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Film / The Last Voyage

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The Last Voyage is a 1960 Metrocolor American disaster film written and directed by Andrew L. Stone. It stars Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, George Sanders and Edmond O'Brien.

The SS Claridonnote  is an old ship that is scheduled to be scrapped after just a few more voyages. Cliff (Stack) and Laurie Henderson (Malone), alongside their daughter, Jill (Tammy Marihugh), are relocating to Tokyo and decide to sail there on board the ship. A fire in the boiler room is extinguished, but not before a boiler fuel supply valve is fused open. Before the Chief Engineer can manually open a steam relief valve, a huge explosion rips through the boiler room and the many decks situated above it, killing him and some of the passengers and trapping Laurie under a steel beam in their state room, in addition to opening a huge hole in the side of the ship. From then on, it's up to her husband and a crewman to cut her free before the ship goes under.

This film features examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die: Unlike modern disaster epics, this is mostly averted; the only really unexpected death in the entire movie is the Captain, crushed by a falling funnel.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The unnamed teenaged passenger who tries to help Cliff free the trapped Laurie. He's initially just someone to cover some ground that Cliff can't do himself to show that they can't find a torch to free Laurie and then leave once things get hopeless. Then, at the end of the movie, he shows up in a lifeboat coming from the rescue ship with an acetylene torch, having alerted them to Laurie's struggles just in time to save her.
  • Death by Materialism: Downplayed, but Captain Adams is crushed by a falling smokestack while trying to retrieve the ship's logbook and other papers during a frantic evacuation.
  • Driven to Suicide: Laurie attempts to cut her wrists when she thinks there is no hope of rescue before she drowns. She's unable to go through with it.
  • Fight to Survive: The SS Claridon suffers a boiler explosion that damages the ship so much that it begins to sink. One passenger is trapped in her cabin by a falling beam and her husband and a crewman must cut her free before the ship goes under.
  • Flawless Token: Lawson is the only prominent African-American character and might be the bravest, most levelheaded character in the movie.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: While Captain Adams has some Reasonable Authority Figure moments, First Officer Osborne reacts to the boiler explosion more quickly and decisively than his superior.
  • Ignored Expert: Another aversion from later disaster movies. The captain is guilty of over-caution at times, but he does order the evacuation in time to save the passengers and (most) of the crew.
  • The Last Title: The Last Voyage.
  • No Antagonist: Nobody is behaving villainously; the ship they are on is simply old and thus at much higher risk for critical failures.
  • No Name Given: The young passenger who tries to help Cliff free Laurie in the first act is unnamed.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Averted, as the film goes for suspense far more than for action sequences.
  • Primal Fear: Laurie, as the water begins to rise around her, faces drowning slowly and alone.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Captain, quite unlike many other shipboard examples of this trope. He is slow to react to the unfolding disaster, but he listens to his crew and when it becomes obvious the ship is doomed, orders everyone to evacuate. Nearly all of them make it off the boat safely. But not him.
  • Retirony: Captain Adams is on his last sailing voyage before being promoted to commodore of the line, and the trope is played straight when he dies at the end of the movie.
  • Sinking Ship Scenario: The film centers on the sinking of an aged ocean liner in the Pacific Ocean following an explosion in the boiler room.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Chief Engineer decides, with steam pouring out a dozen different cracks in the stricken boiler, to start whacking the stuck safety value atop it to try and open it. He blows himself to Ludicrous Gibs instead.
  • Trash the Set: The reason the movie has such realistic effects of the cruise ship sinking is simple: the producers really did sink a ship, the The SS Île de France
  • Ur-Example: One of them. Though preceded by A Night to Remember as the first major disaster epic, it took a very different course then a lot of what was to follow.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Lawson is the most muscular character in the movie and sheds his shirt while working to aid in the rescue and damage control efforts.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The last scene of the plucky Second Engineer Walsh - a fairly important character in the story - is jumping overboard and swimming away when the ship enters its final death throes.