Decades before James Cameron sank the Titanic and twelve years before Irwin Allen took us on The Poseidon Adventure, writer/director Andrew L. Stone took a pioneering step into the disaster film genre. While Cameron and Allen certainly had more pyrotechnics at their disposal, Stone does a remarkable job utilizing a real luxury liner and building suspense throughout The Last Voyage‘s brisk 91-minute run-time. In the second shot of the movie, the captain is informed of a fire in the engine room, and the disaster only grows from there.
Stone also predates Allen’s proclivity for all-star casts. George Sanders (All About Eve) plays the ship’s captain, reluctant to cause any alarm among the ship’s guests until it’s almost too late. Robert Stack (Unsolved Mysteries) spends the entire movie trying to rescue his wife, Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind), from a pile of collapsed steel and wood. If Sanders and Malone aren’t enough Oscar glory for you, the film also stars Edmond O’Brien (The Barefoot Contessa) as the beleaguered ship’s engineer. Woody Strode is memorable as an engine room worker who proves invaluable to Stack’s rescue operation.
Without a budget to offer more special or visual effects, the screenplay relies a bit too much on ‘running here’ and ‘running there’ to find things or to ask the captain a question. But if you had to make a disaster movie on a budget, at a time when they weren’t yet a proven sub-genre, you probably couldn’t do much better than The Last Voyage. And in what other movie will you ever get to see Robert Stack dodge a falling grand piano?
Oscar Nominee: Best Special Effects