Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Sea Wolf (1941)

And we’re back for the second half of today’s double-feature, the 1941 movie The Sea Wolf, starring Edward G. Robinson, Ida Lupino and John Garfield.

Escaped convict George Leach (John Garfield) signs on as a crew member on the Ghost ship to get away from the police.   Another escaped convict, Ruth Brewster (Ida Lupino) and a writer, Humphrey Van Weyden (Alexander Knox), both end up on the ship after the ferry they were on was hit by another ship in a fog.  On board the Ghost, they meet Captain Wolf Larsen (Edward G. Robinson), a cruel man who rules his ship with an iron hand.  Leach tries to lead the men in mutiny against Larsen several times, while Van Weyden tries to understand him, especially after he sees Larsen suffering from headaches that are slowly making him go blind. When the rest of the crew finds out, they turn on him.

When it was released back in 1941, The Sea Wolf turned out to be a big success.  The movie was reissued again in 1947 as part of a double-feature with The Sea Hawk. Due to the length of the two movies, both were cut (in the original camera negatives) to be fit in a shorter time frame.  As a result, the shortened versions were the ONLY versions available for a long time.  While Sea Hawk was restored to its original length in the 1980s, Sea Wolf wasn’t at that time.  Apparently, actor John Garfield’s estate had a 16mm copy of the full film, but the picture quality would have been obviously terrible for the scenes that would have been restored.  Warner Brothers did, however, find a 35mm copy at the Museum of Modern Art, which they restored and released to both Blu-ray and DVD in late 2017.  I can attest to the fact that the movie looks wonderful!

As to the movie itself, I can only speak to the complete version, as I hadn’t even heard of the movie before its announcement for release on Blu-ray and DVD.  One thing I feel I should say right off: I have a hard time recommending this movie for little kids if only because of the brutality of some of the characters, especially Edward G. Robinson’s Wolf Larsen.  I mean, the character seems to favor the line “better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven ” from Milton’s Paradise Lost, and he lives that way as far as how he treats his crew!  He drives the ship’s doctor to kill himself, he beats up on some of the men, he drags the ship’s cook in the water (and that’s after the cook gives him the names of the men who were trying to mutiny against him)!  As I said, I don’t recommend this movie for young children (but, in the end, that is still up to the parents).  This movie seems to have fallen through the cracks, at least partly because of the cuts, and, now that it is whole again, I think it deserves to be more widely seen.  I believe it to be one of the greats, and I recommend it highly!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Little Caesar (1931) – Edward G. Robinson – The Ten Commandments (1956)

Ida Lupino – Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)

Jesse James (1939) – Gene Lockhart – International Lady (1941)

Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Barry Fitzgerald – Going My Way (1944)

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