Artisan // 1999 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // July 12th, 2000
Restored to former glory, a nostalgic cruise ship repeats a tragic past...
Help!!! This film is sinking and I'm on it!
Final Voyage is a Jay Andrews (AKA Jim Wynorski) film, which says something right off the bat, though I didn't realize it at the time because of his numerous nom de plumes. You see, he came up in the business under Roger Corman, and has made a career out of making cheesy B movies, including some of the biggest stinkers in movie history, such as Beastmaster 2 (Yes, they actually made a sequel to Beastmaster). Unfortunately this movie takes itself all too seriously for the viewer, and appears to be perhaps the worst knock off possible of Titanic, Die Hard, and Under Siege (which I think makes it a knock off of a knock off). Here we have action, gunfights, big-breasted women, and a sinking ship, and I yawned my way through it. Artisan has done a much better job with this DVD (even though it is a pan and scan disc) than the film deserves, with one of the best commentary tracks I've ever heard.
There isn't a lot about I can put in this section, intended to be the defense of the film. The production values are surprisingly good considering the ultra-low budget used. Filmed aboard the Queen Mary luxury liner (now permanently moored in California) and using abundant amounts of stock footage, the film manages not to look like the cheap piece of crap it is. There is even some decent CGI effects footage of the ship sinking that doesn't suck.
I think the exploitation factor was taken to a fine art here, and that deserves some positive mention. There are numerous shots blatantly highlighting breasts ("for the sports fans" quotes the director) but oddly no nudity, especially considering the female lead is none other than Erika Eleniak, who started out in Playboy and went on to make the fine classic Bordello of Blood. Frankly I think this film needed some gratuitous nudity.
Artisan did a fair job with the pan and scan transfer of this film, with pretty good color, and only occasional artifacting. The look of the film itself is very uneven, with poor continuity and obvious shifts from sharp detail to stock footage of various amounts of grain. The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1, but while everything is clear and free of distortion doesn't really take advantage of the split surrounds or subwoofer. I expected much better, considering the number of gunshots and explosions in the film I hoped my subwoofer would really get a workout.
I have to say though, that the commentary track almost makes the disc, and I think does qualify for a rental. Don't watch the film itself, only the commentary track. I can say without reservation I've never laughed so hard during a commentary track, and not nearly so much in many comedies. Director Jay Sanders and co-star Claudia Christian (of Babylon 5 fame) rip the movie to shreds and realize how completely bad the film is throughout. It sounds like two comedians taking a movie and putting their own dialogue and description over it for laugh value. From the numerous shots "for the sports fans" and "three shots," which means the woman's face and two breasts, they make fun of every second. The only references to the making of the film are when they point out how cheap things were, such as putting cardboard "portholes" over a motel room window and putting curtains over it to hide it. They had one lifesaving ring which had the name of the ship misspelled which was moved from scene to scene to "give it that boat-like atmosphere." There were numerous extras used in what would have been real parts, but they couldn't speak lest they had to pay them more. It goes on and on, and I laughed so hard I couldn't believe it was the same movie. Put into the context of the commentary track, it is pure cheese and delightfully so; unfortunately watching the film itself doesn't show that aspect. The film could have worked so much better by admitting it was so bad and taking advantage of it.
There are also extensive cast and crew bios and the trailer for the extra content, though the commentary track is what makes the extras here.
Do you have a week while I list what was wrong with this film? No? Alright then, just the lower points. The acting was wooden and horrid, with the main villain Ice T being one of the worst culprits, but even he was outdone by the mute henchmen who had way too much footage for no lines, and the other stars who in one case was looped over by an entirely different actress. It seems after making this stinker she thought better of it and refused to come in to loop her lines.
That a script this bad could actually get made into a movie gives me the desire to start writing a screenplay post-haste. It is blatantly ripping off of several other films, but with writing that would make Under Siege, that Steven Seagal stinker, look like one of the greatest films of all time in comparison. Insipid lines, poorly written throughout, it must have taken real guts to stand in front of a camera and speak this drivel. I feel especially bad for Claudia Christian, who I like very much in other work, having to be there, though I'm grateful for her commentary, which was the only entertaining part of the disc. Even she had much more cleavage than in any other film; to keep the breasts big throughout extensive padding was used.
This was guerrilla filmmaking, folks, and I can give some kudos for that. Many times shots were stolen by jumping out of a car with a camera and getting a shot and leaving before someone could ask if they had a permit. Likewise they filmed on the Queen Mary amidst tourists wandering the ship, who may be surprised to find they are in the film.
If you watch this film as an action adventure, as it is advertised, you will be woefully disappointed. Watch it with the commentary track, and suddenly it becomes a comedy, and works surprisingly well that way. Give it a rental for just that; and don't say I didn't warn you.
I sincerely hope this really is the Final Voyage for this, as I will have to gag if there is ever a sequel. The film is shockingly bad, and I'd have to give the death penalty for it, but I give it a reprieve for the commentary track.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary Track
* Cast and Crew Info