10 June 2002 | mark_r_harris
Once seen, never forgotten. Very few films have ever moved into Hitchcock's territory and beaten him, but Seven Waves Away / Abandon Ship is one: ultimately it's a much superior film to Hitchcock's similar Lifeboat. Seven Waves Away was made with impressive conviction and passion by writer-director Richard Sale, who was very active in the 1950s but didn't get another opportunity to direct a feature after this one, despite living 36 more years (what's up with that?). Working with production designer Wilfred Shingleton and art director Raymond Simm and filming almost entirely in a large tank (except perhaps for a few long shots), Sale created an unforgettably immediate atmosphere for a completely harrowing and uncompromising tale of survival at sea under the worst imaginable physical and ethical circumstances.
The cast performed admirably under very trying circumstances (imagine being wet all day, every day); in fact, the miseries of the filming process influenced the acting in a quasi-documentary manner that benefits the picture enormously. Even seen on television, Seven Waves Away is an intensely experiential movie; I can only imagine what it felt like on the large screen.
This was practically Tyrone Power's last hurrah; in his early forties when the movie was filmed, he died of a heart attack on a project shortly thereafter (as his actor-father Tyrone Power Sr. had before him). Power acts with tremendous force and tension as the "captain" here; the dramatic arc of the story is contained entirely within his decision-making process, and for a first-time viewer his key decision (which I will not reveal) will always register as startling because it runs so counter-intuitively to our received sense of ethics. But that is part of what gives Seven Waves Away its wallop.