Curd Jurgens is stuck living on a ferry with weird Captain Orson Welles, a typhoon & pirates.
Seeing Curd (sometimes you can call him Curt) Jurgens recently as the Big Bad Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me reminded me what a great actor he was, so I pulled this 1959 movie in which he starred and worked with The Spy director Lewis Gilbert (Gilbert also did the Bond movies Moonraker and You Only Live Twice). In Ferry, Jurgens plays an alcoholic and all around loser who bums around Hong Kong causing trouble and starting brawls, and often bothering pudgy ferry captain Orson Welles. Jurgens finally gets kicked out of Hong Kong, taking what he thinks will one last voyage away from HK and the annoying Welles’ and into new kinds of trouble and booze in Macao. But when the ship lands there, Jurgens’ visa is rejected, leaving him a man without a country. Thanks to the kindness of some of Welles’ crew (including Noel Purcell) Jurgens sets up a comfy little home on the ferry and lives there as it goes on its daily trips; he even has a date night when Welles goes ashore. On one trip the ferry gets hit by a typhoon, and with Welles drunk and injured, and his mate a coward, only Jurgens is able to navigate out of the storm with a cool and sober head. The damaged ship is soon boarded by pirates who have a criminal past with former con man Welles. What is meant to be a simple robbery of the passengers turns deadly when one of the neanderthal henchmen decides to take over and hold hostage the group of kids making their weekly trip home from school. Again Jurgens is the only one who can outsmart the pirates and save everyone.
The story, equal parts The Terminal, The Perfect Storm and Captain Phillips, revolves around and depends on the charming and very likable loser proving himself as a resourceful and capable hero, and Jurgens is really great in that role, fantastic and believable all the way through, He gives it a mix of sad, jolly, cynical, mischievous and romantic, the type of guy children love, the type that Sylvia Syms can get interested in and try to make over, and the type who’s obviously seen and done it all in some fascinating past.
A great lead, good action, gorgeous widescreen colour scenery, but all of it is almost ruined by an unbelievably hammy and fake performance by Orson Welles. He totally overdoes it, with ashen makeup, inappropriate expressions, mannerisms and reactions that would fit better with silent slapstick, and an accent that’s all over the place (still mostly in cartoonland). No wonder Lewis Gilbert told the BBC that he considered this his nightmare movie, saying that in this project Welles “never cared about his fellow actors, never cared about the director.” It shows, and even if him being this unlikeable helps viewers understand the enmity between the main characters, it will for most people spoil what’s otherwise a decent action drama with a super performance by Curd Jurgens.
Thanks to Mikes Take on the Movies for making it possible for me to check this one out