“Why are the wicked always so strong?” A truly bleak and disturbing but thoroughly captivating drama on the high seas, Abandon Ship! (original UK title: Seven Waves Away) focuses on a diverse group of shipwreck survivors crowded onto an overcrowded lifeboat (actually the captain’s shore boat)—former passengers of the luxury liner SS Crescent Star, which exploded and sank after hitting a mine: “In seven minutes, 1,119 perished; 37 survived.” After the captain (Laurence Naismith) dies, Executive Officer “Alec Holmes” (Tyrone Power) assumes command of the tiny lifeboat and is soon faced with the agonizing decision of whether to “evict some of the tenants” and give the strongest among them a better chance to survive. Written and directed by Richard Sale, the film features a nice cast that includes Mai Zetterling, Lloyd Nolan, Stephen Boyd, James Hayter and Finlay Currie. I loved the opening scene with the ominous derelict mine floating in the sea accompanied by the eerie harmonica tune and I hated the voiceover narration at the end: “If you had been a member of the jury, how would you have voted: guilty or innocent?” Unforgettable and still quite shocking, Abandon Ship! would make a great double feature with Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944).
Useless Trivia: Abandon Ship! was loosely based on the real-life sinking of an American vessel, William Brown, in 1841. The film was remade as a TV movie called The Last Survivors in 1975 with Martin Sheen assuming the Holmes role.