It's safe to say that a cruise is not in Judge Nelson's future plans.
This ship is fueled by blood…and George Kennedy's Breathasures.
Sure it's a death ship that needs your blood in order to operate, but there are some positive things you can take away from all this. At least there's running water and you don't have sewage up to your ankles. You know what they say, when you get lemons…
Facts of the Case
A cruise ship full of passengers is sailing along peacefully until it is sideswiped by an old haunted Nazi torture ship. The ocean liner sinks, and only nine passengers survive. Drifting in their makeshift lifeboat, the survivors come upon the ghost ship, thinking they are rescued. But that jubilant feeling is short lived when they find that no one is manning the vessel, and one by one the Death Ship begins killing the survivors to obtain the blood it needs to continue its deadly voyage.
By no stretch of the imagination is Death Ship a great film, but it sure is a lot of fun. It's cheesy, not even remotely scary, has a storyline littered with unintentional humor, and the budget is more suited for a TV movie of the week than a major motion picture. In fact it could be labeled under the heading of "It's so bad it's good." It's pretty obvious that Death Ship didn't have big money behind it; the best example of this is during one of the most pivotal moments in the film: the cruise liner sinking. Forget The Poseidon Adventure, all we get here is stock footage of the bow of some random ship going down, and poof! That's all; hundreds dead and we don't even get to see them yell and scream as they head toward their demise.
But that's fine; the meat of this film is when the survivors board the Death Ship, and the evil Nazi shenanigans begin. George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke) plays Captain Ashland, alongside Richard Crenna (First Blood) as his second command, Trevor Marshall. These two legends of film and television are the best actors in a film full of much weaker performances. Kennedy's portrayal of the bitter Captain Ashland is a bit on the hammy side, but what do you expect from a cut rate thriller? Crenna looks like he does in most of his movies: cool as a cucumber because he's got his sh#t together, a guy who ain't afraid to take charge when Ashland begins to show signs he's gone bonkers. Nick Mancuso (Under Siege) co-stars as Nick, a member of Ashland's crew, and the swarthy male sex symbol of the cast—too bad he's got a case of the overacting bug.
Death Ship is an early '80s flick from Canada, directed by Alvin Rakoff, that feels like a homage to those classic disaster films that were huge in the '70s. Films like The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and Earthquake—which by the way also stars George Kennedy—are being emulated in every frame of this picture, but this pales in comparison to those earlier movies. There is one very memorable scene from the film however—especially for pubescent 16 year old boys—and that is the bloody shower scene with English actress Victoria Burgoyne. As Nicks girlfriend Lori, Burgoyne gets the honor of thrashing around in the nude as she tries to escape the death shower, after the water suddenly turns into a stream of blood. It is a bizarre scene, ridiculous and disconcerting all at the same time, but a scene you won't soon forget.
Much of Death Ship is spent gazing at the working parts of the Nazi vessel. There are several scenes of pistons going up and down, the ships instruments moving with no one operating them, windows and doors creaking open, as well as many moments alone with the ship as it whispers its evil plans—in German of course. In the extras we find out that some fans were disappointed that the ship spoke in German because they couldn't understand what was being said. Why this would be a problem is beyond me; after all what do we need to hear that we can't figure out just by watching what terror the ship is inflicting on its guests? This Death Ship wants these interlopers dead, and that's clear whether stated in English or German.
This 1.78:1 presentation has been restored in HD from the film's original elements; even so, it still looks and feels like a movie made in the early '80s, with dull colors and bad lighting. The mono Dolby audio makes for dialogue that is easy to hear; it isn't until the overly horrory soundtrack by Ivor Slaney kicks in, that the sound becomes shrill and tinny. Extras include Katarina's Nightmare Theater format, from a horror anthology series hosted by former WWE star Katarina Leigh Waters, and her introduction to the film is entertaining as well as informative. There's also the isolated film soundtrack; deleted scenes; A "Learn what the Death Ship Was Saying" featurette, where Katarina—whose native language is German—translates what is being said by the Death Ship; plus the film's original trailer.
Death Ship is a typical horror movie where the cast is clueless to the dangers surrounding them. Even after finding out that the ship is abandoned and operating unmanned, they casually lounge around this ancient vessel as if still on a luxury cruise. Even so, it's great fun to see these survivors—and with their wits it makes you wonder how they managed to survive at all—make one bad decision after another as the film comes to its inevitable conclusion.
4 out of 5 Nazis surveyed find Death Ship Not Guilty, and so do I.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
• Katarina Bumpers
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