Plot: What’s it about?
Warner Bros has recently released two John Wayne films on Blu-ray: Blood Alley and The Sea Chase. I started by watching Blood Alley first, and then I rolled right into The Sea Chase second. I am glad that I sat down and watched The Sea Chase, because another review had made it sound like Blood Alley was the superior of the two films. I did not find this to be the case.
The Sea Chase begins in Sidney, Australia as German Captain Karl Erlich (John Wayne) awaits orders. When his British friend Commander Jeff Napier stops by Karl’s ship, the Ergenstrasse, he brings a mysterious female friend with him named Elsa Keller (Lana Turner.) Jeff had plans to marry Elsa, but Karl puts an end to the affair by threatening to reveal Elsa for the intelligence officer she was. When news breaks that Britain has declared war upon Germany, Karl pulls his ship out to sea toward Valparaiso. To his surprise, he ends up with an additional passenger: Elsa Keller. Unfortunately, on the way to Valparaiso, one of Karl’s chief officers, Kirchner (Lyle Bettger) kills some unarmed British soldiers. This act turns Karl’s friend Jeff against him while the British are in hot pursuit. Low on coal to power the ship, they resort to breaking down wood and even their lifeboats to power the ship. Karl’s disgust for Kirchner’s actions will lead his actions moving forward.
Out of the two John Wayne releases that just came out, I recommend The Sea Chase over Blood Alley. While Blood Alley had the Duke in a performance that fit his persona better, The Sea Chase was a much better written film. Once you get over the initially bizarre choice to hire John Wayne to play a German captain (which took me a while, I’ll admit) the film becomes engrossing and interesting. Also, Lana Turner is pretty fun to watch on the screen.
John Farrow does a solid job of directing the proceedings and the film has been given a great facelift on Blu-Ray. This film does have a few shortcomings. Notably, it is not extremely suspenseful for how long the film runs. I think this is largely due to the script having a few too many things to understand without them being broadcast immediately to the viewer. The other large shortcoming would be that Lana Turner and John Wayne don’t have the most chemistry in the world. Overall, I thought that the dialogue and sentiments behind the film helped it to be a memorable and enjoyable experience. Worth checking out.
Video: How’s it look?
Warner Bros. did a great job on the transfer of the film using an MPEG 4 AVC codec of a new 2K restoration. The film was shot in the Ultra-Wide Cinemascope format. This format really benefits from the Blu-Ray upgrade. The film retains a lot of grain and therefore a lot of detail. When the film is in motion it looks beautiful. There is very little to dislike about the look of the film, and some of the scenes on the ocean are very striking. Overall, another excellent effort by Warner.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Warner Bros. have provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track that sounds very good. The front speakers are used for all of the mix, with other speakers used during compositions. Like other Warner Archive mixes, they get the most that they can out of a 2.0 mix with a lot to enjoy. The score by Roy Webb is enjoyable, and sounds better than his comparable score on Blood Alley. I did not detect any notable hiss. This is another job well done from the team at Warner.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
The Sea Chase is not perfect, but it definitely has enough merit to warrant a revisitation. I am glad that Warner are bringing films that are not exactly cookie-cutter choices. Watching John Wayne play a German is a strange experience, but once you get over that, the film is pretty gripping. I was pleasantly surprised by this film, and would recommend giving it a shot if you are a fan of naval dramas.