Moby Dick (1956)

“At sea one day, you’ll smell land where there’ll be no land, and on that day Ahab will go to his grave, but he’ll rise again within the hour. He will rise and beckon. Then all – all save one shall follow…”

Moby Dick is an adventure movie starring Gregory Peck and Richard Basehart. The story is of course based on the famous 1851 novel ‘Moby Dick / The Whale’ by Herman Melville.

This review is based entirely on the film as I have never read the book.

The story follows narrator Ishmael (Basehart) as he joins up with a whaler ship – The Pequod, led by Captain Ahab (Peck). Despite a frightening premonition about the fate of the ship and dark rumours about the stern Captain Ahab, Ishmael and the rest of the crew set sail.

This proves to be a mistake of epic proportions but alas, who was to know that Captain Ahab was such a psychopathic, mad bastard.

(and kind of sexy, but that might just be me!)

Captain-Ahab

We learn how Captain Ahab is consumed with the need to find ‘Moby Dick’ – a huge white whale, bigger than any other known to man. You could give Ahab money, women, booze – whatever….all he wants is the whale.

He was left crippled and scarred by a previous meeting with Moby Dick. Ahab survived the attack but lost a leg, some facial tissue and a lot of marbles. Though injured from the white whale, Ahab is undoubtedly an impressing and imposing presence. He rarely shows himself on deck in daylight, preferring to frequent the wooden boards at night whilst looking out over the water for a sign of the whale. Having lost his leg to the beast, he uses a whale bone as a prosthetic and it thumps on the ship floor eerily while the crew in the cabins below listen to him, talking amongst themselves about his madness.

md

Moby Dick is such an atmospheric film, it really impressed me. I don’t want to give anything away but the ending is just so…..so intense!

I’ve read that the book explores many themes between different characters and situations but in this film it is Ahab who sticks in my mind more than anything else. His need for finding Moby Dick has quite obviously sent him mad, but it is like a virus, a virus that he is able to pass down to his crew, lathering them up into a frenzied spirit, making their lust for Moby Dick the same as his own. All except for our narrator Ishmael – who sees things for what they are.

The last scenes in the movie where Ahab inevitably meets with Moby Dick are frightening, exciting and insane – all at the same time.

Gregory Peck is often remembered for his role as the calm and decent Atticus Finch but it was so much fun seeing him play the severe and tough Captain Ahab.

I highly recommend this movie!

Look out for the Orson Welles cameo too.

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About emmakwall

Films, books, soundtracks, good humour
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83 Responses to Moby Dick (1956)

  1. Victor De Leon says:

    I just pulled this movie out to review haha! I LOVE this movie. I usually watch a few older titles a month for my Vic’s Classics reviews and I have been meaning to write up Moby Dick.

    I love the analogy you use to describe Ahab’s obsession: Like a virus he spreads to his crew. So true! Very astute observation. Nice work. Keep up the good work on the classics 🙂

  2. guyportman says:

    I didn’t even know there was a film adaptation of Moby Dick. Read the book a few years ago. It is extremely long.

  3. Tom Schultz says:

    that was a different role for g. peck and i agree he did it well. orson welles was perfect! that voice! the whole mood of the church scene was awesome.

    call me ishmael (but, i’d rather you call me tom)

    interesting that you find peck’s ahab sexy. hmmmm…

  4. Loved the book and Gregory Peck was perfect as Ahab!

    • emmakwall says:

      Yay Kim!! Have you got my email from the other day? I replied to your new address.

      How are you my love? And Lacey?

      I fell in love with Ahab a bit!!!! Don’t know what’s wrong with me lol.

  5. alfredsalmanac says:

    Great review for what is an incredible film and book. I love the warning and message in this story: We must be careful not to hunt our own personal whale :]

    • emmakwall says:

      You saying you don’t read books….you’ve read Moby Dick!!!!! You must read 🙂

      Yeah I suppose we all have the potential to go stark raving bonkers and obsessive.

      I don’t really know many other people who’ve seen this, so couldn’t discuss it properly but at the end when Ahab’s arm is being swept by the wind and ocean (when he’s tied to Moby Dick) as though beckoning his crew over to him…….that gave me goosebumps!!!

      • alfredsalmanac says:

        Yes, it’s a great movie. I used to read a lot of books, just don’t do it anymore. I am a Star Trek fan (yes, I just said that out loud), but I’m not a ‘Trekkie’. Anyhow, in the movie First Contact, Captain Picard is reading Moby Dick, and then the Borg attack. Picard turns into Ahab and becomes mad with the obsession of destroying the Borg to the point of sacrificing his own life to do so. He gets called Ahab by women on board the enterprise. It’s a very clever reference.

        • emmakwall says:

          That sounds brilliant!! Really clever and I bet quite impressive.

          Do don’t’ watch Family Guy at all do you?

          If so…….”show me Picard’s flute!”

          If not….that probably doesn’t make much sense 🙂

          I never really watched Star Trek but don’t think people who do are nerds. I do love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who!!

  6. Do you like or dislike Master & Commander? I remember some people finding it a bore but I loved the crap out of it! I want to watch Moby Dick for sure & the black & white reminded me, have you ever see The Ghost and Mrs. Muir?

    • emmakwall says:

      Hi Susan!! I’m pretty crap, I’ve not seen Master & Commander OR The Ghost and Mrs. Muir!! I just looked up the latter though and it looks great! A romantic, fantasy, looks really interesting, it is one of your favourites? Moby Dick was really good. I genuinely thought it would be boring (philistine!) but it was all about Captain Ahab 😀

      • Weelll Master & Commander is super beautifully shot, I think, and so realistic looking. I got obsessed and got the book it was adapted from afterwards.
        The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is so romantic just like you said and fantastic & different. I saw it on Turner Classics in the middle of the night maybe 10 years ago and then got the DVD. It’s entertaining and not oldtimeyboring at all, if you can search out a copy give it a go it’s really good!

        I’ll let you know when I get my hands on Moby Dick. You’re not a philistine for thinking that! There are loads of borrrring, dreadful old movies=)

        • emmakwall says:

          It’s great when you get obsessed with a movie, I’ve been like that a few times! It does certainly look very good, I don’t know why I’ve not seen it to be honest. Especially as Russell Crowe looking rather handsome…! (sorry!!!)

          I’ve found The Ghost and Mrs Muir second-hand on Amazon for best part for £3 so I think I’ll order it 🙂 it may take me a few weeks to get round to watching it, but it sounds terrific!!!

          Thank you so much 🙂

          Any updates on your Ouija kindle case? 1 knock for yes, 2 for no

          😀

          I miss the Turner Classic channel! I don’t seem to get that anymore, but wow, I remember it!!!!

          • I can’t believe you already found The Ghost and Mrs. Muir & might order it! I hope you do, it’s lovely!
            No Ouija updates yet:/ so I’ll have to wait to share my e-books with the other side and only share them with humans for now.
            Master & Commander made me want to sail around in cannon smoke and explore!

  7. sweetarchive says:

    That’s so awesome!! I never ever got a free DVD with my newspaper… only bills to pay… hmmm… Being all girly here: captain Ahab is sexy and crazy? good enough reason for me to watch it!

    • emmakwall says:

      Hee hee!! You and me both Ruth!!

      We often get free DVDs in papers, only in little cardboard cases. Usually old movies or TV shows that you have to collect!

      Thanks Sweetness!!!! 😀

      Can’t wait to read your Shitfest entry, I bet it’s the best!!!

      • sweetarchive says:

        Thank you, Darling! When’s yours being published? Can’t wait to see what you hated so much and read all about it! I bet you bashed the hell out of that film! 😉

        • emmakwall says:

          Eric just told me in fact! Monday 16th February. When is yours my dear??? I can’t WAIT!
          I’m excited to see what you’ve chosen firstly! And then can’t wait to read it, because I bet it will be SO good. Well I know it will be 🙂

          • sweetarchive says:

            Awesome!! Which film did you pick? Or, do you prefer to keep it as a surprise…? 🙂 Mine is due on Thursday the 12th. I hope it will be kindly accepted by others, because it’s a well appreciated film, I just hated its guts!! Can’t wait to read yours too!! In the meantime, I’ll keep on browsing your other pearls of wisdom. I love your blog!

            • emmakwall says:

              Oooh I might leave it as a surprise!!!! But it’s a British movie, sort of a ‘thug’ movie ha ha.

              I can’t wait to read yours!!! I’m most excited for your post 🙂 I’m glad it’s a well appreciated film, good for you!!! Makes it far more interesting 😀 it’s easy to rip apart a movie that was always going to be terrible, but far more creative to choose something a lot of people do like. I can’t wait!! Thursday 12th in my diary 😀

              I posted about how I hated the film Forrest Gump recently lol and that got everyone quite heated. It’s fun being a bit controversial 🙂

            • sweetarchive says:

              Emma, you are such a sweet person! I love your comments!!! :-)) First of all, I’m crazy curious about your Shitfest 2015 post… It’s not the Forrest Gump one, is it? Just to make sure I’m not missing anything and sounding like a total idiot… Anyways, I kind of liked Forrest Gump, but would love to see what you wrote, cause sometimes those films are highly overrated. I love swimming against the current from time to time… sure does spices things up and just so funny to see all the raging comments 🙂

            • emmakwall says:

              No not Forrest Gump, I was tempted but thought I’d cause SUCH backlash!!!

              You are such a sweet person!! You always say the nicest things 🙂 🙂

              I don’t even know why I don’t like Forrest Gump, I never erally liked it. I tried watching it again a year or so ago but I still felt the same. Just thought it was all schmaltzy and twee ha ha! But I know so many love it and that’s great. Just not for me I suppose.

              Hurry up the 12th!! I wanna read the best Shitfest entry….ever!!!! 🙂 🙂

            • sweetarchive says:

              Oh, I really do hope you’ll like it. Same here, Girl. I’m marking the 16th on my calendar!!! Woohoo!!!! Go, Emma!!!! 😉

            • emmakwall says:

              Awwww you are so sweet!! I love you!!!!

              Shitfest forever 🙂

  8. theipc says:

    Pen!!

    I’ve never seen this or read the book. Do I suck??

    Pen

    P.S. Excellent write up!

    • emmakwall says:

      No you do NOT suck! I’ve never read the book, I probably never will!

      And I only watched this because I got it free with a newspaper. I thought it might be a bit boring but was so pleasantly surprised!

      Thank you Pen 🙂

      Love Warm Pen

  9. movierob says:

    should be posted next tuesday if i recall correctly

  10. movierob says:

    I’m actually embarrassed to say that Ive never seen this. I know the general story, but can’t even ever recall reading the entire book. it just felt so boring

    • emmakwall says:

      Nothing to be embarrassed about. I only watched it because I got the DVD free with a newspaper! I do enjoy watching old movies though.

      To be honest I was expecting it to be quite boring (and I doubt I’ll EVER attempt the book!) but the madness of Captain Ahab was so intoxicating. Like I say in the review, the ending was very intense. It was great!

      Thanks pal 🙂

      Can’t wait to read your Shitfest entry!!! 😀

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