How's this for perfect casting? In The Sea Chase John Wayne plays Karl Erlich, the Captain of a German freighter (the Ergenstrasse), who supports his country but is no fan of Hitler. Lana Turner is cast as Elsa Keller, a kind of Mata Hari German spy who winds up as the only female passenger among a bunch of horny sailors. While it can't be said that Wayne and Turner have great chemistry, the odd thing is that the movie actually works and both stars are more than adequate in their roles. Erlich sets sail from Sidney just as war is declared, and an old friend, the British officer, Jeff Napier (David Farrar of The Echo Murders) -- he was one of Elsa's many conquests -- doggedly pursues him. Complications ensue when Chief Officer Kirchner (Lyle Bettger) takes it upon himself to murder some innocent fishermen who are shipwrecked on a supply island, making Erlich and his crew not only murderers but wanted war criminals. Erlich also has a conflict with Schlieter (James Arness) who has a chip on his shoulder and hates taking orders from his captain. Not only is The Sea Chase suspenseful, but you get caught up in the unusual storyline and begin to care about what happens to the characters and their ultimate fate. Bettger [No Man of Her Own] is especially good as Kirchner, and there's also excellent work from Farrar and from John Qualen [Dark Waters] as Chief Engineer Schmidt. Richard Davalos, Tab Hunter, Paul Fix, Arness, and Claude Akins (whose name is misspelled as "Akin" in the credits) also have some fine moments. Clearly this picture would not have been made just a few years earlier. In WarnerColor.
Verdict: Memorable "forgotten" Wayne film with an intriguing and different plot. ***.