With Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson, John Hodiak, Henry Hull, Heather Angel, Hume Cronyn, Canada Lee
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

Do you tie your shoes in little knotzees?     One of Alfred Hitchcock's most intriguing experiments - the entire film takes place on the sea craft of the title - LIFEBOAT was not a hit when first released.  Although critics initially hailed it as a great movie, there was a backlash against what was perceived as a sympathetic portrait of the Nazis, as embodied by German character actor Walter Slezak.  These days, some film fans have swung to the opposite extreme and dismiss it as a pro-America propaganda film.  Both accusations were arguably true.  Hitchcock, story writer John Steinbeck and screenwriter Jo Swerling were certainly rooting for the Allies to win, yet Willie, the Nazi captain stuck in a lifeboat filled with Britishers and Americans, is portrayed as a likable, almost noble character.  Done for dramatic purposes (is he good? is he bad?), Willie's character was misunderstood by critics of the day, leading to 20th Century Fox losing its courage and withdrawing publicity for the film.

     Yet time has revealed LIFEBOAT to be a Hitchcock classic, as cinematic as anything he has ever done, featuring one of his greatest ensemble casts.  Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix and Walter Slezak give the best performances, nearly matched by most of the rest of the cast.  Only Mary Anderson fails to impress as a young nurse, and, not coincidentally, she was the one performer forced on Hitchcock by the studio. 4½ - JB

Alfred Hitchcock     The Stuff You Gotta Watch


LIFEPOD (1993 - TV)


LIFEBOAT is sometimes confused with 1957's SEVEN WAVES AWAY, aka ABANDON SHIP, starring Tyrone Power as a captain of an overcrowded lifeboat who must decide who lives and who dies.

Stuff You Gotta Watch
Copyright © 2010 John V. Brennan, John Larrabee