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A chic writer, a stoker and others drift with the U-boat captain who has sunk their ship.
For more about Lifeboat and the Lifeboat Blu-ray release, see Lifeboat Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on April 12, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tallulah Bankhead, Hume Cronyn, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson, John Hodiak
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
» See full cast & crew
Lifeboat Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, April 12, 2012
Nominated for Oscar Awards for Best Director and Best Cinematography, Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat" (1944) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include a documentary on the making of the film; excerpt from Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut's famous 1962 conversation; and the short films "Bon Voyage" (1944) and "Aventure Malgache" (1944). In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. The disc also arrives with a 36-page booklet featuring archival imagery alongside new writings by critics Bill Krohn, Arthur Mas, and Martial Pisani. Region-B "locked".
A German U-Boat torpedoes an ocean liner. At first, it seems like the only survivor is Connie Porter (Tallulah Bankhead, Faithless, Die! Die! My Darling!), a middle-age journalist who has somehow managed to get on a lifeboat loaded with supplies.
As the lifeboat slowly drifts away from the sinking liner, more survivors appear and join Connie -- Kovak (John Hodiak, Somewhere in the Night), a temperamental conservative who does not like different opinions, Rittenhouse (Henry Hull, High Sierra), a wealthy and surprisingly liberal industrialist, Alice (Mary Anderson, To Each His Own), a quiet nurse, Gus (William Bendix, Detective Story), a simpleton in love with baseball whose right leg is seriously injured, Stanley (Hume Cronyn, The Seventh Cross), a soft-spoken technician, Joe (Canada Lee, Body and Soul), a black former thief turned steward, and Mrs. Higley (Heather Angel, Time to Kill), an exhausted mother carrying her dead child. Eventually, a German survivor, Willy (Walter Slezak, Sinbad the Sailor), also reaches the lifeboat.
Everyone agrees that the most logical thing to do is head to Bermuda. But which way is Bermuda? Since none of the survivors are experienced sailors, it is impossible to tell without a compass.
It turns out that Willy knows, because he was a captain on the U-Boat and can supposedly tell by looking at the stars, but no one trusts him. What if he leads the lifeboat to one of those German supply ships that are often seen in the area? The overconfident Kovak steps up and chooses the 'right' direction.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Higley concludes that without her child life is no longer worth living. The rest of the survivors attempt to change her mind, but she can't hear what they have to say. Gus' injured leg also gets gangrene and he is told that if he wants to live the leg must go. Once again, it turns out that Willy is the only person on the lifeboat who knows how to do what needs to be done.
Eventually, a powerful storm arrives and nearly destroys the lifeboat. The precious food and water supplies are lost. After the storm, Willy, the freshest and most energetic amongst the survivors, is asked to explain why Gus is missing. His answer, in English, shocks them.
Loosely based on an unpublished novella by John Steinbeck, Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat -- the only film the British director made for 20th Century Fox -- is an entertaining propaganda piece with familiar observations about justice, equality, and humanity.
Practically the entire film is set on the lifeboat, where the survivors challenge each others' perceptions about right and wrong. There are a few rather long monologues with clichéd political statements but their tone is far from preachy. Understandably, the harsh ones target the enemy (Willy/the Germans).
Generally speaking, the melodrama is kept at bay. Mrs. Higley's collapse, for instance, is genuinely moving, while Gus' behavior after he is told that his leg must be amputated is credible. Only Kovak's speeches occasionally feel forced.
There is a good twist but it isn't the film's high point. It merely resets the viewer's expectations, to a certain degree, and slightly redirects the story. The focus of attention is clearly on the often heated debates between the survivors and their belief systems.
What may surprise some viewers is the fact that the film is notably violent. Especially during the second half, where the masks fall off, things get quite rough. The violence, however, certainly keeps the film grounded in reality.
Note: In 1945, Lifeboat earned Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Cinematography (Glen MacWilliams) and Best Writing, Original Story (John Steinbeck).
Lifeboat Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment.
Note: The screenshots offered with this review appear in the following order:
1. Lifeboat: 1-19.
2. Bon Voyage: 21-25
3. Aventure Malgache: 26-30
There are rough spots here and there where clarity and contrast have a tendency to fluctuate a bit. Some of the darker scenes early into the film also look a bit soft (see screencapture #1). However, detail is still pleasing, with many of the close-ups looking particularly good (see screencapture #12). Generally speaking, colors are stable - the blacks look rich and well saturated, while the grays and whites are well balanced. Only during the foggy sequences the blacks appear somewhat soft. Furthermore, there are no traces of problematic post-production tinkering (contrast boosting, sharpening, degraining, etc). As a result, while there are some small rough spots, the film still very much looks like a film. Also, there are tiny flecks and scratches popping up here and there, but they are never overly distracting. All in all, this is exactly the type of approach I like to see when old that have not undergone a full-blown restoration transition to Blu-ray: have a raw high-definition transfer on the Blu-ray and let the film shine on its own. A rough diamond is still a diamond. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Lifeboat Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Lifeboat arrives with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. For the record, Eureka Entertainment have also provided optional English SDH subtitles. Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache arrive with French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 tracks and optional English subtitles.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track has a surprisingly good dynamic amplitude. Obviously, it is unlikely to test the muscles of your audio system, but the sound is well rounded and the dynamic progressions are indeed free of sudden spikes. There are no audio distortions either. The dialog is crisp, stable, and free of problematic background hiss.
Lifeboat Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Lifeboat Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat is a very entertaining propaganda film, which manages to ask some surprisingly serious questions. In fact, one could successfully argue that it is one of the least politically correct propaganda films from the early '40s. As expected, Eureka Entertainment's presentation of the film is very pleasing. If you are planning to add Lifeboat to your library, do not forget that the British distributors also have a Limited Edition SteelBook up for pre-order. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Lifeboat: Other Editions
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Lifeboat Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat Detailed - February 24, 2012
British distributors Eureka Entertainment have officially announced and detailed their upcoming Dual Format (Standard and SteelBook) Editions of Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944), starring Tallulah Bankhead, John Hodiak and Walter Slezak. Street date for both ...
• Hitchcock, Wilder, McCarey, Kenton, Mizoguchi, and Miike Films Co... - January 24, 2012
Eureka Entertainment have revealed their upcoming titles for the months of April, May, and June 2012. There will be seven new releases added to the Masters of Cinema series: Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Lifeboat, Island of Lost Souls, Ruggles of Red Gap, ...
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