Torture Ship

Director: Victor Halperin

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Torture Ship Jack London's short story "A Thousand Deaths" (1899) earned him $40 from Black Cat magazine, the first money he ever received for a story. It's about a scientist conducting reanimation experiments on his own son, who goes on to conduct experiments of his own, perfecting a Tesla death ray to avenge himself on his evil father.

Inspired by but scarcely resembling this story, Torture Ship (1939) is set on a laboratory ship on the high seas.

In the greatly altered & much less creepy cinematic version, a tyrannical scientist (Irving Pichel) is conducting dangerous experiments on human subjects selected from among the criminal class, mostly gangsterish guys, but also the infamous "Poison Mary" (Sheila Bromley) who ran an insurance scam that involved poisoning her clientele.

The subjects of the experiments are not happy to be dying off, & therefore mutiny, assisted by crew member Lt. Bob Bennett (Lyle Talbot) who has to save Julie the damsel in distress (Joan Martell credited as Jacqueline Wells).

As the wounded scientist lies dying, one of his subjects, Poison Mary, suddenly becomes a goody two-shoes, so the scientist dies knowing his theories were correct, & even Lieutenant Bob is glad one of the mad scientist's assistants will be able to continue the research, presumedly not by sacrificing the lives of kidnap victims next time. Mary's I-love-you-guys attitude seemed to me rather too close to lobotomy to merit this gung-ho reassessment.

Torture Ship is an awful movie, but fortunately it's scarcely an hour long so the torture of watching it is swiftly over.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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