Das Boot, the last film my dad ever watched, is also the first film to figure out how to film a miniature ship and not make the audience go, the second the ship appears on screen, “Oh look, it’s a little toy ship!” Apparently, Das Boot established that the model boat has to be a lot bigger, not so much for the boat to look real, but so that the water around it does. As the picture above indicate, The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959) is marred by this problem. The action is intense, the tension taut, you’re almost seasick just watching the storm and then there’s a boat in a bathtub. Director Michael Anderson replaced Alfred Hitchcock, who pulled out before shooting. Hitchcock foresaw that the source novel of the same name, by Hammond Innes, was only half an action film. The other half is a courtroom drama, without enough drama—especially compared to the first 40 minutes of the film; which, toy ship or not, are 40 of the most riveting, thrill-ride, heart-pounding minutes in all of Hollywood cinema.
Charlton Heston, who, implausibly, I find myself writing about for a second time in quick succession, is the younger man opposite a grampa-aged Gary Cooper. Gary Cooper, here at his most grizzled, wears a sweater like Steve McQueen wishes he could. He’s pushing 60 in this film, and he still looks capable of quietly and matter-of-factly—the Gary Cooper way—kicking the living shit out of Charlton Heston, Steve McQueen, the Royal Navy, existential angst, and the ocean, all at the same time.