Saturday, June 26, 2021
The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959)
It was also, interestingly enough, originally going to be directed by a guy named Alfred Hitchcock.
The Wreck of the Mary Deare is a nautical thriller but it’s also a character study of a flawed man caught in an impossible situation in which nobody is likely to believe his version of events, whether his account is true or not.
Due to wild weather Sands is unable to return to the Sea Witch. He tells his partner he’ll see him in St Malo.
Now things start to get mysterious. Patch claims to have been attacked by a member of the crew. He is secretive and some of his actions are difficult for Sands to understand. No distress call has been sent and Patch could have asked the Sea Witch to send such a call but he didn’t. Which is strange, since the Mary Deare is in no condition to reach port without the assistance of an ocean-going tug.
Patch and Sands survive and Patch makes a very odd request. Sands isn’t pleased about it. Patch pleads with Sands to trust him. For reasons that he himself cannot understand Sands decides to do so, a decision that could have all sorts of consequences when the Court of Enquiry meets to investigate the loss of the Mary Deare.
At which point the movie switches gears, becoming a court-room drama. And the saga of the Mary Deare becomes even more mysterious. There is only one way in which the mystery can be cleared up but it will be a gamble.
It’s interesting to watch two legends of American acting together in this movie. Gary Cooper was very near the end of his career, and his life. But as an actor he’s still got it. Charlton Heston had had a meteoric rise in the preceding few years and was close to his peak. They work well together which is important because the strange relationship between these two men is crucial to the movie’s success. The relationship is a mixture of suspicion and reluctant trust. Patch is a complicated man with serious character flaws but Sands seems to sense a certain basic decency in the man, even if sometimes it’s well hidden. Sands has some complexity as well. He’s in the salvage business to make a buck and he hates to miss any opportunity to do so but he has a certain sense of honour as well.
You could almost say there’s a hint of noir to this movie. It definitely has some psychological thriller elements as Patch struggles with his inner demons.
The Warner Archive DVD release offers a very good anamorphic transfer (the movie was shot in colour and in the Cinemascope aspect ratio).
This is a fine reasonably intelligent thriller with great special effects, fine acting and some emotionally depth. The scenes at sea really are done extremely well. Highly recommended.
If you’re a Hammond Innes fan then Snowbound (1947) is also worth a look.