Voyage of the Damned (1976) Poster

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Voyage of the Damned: Powerful story that's light on entertainment
Platypuschow8 November 2018
Voyage of the Damned tells the true story of the ill fated ship the S.S St.Louis.

For those unaware it was a German ship loaded with over 900 passengers, most of them being Jews. The whole thing was essentially propaganda and (No spoilers here) but there was a lot the Nazi party were not telling all those involved.

To my knowledge the movie is fairly accurate and is not exactly easy watching. The whole thing is very sad made doubly hard hitting by the fact it's all real and merely scratches the surface of the atrocities that took place.

With an all star cast including Faye Dunaway, Max VonSydow and Malcolm McDowell it stands at around two and a half hours but struggles to stay entertaining.

Though the story is certainly an interesting one it just doesn't translate very well into a movie. The story drags, is very bleak and as mentioned doesn't make for the easiest watching. I guess you could say it's a cross between Titanic (1997) and Schindlers List (1993) in that regard.

I see the appeal and respect everything they've done, but Voyage of the Damned is a better historic/education piece than movie.

The Good:

Great cast

Powerful story

The Bad:

Some poor accents

Simply light on enjoyment

Things I Learnt From This Movie:

It's 2018, and people seem to have forgotten that Nazis are bad

The Jewish people were under no illusion what the Nazis religious beliefs were.
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Ship Of Foolish
excalibur1072 January 2018
The cast was a magnet, imagine, Faye Dunaway, Orson Welles, Malcolm McDowell, James Mason, Oskar Werner, Max Von Sydow, Wendy Hiller, Lee Grant, Maria Schell, Katherine Ross and I could go on. The splendor of the cast can't manage to disguise the poverty of the script. A huge subject tackled in Stanley Kramer's Ship Of Fool and that film also had an extraordinary cast: Vivien Leigh, Simone Signoret, Lee Marvin, Jose Ferrer and even Oskar Werner who, strangely, was in both films. However, Stanley Kramer had a great script by Abby Mann (Judgment At Nuremberg) and some of the scenes are spectacular. Here in this Voyage nothing is piercing or memorable just a succession of cardboard TV style scenes. But, if you're into star gazing this voyage could give you enough stasfictions to feel you haven't wasted a full afternoon.
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Title tells all; occasionally interesting and compassionate
moonspinner558 February 2008
Nazi atrocities hang over the heads of some 937 Jewish refugees who are allowed to board the S.S. St. Louis in Hamburg, Germany, bound for Havana in 1939, but corrupt Cuban dignitaries (and apathetic other countries) manage to find unjust legalities which prevent the ocean-liner from docking. Dramatized true account with a star-studded cast filling the roles of the passengers (professors, lawyers, teachers, one rabbi, a Nazi spy, at least two children, a Christian ship's captain, and Faye Dunaway, looking wonderfully turned-out as the wife of a frustrated doctor). With anti-Semitism making a wave through Havana, nobody there is anxious to take on the Jews (they are looked on as charity cases), but the personalities in these excursions are static at best, with Ben Gazzara playing a globe-trotting businessman attempting to bargain on behalf of the voyagers (he seems to come from a different film altogether). Produced (or, one may say, packaged) by '70s tycoon Sir Lew Grade, the proceedings verge on the edge of disaster-movie clichés (with the appearance and the pacing of a television mini-series). The material warrants attention, but the melodrama inherent in the situation continually falters--gummed up with ungainly issues, overdrawn hysteria (Sam Wanamaker's suicide attempt), flagrant sentiment (Katharine Ross' Havana prostitute), and thuggish violence (it's bad enough that the two male teachers--scrawny and with their heads shaved--have been through hell, this narrative gives them more of the same, which is about as entertaining as watching victims at a firing squad). Dunaway, coolly regal and ice-pack gorgeous, approaches her part like visiting royalty, and gives the film a little goose. **1/2 from ****
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a fateful trip aboard a ship
lee_eisenberg24 July 2005
Usually, it seems like whenever a movie has a giant cast, then that's the movie's only strength. "Voyage of the Damned" did have more to it than simply its cast. Faye Dunaway, Oskar Werner, Orson Welles, Max Von Sydow, Jonathan Pryce, Malcolm McDowell, Lee Grant, James Mason, and a bunch of other big names star in this true story of a ship that left Nazi Germany bound for Cuba. The passengers were German Jews who believed that they were on their way to freedom in Cuba, but realized when they arrived that there was never any plan to set them free.

Maybe the cast does overshadow the plot, but it's still worth seeing. The movie is out of print, so you might have trouble finding it. Portland's Movie Madness has a copy, in case you ever come to Portland.
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As overloaded with star cameos as "Ship of Fools" and twice as inflated...
Doylenf8 February 2008
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing--but nobody seemed to realize this when overloading the ship with star names and then giving them little to do. Although based on a true incident, VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED gives the subject a sprawling Hollywood treatment and does what "Ship of Fools" did to Katherine Anne Porter's intriguing novel.

At least MAX VON SYDOW gets to be dynamic as the captain and has the appropriate amount of star footage, but others--like JAMES MASON, JULIE HARRIS and WENDY HILLER--are gone before they can do much.

However, the film's chief fault is the running time--well over two hours without ever building up the tension when the fate of the passengers should be pumping up audience interest in the outcome. The story takes a dramatic turn when the Jewish passengers are denied entry into Cuba and must return to their homeland unless the captain can come up with a better plan.

FAYE DUNAWAY makes a stunning impression and LEE GRANT got an Oscar nomination for her strong supporting role, but others in the large cast come and go in an indifferent manner--except for OSKAR WERNER, who seems to be doing a repeat of his role in "Ship of Fools" as the ship's doctor and is as earnest as ever.

Too bad the storyline couldn't have been trimmed to give the film a tighter length. As it is, it just seems to make its point of man's inhumanity to man without subtlety.

Just misses being a more significant film.
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A Voyage Worth Taking
Poseidon-318 June 2002
This film details a very dark chapter in U.S. (in fact, World) history. As a propaganda tactic, to attempt to dismiss the notion that they were committing genocide, WWII Germany fills a cruise ship with Jewish citizens and sends them off to Cuba, purportedly so that they can be free. Unfortunately, Cuba will not allow the passengers to disembark, nor will the United States and so the ship must turn back, thus becoming the voyage of the damned. The cast is jam packed with stars of the day and most of them are great. Among the standouts are Von Sydow as the Captain--a pawn in the political game, McDowell as a sympathetic crewman, Dunaway as an aloof, glamorous German married to a Jew (Werner), Wanamaker as a desperate, concerned victim of circumstance and Ross (in one of her most heartfelt roles) as the daughter of two of the passengers. Most notable are Pryce & Koslo, unforgettably vulnerable as concentration camp escapees and Grant as the emotionally stunned wife of Wanamaker. Dunaway and Oscar-nominated Grant share the film's most memorable scene as Grant becomes unhinged by the events around her. The film has a sense of cruelty and dread, even if one is not aware of the outcome, and it can be painful to behold, but this is a story that needs to be told and the drama is, at times, quite compelling. Certainly the cast of familiar faces makes it easy to take. Bloated, cue-card-reading Welles is one drawback, but fortunately, he is not on screen long.
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An Outstanding Cast in an Unforgettable True Story
jojofla16 June 2002
"Voyage of the Damned" is the true story of a shipload of German Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in 1939 by seeking refuge in Cuba; the Cuban government waffles and won't let them in; sadly, neither will the United States; and the ship is forced to return to Europe.

Knowing that the voyage of the St. Louis actually happened deepens the impact of the film; while the movie itself is rather perfunctorily directed, the incredible all-star cast keeps the film very human and touching.

Lee Grant received the only Oscar nomination of the cast--her hair-cutting scene was obvious Oscar-bait if there ever was one--but she still conveys considerable pathos. Nevertheless, I was considerably more moved by the performances of Max von Sydow and Oskar Werner. Von Sydow portrays the captain of the St. Louis, attempting to keep the calm in an undeniably tense situation, growing ever more subtly aghast as the events unfold around him. Werner is his counterpoint among the passengers, an esteemed Jewish doctor and educator, seemingly serene in the face of such horror, but methodically determining what to do. Faye Dunaway plays Werner's embittered wife and her commanding charisma and beauty are at full wattage. Malcolm McDowell is rather endearingly miscast as a ship's steward who has a romance with Grant's daughter. Katharine Ross turns up briefly and gives one of the best performances of her career.

"Voyage of the Damned" may not be brilliant cinema, but it is an unforgettable story filled with an amazing cast and I highly recommend it.
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Shame on US
lastliberal28 May 2008
Despite the fact that this film had three Oscar nominations, and several Golden Globe nominations with one win (Katharine Ross), and a boatload of stars, it is not worth watching so much for it's quality (marginal) but for the story of how we knew what was happening to the Jews before World War II and did little to stop it.

This is the story of 937 Jews that were put on a boat to Havana with useless documents, as the German government had no intention of letting them off the ship. They were denied entry into Cuba, and the US also denied them entry before they finally were saved by a social service agency and allowed to land in Belgium. Of course, that would prove ultimately fatal for two-thirds of them as the war started just two months later.

Why would Germany do this? Simple. By sending a ship of Jews to the America's and having them turned away, they negated any right the US would have to complain when they started exterminating Jews. Clever of them, and our government fell right into their trap. Our support for Israel is not so much that we love the Jews, but a massive guilt for our participation in their extermination.

There were some great performances in this otherwise mediocre film: Lee Grant and Katherine Ross; some good performances: Ben Gazzara, Faye Dunaway; and the film debut of Jonathan Pryce (POTC 1. 2. & 3, Tomorrow Never Dies).

Check it out.
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A Voyage Never to Forget ****
edwagreen28 May 2008
Phenomenal and grossly under-rated film dealing with 937 Jewish people allowed to flee the terror of Nazi Germany in 1939 by going on the St. Louis which was bound for Havana.

The truth be told, the Nazis had no intention of allowing the boat to land successfully. Rather they were going to use this trip to show that no one wanted the Jews and therefore when they would destroy them, no one would care or have the right to care.

The picture has a terrific cast in this ill-fated adventure.

For a second time, Oskar Werner, so memorable as the Dr. Willie in "Ship of Fools," plays another doctor, but this time a Jewish one. Along with his wife,Faye Dunaway, they are passengers. Of course, it's hard to fathom Miss Dunaway as Jewish.

Sam Wanamaker and Lee Grant are a couple fleeing from persecution by the Gestapo. Grant's acting in a pivotal scene by cutting off her hair was Oscar made,and while she received the only acting nomination in the film, she lost to Beatrice Straight's "Network." It should also be noted that Straight's time on the screen was even more brief that Grant. Grant's brief performance was probably her best, even better than in "Shampoo," the film that gave her the supporting Oscar the year before.

While the boat is drifting along, we see the players in Cuba either desperately trying to help the unfortunate Jews or corrupt officials in the Cuban government who played along with the Nazis for their own selfish economic interests.

Wendy Hiller and Luther Adler have their moments as an elderly Jewish couple. It's also hard to conceive Hiller as Jewish until she rips her garment in the traditional way when a death occurs. Hard to envision a Jewish funeral at sea with the Nazi swastika swerving on the ship.

Ben Gazzara is brilliant as a Jewish operative desperately trying to free the passengers. He goes all over the world and uncovers nothing more than frustration. Only a last minute reprieve saved the passengers from returning to Germany. Many of those however wound up perishing in countries invaded by Germany during the war.

This brilliant film serves as a reminder to the moral decay of the 1930s and that nations did little to stop the Nazi menace from the killing of 6 million innocents.

It is amazing that this film does not rank up there with "Ship of Fools," or even "Schindler's List."
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A ship load of political pawns.
michaelRokeefe2 September 2002
Based on a true story. In 1939, 1937 German-Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany are bound for Cuba and asylum. Before reaching Cuba the ship is refused permission to dock and all visas revoked. After being told they could not dock anywhere else, the S.S. St. Louis must turn around and head back to Germany and certain death for its passengers. The captain(Max von Sydow)wants to fake a shipwreck off the coast of England, but another solution arises.

A tremendous all-star cast features:Faye Dunaway, Oskar Werner, Lee Grant, Jose Ferrer, Katherine Ross, Orson Welles, Lynne Frederick, Ben Gazzara, James Mason, Victor Spinetti and Malcolm McDowell. I was most impressed with Ross and Frederick. This film can bring on mild depression, but hope does win out in the end. I liked the finale showing important characters and their fate.
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Sad and rewarding
Boyo-215 December 1998
This true story is relentlessly sad but I believe it is a valuable story to be learned, so that this type of thing never happens to anyone again. The cast is one of the best ever, in my opinion. Out of the millions of stars, Katherine Ross makes her scene unforgettable and heartbreaking. A movie made with class and attention to detail, and you must see Dunaway in a monocle! Perfect movie for a Sunday afternoon.
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All at Sea
MOscarbradley5 February 2006
One of the greatest casts ever assembled help this, otherwise turgid, melodrama to chug along for over two and a half hours, (three, if you are unlucky enough to catch the US video version), but they still can't manage to lift it above the level of a second rate television movie. All the more disappointing considering the plot has all the ingredients of good drama and is based on a true story.

In 1939 a ship load of 937 German Jews set sail from Hamburg to Cuba only to be refused entry. It is a tragedy of epic proportions reduced to something of a travesty by a lack-lustre script and a mediocre director out of his depth, (Stuart Rosenberg; "Cool Hand Luke" was a fluke). The cast rise above the material whenever they can. Some, such as Julie Harris, James Mason and Wendy Hiller, don't have enough to do. Others excel. Max Von Sydow seems incapable of giving a bad performance and Oskar Werner, virtually reprising his role in "Ship of Fools", is superb as always. Orson Welles pops up as a corrupt and corpulent official and steals every scene he's in. Faye Dunaway pouts and Lee Grant's histrionics won her an Oscar nomination. There is also an awful lot of shouting and screaming.
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Goodish, and well-intentioned, but not great
grantss15 November 2015
Goodish, and well-intentioned, but not great. Based on a true story, this should be a gut-wrenching emotional roller-coaster ride. The movie feels cold, empty and sterile, despite its subject matter. While we are given glimpses of the despicableness of the Nazi regime, the movie pulls its punches.

In place of genuine emotion, we have overwrought sub-plots, and an excess of sub-plots. This makes the movie overly long, without really adding to the drama. Some of the acting is in line with this overwroughtness, being over-acted, almost camp.

Not all the performances are so bad, though. Max von Sydow is excellent as the captain. Minor roles include a host of big names: Orson Welles, James Mason, Denholm Elliott, Katharine Ross, Jose Ferrer, Ben Gazzara.

Worth watching as a reminder of a dark period in human history, and the lengths of human bigotry.
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How Could We?
alicecbr14 April 2000
Just as I finally understand why we left England in the lurch until 1941 (because of the fierce isolationism caused by the murder-in-the-mud-and-gas of WWI), I have to be faced with another example of our inhumanity to man. No matter what your nationality, this all-star movie will haunt you forever!! And echoes of our similar silence toward the Bosnians as the genocide progressed will also occur to you.

Knowing how it ends makes it all MORE agonizing, and while you hate the stupid waste of the young lovers: German and Jew, you know that it is EXACTLY true of adolescents who cannot see beyond tomorrow. And these 2 weren't prepared to wait around to see.

Lee Grant, as the berserk mother cutting her hair down to the concentration camp style, did an outstanding job as she also tried to deal with her increasingly more irrational husband. The sense of uprootedness of even the richest and most well educated is powerfully presented.

I suppose the most shameful scene of all was the US Coast Guard cutter, performing the same function as the electric chair switch-thrower does in our nation.......legalized murder in the name of us all. This is another one I will have to arm myself to see again. The message must be never forgotten.

As a Unitarian, I always thank God for the Jews. As much as human beings hate those that are different, those that are evolved beyond many of the rest of us in brilliance and sensitivity are hated most of all. When the frustrated turn to vent their venom on anyone, as the Nazis did in WWII, the Jews are usually the first to feel the brunt. Now, homosexuals seem to have joined the ranks of 'first out' for similar reasons. Why can't we human beings rise above these evil actions? It's enough to make you believe in original sin.

See it. It might just prevent you for ganging up on someone in your office or at school, though I doubt it. We don't seem to learn from history.
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Filled With Hopes And Dreams
bkoganbing12 January 2012
Based on a true incident Voyage Of The Damned is the story of a select group of Jews picked from concentration camps that had not yet turned into slaughterhouses and allowed to depart Germany to Cuba where ostensibly they will stay and try to later immigrate to the USA. The problem is that they will never be allowed to land in Havana, it's all just a propaganda ploy to show how other nations don't want these people because they are insidious troublemakers by nature and the Nazis can then justify anything they do to them.

Hitler was not a fool on this, he knew well the American system of immigration with its quotas and percentages and the way it was put in place as a backlash against foreigners in the Twenties. To its everlasting shame the USA put this into affect the result being millions of people dying. This from a country whose greatest strength was its immigrant population uncounted millions in this country enjoy its benefits because our ancestors came here from a variety of places for refuge and for opportunity.

So these people filled with hopes and dreams take passage in the hopes of avoiding the slaughter to come. What happens to them collectively and individually is the story of Voyage Of The Damned.

The Germans are not shown as stereotypes either which is a major strength this film has. They range from a humane captain who is Max Von Sydow to Malcolm McDowell as his personal orderly who is marked for tragedy when he falls for the daughter of one of the refugee families and starts seeing things in a new light to Helmut Griem who is the official Nazi party representative on the ship and who challenges successfully Von Sydow's authority as captain.

Our laws being what they were and with isolationist sentiment as it was in May of 1939 a case could be made for not officially granting the ship landing clearance. We see our own Coast Guard cutter warning the German ship not to land or even enter our territorial waters. A few winks and nods and they could have. Or some pressure could be brought to bare on the Cuban government which in fact was our client state which never happened. The Cubans like Jose Ferrer and Orson Welles and Fernando Rey are shown to be eminently corruptible. One played by James Mason is most assuredly not and he intervenes in one very poignant case involving some children on the boat being reunited with their father.

The refugees much like the smaller unit that inhabited that attic where Anne Frank's refugee extended family took place are a wide cross section of Jewish Germany. One, Lee Grant was given an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but it seems not fair to have just singled her out. Oskar Werner, Faye Dunaway, Sam Wanamaker, Wendy Hiller, and Luther Adler are all equally memorable. And Ben Gazzara has the most straightforward role as a representative of the American Jewish Committee in the film. He functions like Richard Widmark the prosecutor in Judgment At Nuremberg, the voice of conscience as he tries to raise money to essentially buy officials in the Cuban government.

Voyage Of The Damned has worn well over time and it's something to be seen and seen again. And it's quite a condemnation of our Twenties immigration laws still largely in effect. Funny in the 19th century there was never an issue over illegal aliens, we took whatever we got. Maybe we can't return to the days of my grandparents coming here, but we have to do better than we have.
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A Largely Unseen Classic
greene51524 July 2007
Voyage of the Damned is a criminally little seen all star cast drama with a veritable who's who of cinema. the story is heartbreaking and true it was all to do with a mass propaganda exercise in which a thousand or more Jews were to leave hamburg for the sunny tropics of Cuba but were never allowed to disembark, the rest of the film shows the dramatic efforts in which the passengers do to seek asylum, magnificent the casting is Ben Gazzara headlines the film has real life humanitarian Morris Troper, Victor Spinetti, plays a German doctor who tries to get his kids off the ship, Orson Welles plays a Cuban diplomat, Katherine Ross is a kindly prostitute, and Malcolm Mcdowell plays a young steward.

this film is strangely listed on my VHS with the running time of 2 hours and fifty eight minutes, the current region 2 DVD is at a running time of 2 hours and thirty minutes! so it seems their has been some cutting.
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Too Much Of A Long Voyage
Theo Robertson5 October 2004
This has all the feeling of a 1980s disaster movie with its big name all star cast . Alas British audiences will be distracted by the opening sequence where a cruel Nazi is played by the legendary Leonard Rossiter . These type of casting choices can sometimes ruin a movie and iut's not helped by having cameos by megastars like Orson Welles and James Mason in blink and you'll miss them roles . That said the cast do seem more interested in giving good performances rather than enjoying themselves which isn't always the case with movies with a large cast of big names . Special mention should go to Paul Koslo was very prolific in 1970s B movies and who appeared in some utterly pathetic movies in the 80s and 90s , while the always excellent Johnathan Pryce shows us what he can do in an early role . Max Von Sydow as Captain Schroeder gives the best performance in the movie

All the cast do their best but it's really the script that is at fault . I did mention Von Sydow's acting performance as Schroeder , but you often feel his character is written as a litery point illustrating party member = bad , non party member = good , this point feels too forced and unsubtle . Remember it's when people become indifferent that bad things happen , not when they join a political party . I don't want to mention this but Erwin Rommel was a member of the Nazi party and he was the most respected German general by the allies because of his code of chilvary while many Wermacht non party members committed war crimes every bit as brutal as their SS counterparts so don't be fooled that everything is as black and white as seen here , as the caption at the end shows Schroeder himself was questioned about crimes against humanity after the war

There's a couple of other flaws with the script . Aaron Pozner is shown being beaten to a pulp by some SA brownshirts in 1939 which is strange considering the SA were liquidated by Hitler in 1934 and lets be blunt in saying that the movie is at least half an hour too long . This is often a problem with a great number of movies featuring anti semitism 1933-45 in that by showing us mans inhumanity to man they often feel the need to labour the point home of the cruelty of the regime and the victims fear when in fact less would been more . It could also be that this is always not a very good subject to base a movie around especially when there's documentaries like THE WORLD AT WAR that shows the very real horrors of what the Nazis did to their victims
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Sad Picture
whpratt112 February 2008
This is a very down to earth film about German Jews who were kicked out of Hamburg, Germany and were placed on a ship called the S/S St. Louis headed to Havana, Cuba. This ship carried 937 passengers, some children and Jewish people with all kinds of backgrounds, even prisoners from concentration camps who were teachers. The Nazi movement was showing great Anti-Semitism during the Year 1939 before World War II started. Faye Dunaway, (Denise Kreisler) gave an outstanding performance as a very pretty, rich, sexy wife of Dr. Egan Kreisler, (Oskar Werner). There is a young man who works on the ship and is a German and he falls in love with a very pretty Jewish girl and they become very close together and had to make some horrible decisions. Great film which tells the true story of what happened to most of the people who were on board this horrible cruise of Nazi Germany.
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Epic scale true story which comes apart because of too many star cameos and not enough passion.
barnabyrudge30 December 2002
All star extravaganzas were all the rage in the mid to late '70s, and most people marvel at the extraordinary cats assembled for films like The Swarm, A Bridge Too Far and Death on the Nile. However one film outdoes them all for star power, and this is it. The gargantuan cast includes a well known face in every role, no matter how tiny. Max Von Sydow, Faye Dunaway, James Mason, Ben Gazzara, Oskar Homolka, Jonathan Pryce, Malcolm McDowell, Lee Grant and many others feature in this epic scale true story.

The plot follows a number of German Jews as they set out from Hamburg on a journey to Havana, Cuba. They believe that the ship is taking them to a new home in the days prior to WWII, but in reality they are being used as a massive publicity stunt by the Nazis and are destined never to set foot on dry land once they reach the Caribbean. In one of the most affecting scenes in the whole film, we see them being returned to the motherland at the end, knowing full well that their chance of a safe and happy future has gone.

The film is about a worthy topic, but it isn't a total success. The star cameos tend to distract your attention away from the storyline, as you get drawn into a game of star spotting. The direction is uninspired and the enterprise lacks passion. It has some visual pleasures, and is generally interesting, but it never quite attains the heights that you would expect.
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Mal de mer.
rmax30482319 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Stanley Kramer's "Ship of Fools" was an entertaining story of a congeries of disparate characters aboard a German cruise ship in the 1930s. It must have been a success because this negligible film is a shameless and bathetic rip off. This time, the entire ship's passenger list is Jewish and they suffer crisis after crisis. The fact that German Jews in 1939 were actually suffering those crises makes this blatantly commercial attempt at exploitation a cheapening of the historical experience.

It really IS a rip off. I mean, that's not rhetoric. Oskar Werner plays a doctor in both movies. Jose Ferrer is cheerfully villainous in both. There is a liaison between a member of the crew and a desperate passenger in both. There is a costume party in both. There's the familiar rabid Nazi commisar whose job is to keep an eye on party loyalty among the crew. It reminds me of the way cars are remodeled year by year, a bit of new chrome here, a set of new tail lights there, all in an attempt to cash in on novelty.

Nice cast, though. Not just expensive Hollywood actors -- in fact, no leading stars at all -- but a lot of competent supporting players, some of whom have made careers out of gracing the screen for a few moments with superb performances. Orson Welles is on hand, as are Max von Sydow, Malcolm MacDowell, Lee Grant, and the endless list of recognizable faces that these kinds of films require. The budget must have been sizable. Faye Dunaway appears in a costume that looks like a copy of John Singer Sargent's Madame X. Add a black choker. The wardrobe is emblematic of the whole enterprise. Copy something and then add a few disguising touches.

But it's still tragedy played for lower middle-brows who will weep generous tears as the director manipulates their sentimentality and rakes in the shekels. The director is Stuart Rosenberg. I can't imagine how he managed to turn out a magnificent movie like "Cool Hand Luke." This stuff is all in your face.

I don't like propaganda movies in general regardless of their source region. They don't really convert anyone or change already existing sentiments. Most attitudes follow the usual bell-shaped curve, with the overwhelming majority of people occupying the middle part -- ignorant or indifferent or genuinely moderate -- with a few extremists at either end. But I suspect that movies like this, carrying the heavy burden of an "important" social message, will reach respondents that form a rarer U-shaped curve. Those who are already sympathetic to the message will applaud it. Those who aren't, will dismiss it bitterly as the kind of propaganda they've come to expect from Hollywood. So, if it isn't going to improve our souls, what is its purpose, aside from commercial success? A rite of intensification for those of us who agree with its message. The people who made the movie know which side the angels are on, and so do we. It allows us to despise those who don't. I'm afraid movies like this generate as much hatred as empathy.

I'd watch "Ship of Fools" again any time, but not this. It shows nothing that we didn't know or guess before. The fact that it resembles a genuine historical incident is irrelevant. I don't mean to seem, well, carried away but I do wish there had been some understatement here. I suppose it would be too much to ask for a little poetry too.
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Sometimes a tragic story makes you too mad to cry.
mark.waltz29 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The fear of the unknown is often greater than facing the worst crisis that one can come across in one's lifetime, and often the worry is over nothing, but sometimes, those fears come true. For the displaced German Jews from Hamburg boarding a cruise ship for Cuba in 1939, their lives will never be the same after they leave their homeland. They aren't sure if they will be welcome, but anything's better than facing Hitler's Germany, an evil reminder of humanity at its worst. This all-star cast mixes together many famous actors of the stage and screen, many of them Oscar nominees or winners. That year's best actress, Faye Dunaway, was at the top of her career when she starred in this poignant film, and it's obvious that many of the actors surrounding her took this job, as she did, because of the important subject matter, something that is being dealt with around the world over 40 years later.

As an upper-class German Jew, Dunaway is married to doctor Oskar Werner who has stirred the wrath of his own people by treating Nazi's, and as he tells the embittered Sam Wanamaker, he's taken a Hippocratic oath to treat those who come to him regardless of their politics. Two young men (Paul Koslo and Jonathan Pryce) are released from a concentration camp and ordered to leave Germany and never return on threat of immediate execution. Even before they can get to their ship, they are viciously beaten up by young members of the Nazi party who attack them for no reason and leave them bleeding on the street. The visible scars are still noticeable when they leave their homeland hopefully for freedom and a new life.

Wanamaker is married to the devoted Lee Grant who is scared that her husband is falling apart in front of her and tries to keep their daughter (Lynne Frederick) from seeing this happen. An elderly woman (Wendy Hiller) looks over her dying husband with concern, while Nehemiah Persoff and Maria Schell strive to get to Cuba to be reunited with their daughter (Katherine Ross) who is pretending to be Christian and works as a high-class prostitute to stay alive. Sweet Julie Harris escorts two young children hoping to be reunited with their doctor father (Victor Spinetti) desperately trying to make sure they will be able to be reunited any way he can. Captain Max Von Sydow, a German Christian who has refused to join the Nazi party, must deal with Nazi's amongst the crew, especially the subtly nasty Helmut Griem who will not hesitate to kill a crew member who threatens to disrupt his plans.

As this ship reaches Cuba, it becomes very apparent that political intrigue will keep them from being able to disembark. The star power continues here with Jose Ferrer, Orson Welles and James Mason all involved in different sides of the issue, and it becomes very apparent that the Antisemitism doesn't end with the Nazi's. Perhaps there are way too many stars, and some of them (most notably Harris whom I longed to see more of) had little to do. But the chance to see powerhouse actors like Harris, Dunaway, Grant, Wanamaker and Von Sydow all working together will keep you intrigued for the 2 1/2 hours of this film's length. Key scenes between Dunaway and Grant as the situation grows dire and tragedy threatens to consume them will have your hands wringing or gripped in anger and fear as well.

As these diverse characters face the fears of returning to Hamburg for immediate transfer to a concentration camp, one thing becomes very apparent about them. They are all strong in different ways, family devoted and compassionate about each other. As one of the characters says, they've had to learn to have courage because of all the displacements over the centuries, and even with all that, there is something about these people that makes you want to see them saved. For whatever reason Jews had become the most unjustifiably hated culture in the world, this shows that the stereotypes, the envy, the inherent disgust towards them is unwarranted. Even when the Nazi's and their supporters are being cultured and polite, there is an underlying evil even in a simple statement of them being able to walk on water, a slam towards the belief that as a nation, they were responsible for murdering Jesus nearly two millenniums before. While this didn't have me shaking in horror and anger as "Schindler's List" and other Nazi themed movies, it did leave me touched, and reminded me that freedom for everybody is precious and we should never allow it to be taken away from us, no matter what the cost may be.
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An amazing and harrowing tale
robert-temple-125 August 2011
This is a really remarkable film of great importance. It concerns the voyage of an ocean liner from Hamburg in Germany to Cuba, loaded with Jews who have bought their way out of the Nazi nightmare by paying money to Heinrich Himmler. The voyage across the Atlantic is long and slow, with much drama taking place on the way. But when the ship reaches Cuba, the Jews are not allowed to disembark after all, and the whole voyage turns out to have been a 'set-up', a cover for a military cargo arrangement. The film has an all-star cast of prominent film actors of the 1970s. There are so many of them it almost seems as if the whole of Hollywood tried to squeeze into the cast list. The stars include Faye Dunaway, Orson Welles, James Mason, Max von Sydow as the ship's captain, Jose Ferrer, Julie Harris, Oscar Werner in his last film, Maria Schell, Wendy Hiller (who is marvellous, as always), Sam Wanamaker, Ben Gazzara, and the list goes on. Some of these stars appear only fleetingly, between decks as it were, and others have real parts. Some like Orson Welles and Fernando Rey are even on land, and not at sea at all. (After all various diplomats in capital cities have to be seen debating whether to save the Jews or not, or the story would have no context.) Some of the younger stars of the day such as Katharine Ross, Lynne Frederick, and Malcolm McDowell are now largely forgotten as 'names', but were 'big' then. In his first feature film role, Jonathan Pryce is spectacular. Supporting actors like Lee Grant, Victor Spinetti and Luther Adler were familiar then but few now remember them at all, despite the many roles they played on countless occasions, so that everyone at least knew their faces. The film was directed by Stuart Rosenberg and was based on a best-selling novel, which in turn was based upon the notorious real events which actually happened and were an international scandal. The name of the ship was the S.S. St. Louis, and there were 937 Jewish passengers aboard. I cannot reveal the ending of the film or the fate of these passengers, but the historical remarks under 'Trivia' in the IMDb entry add information which partially corrects details of the facts as portrayed in the film.
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A Real Black Eye
Hitchcoc26 December 2016
This rather endless film with an ensemble cast tells the story of a boatload of Jewish people sent to the Americas by Germany. Because of a lack of credentials, they were unable to disembark in any of the countries, including the U.S. Of course, anti-Semitism was alive and well in the States. Nazi Germany did not have a corner on the market. We have the individual stories of a number of individual passengers. It was not long before the Captain of the ship realized they were not going to be allowed into any country. As the news trickled down, we got to see the angst and fear in these passengers. This is based on real events in 1937 and the truth of the matter is that the large majority of these people were slaughtered when they returned to their home country. The problem for me is that the movie is quite dull and way too long.
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A carefully made reconstruction of a particularly grim episode as a prologue to the holocaust.
clanciai31 May 2015
An ambitious effort to tell the true story of SS St.Louis in May-June 1939 on a cruise to Cuba with only Jewish German passengers as a Nazi propaganda display in all its polyphonic complexity, has above all succeeded in rendering and making the horrible sadness about it real. Sam Wanamaker takes the lead as the most desperate of them all, who, when it becomes clear that they were sent to Cuba only to be returned to certain death in Germany, tries to kill himself jumping over board, while Max von Sydow stands for some uprightness and honor in a hopeless situation, Oskar Werner and Faye Dunaway make a nice couple of some refinement and elegance but with their integrity sadly lost, Orson Welles dominates the corruption in Havana, Ben Gazzara is the indefatigable fighter for some human rights where there are none, and we have the tragedy of the steward (Malcolm McDowell) and his tragic love, and of course the Nazi villains, apart form other outstanding actors like James Mason, Julie Harris, Maria Schell, Wendy Hiller, Jonathan Pryce, Katharine Ross, Denholm Elliott as Admiral Canaris and many others. Still the film is not overloaded with stardom, but they are all almost discreet, dwarfed by the overwhelming tragedy of the drama situation. What adds very much to the quality of the film is how the music is composed - the very sensitive and adequate but still discreet music of Lalo Schifrin is contrasted with very typical and catchy dance music of the times, Cuban rumbas, Glenn Miller, Strauss waltzes and things like that, illustrating the grotesqueness of the cruel Nazi practical joke on ordinary and innocent Jewish Germans who are kept completely unknowing of what grim play they are being used in. The film is very conscientiously made in an evident effort to strike at the completeness of the indescribable sadness of the inhuman fake luxury cruise, which effort definitely has succeeded.
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" When in Cuba, if all else fails, trust in their cigars "
thinker169123 December 2010
In 1974 the movie " Voyage of the Damned " a book written by Gordon Thomas and Max Witts became the inspiration for the film directed by Stuart Rosenberg. Within it's dramatic pages, lies the true story of the MS St. Louis and it's infamous cargo of nearly 1000 Jewish Passengers. The all star cast which includes Max Von Sydow as Capt. Schroeder, Malcolm McDowell, James Mason, Nehemiah Persoff, Orson Wells, Jose Ferrer, Fernando Rey and Ben Gazzara make this film a must see movie. For the Germans of World War II, this incident was a Propaganda event designed to illustrate to the world, that not even the United States did not want to Jews. Instead, the moving film touches the heart of any viewer sufficiently up on their history of the murderous reign of the Nazis. The end result of the all-star-cast and its touching script is the creation of a Cinematic Classic. Hailed as such, one cannot feel the desperation and longing of the passengers to find peace in a world so full of men anxious to ignore the plea of their fellow humans. Easilly recommended. ****
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