5 August 2008 | Bunuel1976
WHITE SLAVE SHIP (Silvio Amadio, 1961) **1/2
This is another peplum I wasn't previously aware of but should have, since it's also reviewed in Maltin's Film Guide; however, whereas I agreed with the latter's ** rating for THE ISLAND PRINCESS (1954), I thought this one undeserving of a measly *1/2 !
Essentially an average but quite lively swashbuckler, its plot deals with an 18th century sea voyage from England to America with a shipload of both male and female prisoners destined to be sold as slaves; along the way, a mutiny takes place the film's original title, L'AMMUTINAMENTO, translates to just that but the prisoners find as much discord among their own ranks as to the treatment of the crew and passengers, the course they should take, etc. The protagonists are two former Hollywood hopefuls Italian Pier Angeli (here billed under her full name of Annamaria Pierangeli) and Englishman Edmund Purdom; however, the two characters she's the prize girl of an imprisoned pimp (who lands in jail with the express purpose of winning herself a place on the ship and liberate him!), while he's a doctor who treated a wounded rebel and was accused of being an accomplice in the conspiracy against the King barely interact throughout. In fact, his obligatory romantic interest is supplied by Michele Girardon (whom I've just rewatched in Luis Bunuel's DEATH IN THE GARDEN ): again, she's given a fairly good role as an aristocratic girl (whom Purdom initially despises and insults for showing him pity, which leads him to be publicly flogged); incidentally, the pimp himself shows an interest in the girl (much to Angeli's chagrin) and the two men eventually contend over her in a fistfight (which Purdom obviously wins). The hero also shares an ambiguous relationship with the ship's captain (Ivan Desny); when the leader of the mutineers demonstrates himself to be incapable of steering the ship, Purdom has to plead with the imprisoned Desny to take over.
The second half does tend somewhat towards histrionics: a baby is born on board; Angeli is continually shunned by the pimp (whom she later has no qualms about killing); Girardon's kid brother is after Purdom at one point springing at him with a poker for 'defiling' her; another aristocratic female passenger commits suicide after the leader of the mutineers has made her his concubine, etc. Events come to a head at the climax, when the former male prisoners decide to throw the women overboard indiscriminately in shark-infested waters because the food rations have been severely diminished after a storm but Purdom, the captain and what remains of the crew defend them, and the two sides engage in open combat; a vessel sailing close by witnesses the scene and subsequently picks up the survivors asked to identify his companions, Captain Desny refers to the few remaining prisoners merely as fellow passengers. By the way, there were a few unintentionally funny moments throughout: when the captain asks Purdom what has become of his pet parrot, the latter deadpans "Roasted with potatoes on the side"!; the doctor later does a double-take when he finds Desny has been forced to assume the duties of butler on his own ship!; the leader of the mutineers, then, only decides to personally steer the ship because the ex-prisoner currently at the wheel seems not to even be aware what it's for!
For the record, this is the fourth film from director Amadio that I've watched the others were all equally obscure i.e. the peplum WAR GODS OF BABYLON (1962), the erotic drama ISLAND OF THE SWEDES (1969) and the romantic thriller DISPERATAMENTE L'ESTATE SCORSA (1970).