Thursday, 27 December 2007


Over the years I’ve enjoyed a vast number of books and films, but from time to time I fret about ‘the ones that have got away’ so far, those well-regarded works that somehow I’ve managed to miss. The list of them is embarrassingly long, so it’s good to fill in one or two of the gaps when I can.

Now, at last, I’ve seen Lifeboat, Alfred Hitchcock’s war-time drama, based on a story by John Steinbeck, no less. Until this point, I’ve somehow never felt a strong urge to watch a black-and-white movie set just on board a lifeboat. I suspected that by today’s standards, it would be dull. How glad I am to have overcome that prejudice (and a pretty odd prejudice it was, I realise, for someone who likes ‘closed community’ mysteries, and loved Hitchcock’s later single-setting film, Rear Window, based on a story by one of my favourite American writers of the past, Cornell Woolrich.)

Although Lifeboat is not really a crime movie of the kind we associate with Hitchcock, it does feature more than one murder. The characters are neatly differentiated, the acting first rate, and the anti-Nazi propaganda rather subtle. I can’t recall having seen Tallulah Bankhead in any other movie, but I thought her performance witty and memorable. Above all, I liked the fact that, although one assumes that some of the cast will survive their post-shipwreck ordeal, one can’t predict which of them will make it, and what will happen to them along the way. Another triumph for the great director, and a textbook example of how to build suspense.

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