his own. He can't even convincingly freaking stare off into space
! He sucks so much it's almost awe-inspiring.
Here's to you, Skelton Knaggs!