30 January 2006 | The_Void
A lesser-known Hitchcock masterclass!
Hitchcock made a lot of great films, many of which have been met with the acclaim that they rightly deserve. Lifeboat deserves a lot of acclaim, yet its lesser-known status doesn't allow justice in that respect. This film represents one of Hitchcock's major successes in scene setting and drawing the audience into the story. The way that Hitchcock uses his camera aboard the lifeboat is amazing, as by keeping the action on the claustrophobic craft, the great director ensures that his audience is always plugged into the plight of his characters; which helps the film no end when it comes to the story, as we know their situation at all times. In fact, it's amazing just how well Hitchcock does do this; while they were starving, I was too! The plot is simple, yet a great base for a wartime thriller. We follow the surviving members of a crew from a ship that was bombed by a German U-Boat. They're crammed onto a small lifeboat, but there's one survivor that isn't quite welcome. His name is Willy, and he's a survivor of the U-Boat that sank the ill-fated ship.
Given the time when this was made (towards the end of World War 2), it's hardly surprising that it's filled with propaganda. Usually, this annoys me; but here it's done really well, and the propaganda is actually worked into the story instead of just being there to rally the allied population at the time. Hitchcock turns this into a twist, and the way that he parodies the war on the whole on just a small lifeboat in the middle of the big ocean is great. The entire film takes place on just one single set. The action never leaves the lifeboat (aside from to pan around the surrounding area), but Hitchcock uses this to his advantage. The lack of locations really enforces the crew's isolation. The acting is melodramatic in typical forties fashion; but all of the cast members do well in their roles. Tallulah Bankhead takes the lead role and really is the linchpin of the movie. She is joined by the likes of William Bendix, Walter Slezak and John Hodiak, who give great turns despite not being A-class actors. Overall, this is a Hitchcock film that I would say is just as important to see as the likes of Rear Window and Strangers on a Train. This is Hitchcock at his best, and the film is a great ninety-five minutes to boot. Don't miss this one!