Death Ship (1980)

A captain looking down from the bridge at the camera below.

The more cheap horror films I watch from the late seventies and early eighties, the more I admire them. When Death Ship popped up on Prime, I remembered a scene that was seared into my childhood brain, one of those kindertrauma moments, along with the Wheelers in Return to Oz, the man driven mad by a thousand paper cuts from his vengeful wife a in Tales of the Unexpected episode, and others that I can’t connect with titles, like a swimmer in a pool with a glass cover sealing her in.

Captain Ashland is on his final voyage and is begrudgingly handing the reins to a younger man, Marshall. At the end-of-cruise party, another ship deliberately rams them, and there are only a handful of survivors, including Ashland and the Marshall family. The next day the ship floats by but with no crew. When they board it, Ashland hears echoes of German voices, and the others begin to sense perhaps they are not really alone.

It keeps a steady pace as a ghost story, making the most of the spectacular empty ship as a location. The final act really dials up the horror. The cast is made up of top notch actors — George Kennedy as Ashland, Richard Crenna as Marshall (later Rambo’s boss in First Blood), Sally Ann Howes as his wife, Margaret (Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, ANOTHER KINDERTRAUMA), and the relatively unknown Victoria Burgoyne…

… who, just after the halfway point, as my intuition had suggested, gets trapped in a shower while blood rains down on her naked body, and screams and writhes for a solid two minutes while her panicking boyfriend tries to get in. Great stuff! I’m glad I found it because that scene really got under my skin as a kid. I can lay it to rest. Am I ready for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang though?

All films in 2023’s #31DaysofHorror…