Part mystery, part wartime polemic, Lifeboat finds director Alfred Hitchcock tackling a cinematic challenge that foreshadows the self-imposed handicaps of Rope and Rear Window. As with those subsequent features, Hitchcock confines his action and characters to a single set, in this instance the lone surviving lifeboat from an Allied freighter sunk by a German U-boat in the North Atlantic. A less confident, ingenious filmmaker might have opened up John Steinbeck's dialogue-driven character study beyond the battered boat and its cargo of survivors, but Hitchcock instead revels in his predicament to exploit the enforced intimacy between his characters.
Indeed, we never actually see the doomed freighter--the smoking ship's funnel beneath the credits simply sinks beneath the waves, and we're plunged into the escalating tensions between those who gradually find their way to the boat, a band of eight English and American passengers and crew, plus a German sailor (Walter Slezak) rescued from the U-boat, itself destroyed by the freighter's deck gun. Heading the cast and inevitably commanding their and our attention is the cello-voiced Tallulah Bankhead as Connie Porter, a cynical, sophisticated writer whose priorities seem to be hanging onto her mink and keeping her lipstick fresh. Gradually, the others find Porter and her lifeboat, forming a temporary community that inevitably suggests a careful cross section of archetypes, from wealthy industrialist (Henry Hull) to ship's boiler men (John Hodiak and William Bendix).
Hitchcock juggles the interpersonal skirmishes between the boat's occupants with the mystery of their German prisoner, which itself becomes a meditation on the fine line between nationalism and morality, a line that Slezak walks delicately until his identity is resolved. Visually, Hitchcock transforms his back-lot set and its rear-projected cloudbanks into a desolate stretch of ocean, while capturing the horror of an amputation through an economical set of images culminating in an empty boot. --Sam Sutherland
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Top Customer Reviews
Hitchcock was fascinated with women, with actresses, and particularly beautiful ones. And, if Connie's beauty here, is not young, and fresh, it is nevertheless, compelling. She is like a thoroughbred mare among mules and cab nags in an auction pen of chance. She stands out because of her breeding. She has lines. Her costume? A white silk blouse, good nylons, a full-length mink coat, and a diamond bracelet. And, of course, that wonderful mane of hair.
If you study Hitchcock, it would make a wonderful double bill to see LIFEBOAT and STAGE FRIGHT close together. Here, he studies Bankhead; in STAGEFRIGHT he studies Dietrich; two fair-haired actresses of wildly differing personal style, but of exceptional power and interest. And, what they have in common and what both display in these two films, is their unusual, and unusually expressive voices.Read more ›
It is WWII and a ship is torpedoed and its lifeboats are shot at. Before they went down they dispatched the dastardly U-Boat.
Now an only remaining Lifeboat is being loaded one at a time with a self-centered female journalist (Tallulah Bankhead), a boisterous businessman (Henry Hull), the radio ship's operator, a timid nurse, a ship's steward, a wounded sailor (William Bendix), and an overbearing engineer. We do not stop here the next to be pulled aboard does not speak English (Walter Slezak.)
As with all mixed people movies we slowly earn about everyone's background and a few secrets. As they start picking on each other we see that the only stable person seems to be the U-Boat passenger they picked up. If it were not for him people would have dies and or got lost. Besides doing most of the thinking for them he also has to do most of the rowing.
So why is everyone so upset?
Will they make it on their limited supplies and against the unpredictable sea?
Most recent customer reviews
4 1/2 stars. Terrific Hitchcock a suspence film all onboard a lifeboat after a cruise ship was struck by a German uboat.Published 22 months ago by K. D.
After having there ship sunk in WWII, Most of them are from the states but one is a German captain from the sub the sunk there ship. They seem to fight between them selves. Read morePublished on May 13 2014 by David Snow
I haven't watched this yet, but it arrived in perfect condition and in a timely fashion. The CD and cover are in pristine condition and I do not have any concerns that this will... Read morePublished on Feb. 8 2014 by sunnyskies
Survivors of a German U-Boat attack face off against each other on a lifeboat in the middle of the Atlantic, and one of them is a Nazi. Read morePublished on Nov. 17 2013 by Scarberian
This is a terrific Alfred Hitchcock movie. It is atypical as there is no point of absolute climactic suspense as was customary in most Hitchcock flicks. Read morePublished on June 27 2013 by Lava1964
What would you do if you were stuck in a lifeboat with a hodgepodge of people and limited supplies? Does this sound like one of those corporate games? Read morePublished on Oct. 26 2005 by Bernie
'Lifeboat' is a great film by the late Alfred Hitchcock. He is really truly a master of filmmaking and very few directors could make such a fantastic story from such a limited... Read morePublished on April 10 2004 by Dhaval Vyas
A very nice ensemble cast delivers the claustrophobia in this
Heather Angel and Henry Hull always seem to be least recognized in this drama although thw whole... Read more
To those only acquainted with the later Hitchcock work of the 50's on, this little gem is a new exposure and an education. Read morePublished on Oct. 2 2003 by JK
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