"Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat", 1944
Original Title Card
A Very Rare Title Card to surface on the market. The first we have acquired in 20 years. For whatever reason there just are not many posters that survived from this Hitchcock classic. This fine specimen is in excellent condition.
Lifeboat was Alfred Hitchcock's only film for 20th Century Fox. It is not widely remembered nowadays - certainly not in the way that Psycho, North By Northwest and Rebecca are remembered - but it still ranks very highly in the director's canon. In the film Hitchcock demonstrates a fascination with restricting the action to a single set. He would return later in his career to the concept of single set stories, for movies such as Rope, Dial M For Murder and Rear Window. It is an approach that would bring most directors to their knees, but Hitch rises to the challenge admirably, finding ingenious ways to maintain audience interest and providing a ceaseless undercurrent of excitement.
A passenger ship torpedoed by a German U-Boat sinks in the Atlantic Ocean. Well-groomed society lady Constance Porter (Tallulah Bankhead, in an absolutely outstanding performance) successfully mans one of the sunken ship's lifeboats and steers it around the debris in search of survivors. She picks up various types from the sea, including injured sailor Gus Smith (William Bendix), crewman John Kovac (John Hodiak) and the German U-Boat captain (Walter Slezak) whose own submarine was critically damaged in the attack. The dynamic of the group is severely strained by the German's presence, as the other survivors contemplate and argue over whether to toss him to the sharks, or put their trust in him to steer their lifeboat to safety.
Slezak is very good as the tricky German, deviously keeping a stash of water to himself while the others struggle against chronic thirst, and at one point murdering a fellow survivor to keep his water supply a secret. Hitchcock and his script-writer Jo Swerling wisely let us in on the German's true nature, while the characters surrounding him are unaware of his treachery. This keeps tension on a knife-edge throughout the film, and holds the viewer in suspense for the whole story. Similarly, Bankhead's casting is so unorthodox, her character so intentionally ill-fitting to the oceanic setting, that her role in the proceedings casts a strange fascination. The film has a lot of political and propagandist subtext, and many people have viewed it as an allegory of the Nazi rise in Europe (Slezak is the metaphor for Nazi Germany; the others metaphors for surrounding nations duped into believing that the Nazi neighbour in their midst is helpful and trustworthy). Whatever else Lifeboat can and can't be interpreted as, one thing is certain - it's a mighty fine movie!