VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED (1976). Director: Stuart Rosenberg.
In 1939 Nazi Germany allowed about one thousand Jews to depart the country on a ship bound for Cuba, the SS St. Louis. This alleged "humanitarian" gesture was strictly a propaganda act, a smokescreen, as one character puts it, as it was never intended for the passengers to disembark in Cuba or anywhere else. Turned away by several nations, including, shamefully, the U.S., some of the passengers wold prefer death or mutiny to returning to Hamburg and certain execution in concentration camps. You would imagine that a movie on this subject would be very powerful -- and you can't help but be moved by the passengers' plight and the horrendous persecution and emotional devastation they were undergoing -- but Voyage of the Damned, unfortunately, plays like a lesser Movie of the Week with an almost-all-star, international, Movie of the Week-type cast [with some exceptions], "acting" up a storm at times but nonetheless seeming once-removed throughout it all -- in other words, the acting and direction are fairly perfunctory. Sequences that should have had great impact are pretty much frittered away by Rosenberg, and the movie is about 45 minutes too long, slack and lacking in needed tension. I mean, when you consider the situation these people were in! Some of the lesser known actors, such as Victor Spinetti as Dr. Strauss, who works in Cuba and desperately wants to get his small children off the ship, are more effective than the bigger names, although James Mason and Nehemiah Persoff are solid as usual. Sadly, Voyage of the Damned is blah when it should have been a masterpiece.The very large cast includes everyone from Lee Grant, Faye Dunaway and Ben Gazzara to Max von Sydow [as the captain], Wendy Hiller, Malcolm McDowell and even Orson Welles. Although they all have their moments, these could not be considered one of the better performances of any of them.
Verdict: Watch Judgment at Nuremberg instead. **1/2.