Lifeboat Alfred Hitchcock

Depending on your point of view, this could be either a triumph of Hitchcock's ingenuity or a gimmick with no place to go, although in truth the film ricochets between the two poles. Tallulah Bankhead leads a pack of eight luckless individuals whose supply ship is torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Not only do they wind up stranded in a lifeboat, but they end up helping one of the submarine's crew (Walter Slezak) who may or may not be its captain and very likely may be steering them to their doom. In the plus column is Hitchcock's absurd versatility in dealing with what amounts to a studio tank and rear projection — where a lesser director would have immediately descended into monotony, Hitch continually finds new and interesting ways to shoot the same people in the same place. The script also has a few stylistic punches to throw, with Jo Swerling lending frequent tartness to John Steinbeck's potentially maudlin story. But despite every character's pleasing moral ambiguity in sympathy, and the cast (including Hume Cronyn, John Hodiak, William Bendix and Canada Lee), who are uniformly excellent, there's no denying that it hasn't got much of a thesis beyond Nazis are mean and bickering is nasty. But though the main thrust of the film doesn't really get you anywhere (and the ending is a big letdown), the bulk of it is surprisingly potent in expressing wartime fears and horror over what was happening in the theatre of war. Extras include a windy and obvious commentary by scholar Drew Casper, a "making of" documentary that's short but vivid and informative, and a still photo gallery. (Fox)