I’ve been woefully negligent of this page for the last six months. Life got in the way. Isn’t that the way of things? But, now, with renewed energy, I want to continue my movie posts and tell you what you need to be watching…because I need to tell someone!
In April, I attended the TCM Film Fest, as I do every year, and of course, was happily surprised by a number of movies that I never would have watched otherwise. One of those brilliant standouts was Michael Curtiz’s The Sea Wolf.
Now, if you’re like me, there could be two things standing in your way of watching this film: its blah title and those dreaded words…film noir. My dad’s rolling his eyes, but I think it’s well known from this blog, that film noir doesn’t tend to be my favorite genre. I know. I know. It’s not a genre, it’s a style. Whatever. I associate film noir with death and femme fatales and generally that’s just not my thing.
However, this movie is so much more than it appears to be. It’s a great example of the complex, layered acting that took place in the studio era. And, I won’t lie, it’s helped by some very specific and severely underrated actors, John Garfield and Ida Lupino. If you’ve never heard of either of them, you’re going to be obsessed, BELIEVE ME.
If you’re unfamiliar, The Sea Wolf follows a three fugitives who find themselves aboard a ship captained by the tyrannical Wolf Larsen. They talk about philosophy, fall in love and may or may not make it off the ship alive!
Here’s why you must add The Sea Wolf to your queue ASAP!
The amazing performances of severely underrated character actors!
Ida Lupino is someone that a year ago I had never heard of. But, through a midnight watch of Devotion in which Ida played author Emily Bronte, I went down the Ida rabbit hole, learning about not only her prowess as an actress, but her major strides behind the camera, working as one of the only female directors in the studio era. Her story is fascinating and so inspiring TBH.
John Garfield is another fascinating character actor. He was a predecessor to actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando, an actor who didn’t play by the rules, who was unconventional and gritty and real in every part he played. The Sea Wolf is the first John Garfield movie I saw and let me tell you, I think I have a very real crush on him…it’s too bad he’s dead/his character was not real and he was acting. Garfield died very young, partially from an illness that hit him as a child, partially it is thought from the stress of being one of the many accused during the Hollywood Blacklist era.
And you can’t forget Edward G. Robinson who really owns the movie. His complex portrayal of Wolf Larsen, Captain of the vessel Ida and Garfield are being held captive on is more than a reason to watch the film by itself.
It’s obviously based on an early 20th century novel by Jack London…but again, don’t let that put you off. It’s really a story quite like something like Lord of the Flies. The plot is not the star…it’s more of a pondering of philosophical ideas. What is right? What is wrong? Does a person start evil or do they become evil through a turn of events?
This discussion is had through the conversations between Wolf Larsen and Humphrey van Weyden (Alexander Knox), a young author and writer Wolf takes a liking to. Wolf tells him that by the end of his journey aboard Wolf’s ship, Van Weyden will be a different person. He will make choices that a good person wouldn’t make.
Intrigue! Scandal! Philosophy! C’mon, you’re dying to watch it, aren’t you?
BTW – James Cameron definitely stole a few things from The Sea Wolf!
In case you need more of a reason…you like Titanic, right? I mean, c’mon, you love it. You can say it’s a guilty pleasure, but you know that’s a lie. You love it because who could resist Leo and Kate falling in love aboard a sinking ship…”You jump, I jump, Jack!” Well, what if I told you that Mr. Cameron took a little inspiration from classic film, specifically this film for his 1997 blockbuster?
I don’t just say this because The Sea Wolf takes place aboard a ship or because there’s a love story. I say it because there are specific moments where you’ll be like…was that a line in Titanic?
I wanted to show you a gif from The Sea Wolf where there’s an eerily similar line, but couldn’t find it, but I swear it’s in there!
The Sea Wolf is an underrated gem with understated performances and moody cinematography!
I did not reveal many of the plot points of this film on purpose. I so enjoyed going into it with zero expectations. It was a pleasant surprise and I was mesmerized by its fabulous performances. So few films make you really worry for the main characters safety. This gritty, no-nonsense, layered complex film is so worth it, even with the entire movie having been shot on a sound stage.
I wish more people would check it out!
Vintage trailer below: