Stanley Kramer’s middling examination of the inter war political manifestations, is 30 minutes too long and too stage orientated to excel. A Ship Of Fools. They that remain on this ship heading from the America’s to the shores of Europe. On board are a collection of European and Americans. All have their reasons for the voyage. Some have beliefs that are volatile, others are sheep in wolves clothing. As the journey progresses, more reasons are exposed. More evil is uncovered and more hope comes to light.
To take SHIP OF FOOLS at face value is to ignore the great undulation going on underneath the surface. Katherine Anne Porter wrote the source material. A novel that set up the boat for the world of the era pre war. Abby Mann wrote the subtlely observed script. Director Kramer constructs the world of the 1930s with feeling. Divining the splendour, social fragmentation and turmoil of the age. Now inside the afore mentioned ship we have vastness. Supplanting fictions, history and politics from vast groups they are distilled into singulars. One a nazi, one a Jew, she a burnt out woman of means, he a coach with no airs or graces except on the plate. The rising and falling are covered here. Rising of Nazism, American talent exploitation and rather unpleasant influence. Falling are less obvious but amount to European power, old American money and feudalism to be supplanted by communism and all those well meaning intellectuals. Yes those people who know theory but never get reality.
Ship of Fools has a few issues. It feels stagy. By this I mean it is a stage play on film. Nothing wrong there. Except it never wants to transcend this visually. This is not really a fair complaint. Stuck on a boat what more visually can you do? Though at its best it seems to excel as a performed piece and could have been screened on television as a high value production. The cast as well are a mismatch. All great actors or performers but too many and they often clutter the scenes. Some are miscast as sexually desirable. Wanted by men who are weak and ill fitting the role. Others are harder to complain about. Performing admirably with take and give, pull and push.
So the HD transfer of the film could possible be the most average transfer that has ever been processed. It is the DVD copy with a shine on it. Why? Well the 35mm was obviously kept well and its benefitted all transfers. The commentary is excellent. Informative and descriptive. The great doc On Board is the best on disc feature. Being as it is a wealth of on set fun. The booklet is average and I would not be overly eager to start here!
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• High Definition remaster
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with Nick Redman, Lem Dobbs and Julie Kirgo
• Karen Kramer Introduction (2007, 2 mins)
• On Board the Ship of Fools (2007, 28 mins)
• Voyage on a Soundstage (2007, 11 mins)
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Neil Sinyard, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and historic articles on the film
• UK premiere on Blu-ray
• Limited Edition of 3,000 copies