Alfred Hitchcock’s LifeBoat

Posted: November 30, 2008 in Movie Review
Tags: ,

I have been watching quite a few Hitchcock films lately. Most of the ones I have been watching have been the black and white films of the 40s and 50s such as Strangers On A Train, Rebecca, Saboteur and Lifeboat.

Lifeboat is quite an interesting film that I thought I would review. If this thing turns out to be sort of successful, I might write more of these things.


Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Starring : Tallulah Bankhead
William Bendix
Walter Slezak
Mary Anderson
John Hodiak
Henry Hull
Heather Angel
Hume Cronyn
Canada Lee

This is an interesting film which could quite easily be dismissed as World War II anti-German propaganda, but I think that Hitchcock’s use of Walter Slezak as the German U-boat captain who is rescued from the ocean by the allied survivors of a ship he has just sunk makes it something special and more than just an anti-German film. Slezak’s portrayal of Willi seems to be at times very sympathetic, whilst at other times he is demonised as a heartless murdering monster. I think that this conflicting portrayal could be the reason why the film has been quite received quite poorly over the years in comparison to Hitch’s other films, and could also be a reflection of his own conflicted thoughts of Germany at the time. On the one hand Hitchcock learnt a lot from the German expressionist film directors of the 1920s and loved German cinema, whilst on the other hand he hated the Nazi regime, their atrocities and the war they were conducting against Hitch’s mother country Great Britain.

The film really has nothing to do with the war, except on the surface, and is best viewed as a character study of what lengths people will go to when put into a life or death situation. In the face of death or at the very best internment in a Nazi concentration camp until the end of the war, we see the characters emotions’ laid bare and how their actions change depending on the hopelessness or otherwise of the situation until in the end, they commit an act of murder just the same as the ‘evil’ Nazi.


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