Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Moby Dick (1930)

Second version of Herman Melville's classic novel, and the second to star John Barrymore. The story had previously been filmed in 1926 as THE SEA BEAST, also starring Barrymore as Captain Ahab.

This version makes the hunt for the whale largely a minor point, instead focusing on a romance between Barrymore and a very young Joan Bennett, and adding a rivalry between Ahab and his brother over the girl's affection. And the whole story is reduced to a 77 minute film.

There is some impressive early process photography, and what had to be some pretty expensive model work with a large-scale, submersible replica of the whale. At the climax, the maniacal Ahab scurries over the back of the whale and repeatedly jams his harpoon into it, until there is a geyser of blood shooting out and spraying all over him.

 But overall, it is a good case for preferring a "faithful adaptation" -- instead of taking such a fascinating, epic story and making it into something utterly mundane.

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