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Moby Dick (Cliffs Notes Version)
Moby Dick
Cliffs Notes Version
Actors: Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, Leo Genn, James Robertson Justice, Harry Andrews
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House
NR     2007     1hr 56min

$??it?ctacular retelling of the Herman Melville classic, masterfully directed by John Huston, is unsurpassed in entertainment, imagination and high adventure. From the screenplayby Ray Bradberry and Huston, Moby Dick is a...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, Leo Genn, James Robertson Justice, Harry Andrews
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House
Sub-Genres: Classics, Indie & Art House
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Color - Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 07/24/2007
Original Release Date: 06/27/1956
Theatrical Release Date: 06/27/1956
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 56min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
Edition: Special Edition
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, Spanish
Subtitles: French, Spanish
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Movie Reviews

Movie=5 Stars / DVD= 4 Stars
mackjay | Cambridge, MA | 05/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"John Huston's film of MOBY DICK is perhaps a rare exception. It's a great film in its own right, apart from the great novel upon which it is based. The case can easily be made that this film does not 'do justice' to the book, if only for the reason that it does not cover every aspect of Melville's original. But this film proves that a slavish literary imitation is not necessary for a great film.

Huston also fought with Ray Bradbury over the screenplay. The great science fiction author was literally reduced to tears by the gruff director, and he wrote a book about the experience. There was also some conflict over the casting of Gregory Peck as Ahab. Some say Orson Welles or Leo Genn (Starbuck) would have been a better choice. This may well be, but it should be admitted that Peck rises to the occasion when it's called for. The great scene with the Spanish doubloon and the great scene with Starbuck on the bridge, where Ahab explains his obsession. Few other actors are likely to have surpassed these moments.

According to IMDb, MOBY DICK was shot in 1.66:1 aspect ratio. This DVD does not present the film in that ratio, yet it does not appear to be a pan & scan transfer. The film looks very good and and nothing appears to have been done to tamper with the color. This is most likely how it should look. The director fought with the studio over the color process used in MOBY DICK: it's intentional. He and the cinematographer were trying to capture a visual style that would be evocative of a period style of painting that would contribute to the mood of the story.

Anyone interested in background on this film should read THE HUSTONS by Lawrence Grobel. The harrowing production is detailed, with plenty of attention given to the above-mentioned conflicts and also to the shooting of the INCREDIBLE final sequence.

Some extras would have been welcome, but this DVD is more than worth owning by any fan of Melville, Huston or American film."
Masterful and complex takeoff on Melville
mackjay | 08/29/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"One of John Huston's very best films has also been by far his most overlooked and underrated. Preceded by a hilariously bad version with John Barrymore (in which Ahab has a love interest and succeeds in killing Moby Dick, who resembles a floating mattress) and later redone as a TV-movie with Patrick Stewart, Huston's version remains by far the best film of what may be the greatest American story ever told. The fact that it is still well-remembered proves its lasting power; many other films-from-novels sink right out of sight. Ray Bradbury's script captures the essence of Melville's novel, using his words (and some words so good you'd swear they were his) and keeping true to the vision and the atmosphere, but is never confined to being anything like a mere "adaption". The best films-from-books transcend their sources and stand as independently great works. Melville's novel is great because it's unfilmable - messy, rambling, convulted, something you need to spend a while digging into; something rich and endlessly rewarding. Any smart adapter of such material won't waste any time trying to copy those elements onto the screen; he'll go right for the essence of the story, what drives it: Ishmael's curious search for the unknown and Ahab's all-consuming quest to confront the unknown - to prove that God cannot treat him like the Jonah of Orson Welles' unforgettable sermon, to "strike through the mask" of the God that torments man. It's a "wicked book," as Melville said, and the blasphemous edge survives to the screen; Huston and Bradbury never dull the point but if anything sharpen it. Best of all, they remove Fedallah, a character who really is, as Bradbury said, "a bore"; just something to suggest that Ahab is cursed like Macbeth - even the ironic prophecies are practically a knock-off of the three witches'. Bradbury instead uses a more subtle, mysterious prophecy spoken through Elijah, a more subtly frightening and eerie character than Fedallah who is just used as a throwaway in Melville, but here takes on a great importance. The prophecy is fulfilled stunningly in a final scene that, for me, stands as one of the greatest in film history. It begins with the strange melancholy and calm of the "Symphony" scene, and then progresses quickly to the final chase. Ahab's destruction seems even more powerfully done here than in the original; isn't it so profoundly right that he and the whale should be lashed together forever and ever? The sight of him drowned and chillingly 'beckoning' to his crew to follow him is the most haunting moment in the film. There are very few misfires in this film; I would call it one of the best examples of how fine a movie can be made of an 'untouchable' classic. By contrast, the recent TV-remake was a ghastly misfire. The script was haphazardly faithful to Melville, with some bizarre changes (the Pequod stuck in Antarctic ice?), a total lack of the atmosphere Huston drenches his film in, and rather anemic performances, with the exception of Patrick Stewart's fiery version of Ahab. Stewart treated Ahab as a mighty Shakespearean tragic figure, the way he always should have been done. Still, Gregory Peck's interpretation shows that he was far from miscast, just cast unusually. He holds Ahab's madness down under a brooding darkness and does indeed keep a "deranged dignity," never lets the story turn merely absurd. The film ends holding on the floating coffin that saved Ishmael - a typical Huston gesture. But this film is not typical, far from it. If you are new to Melville, see it; if you are a Melville purist, open your mind to something that is very far from a watered-down rewrite of a great but dramatically flawed book, something mighty and inspiring in its own right."
The Best Adaptation
Octavius | United States | 08/03/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This 1956 production of Herman Melville's Moby Dick was written and directed by John Huston (Treasure of the Sierra Madre; The Man Who Would Be King) along with Ray Bradbury. This version is superior to the more recent release with Patrick Stewart as Captain Ahab with great cinematography and good acting.

Although some have complained about Gregory Peck's performance as Captain Ahab, I feel that his cold reserved expressions in the film work just as well in showing a man consumed by hatred and a lust for revenge. In line with Melville's extremely religious themes, the character of Ahab is a man who feels he's been cheated by nature and God and so seeks his revenge. Taking his doomed men with him around the world, he seeks to exact his vengeance on the great white whale who took his leg, Moby Dick. The sailor Ishmael (Richard Basehart) is the voice of innocence and redemption.

The direction and cinematography is superb. Huston was a master of his craft and had directed many timeless classics by the time he did Moby Dick. I recommend this film as the best adaptation of the story with the strongest cast as well as the best directed.

Great film, quickie DVD.
Octavius | 08/08/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I really, really enjoy this movie. Forget the Patrick Stewart version and see this one. Performances great (yes, even Gregory Peck), Richard Baseheart turns in a decent, standard Ishmael (with some nice bits, of course -- his brief reaction shot near the end when the whale rises and Ahab is calling on the attack, is excellent in combining an expression of both exhilaration and dread), and the special effects still beat any digital-age CGI junk I can think of, even though the continuity is sketchy in many places, and brief inserts show clear blue and cloudy skies alternately. I never think for a moment I'm looking at a large, rubber whale, edited with miniatures. (The computer-generated whale in the Patrick Stuart version looks incredibly incongruous and as unrealistic as the lamest Ralph Bakshi movie you could think of.) The whale hunts are invigorating and very exciting, the narration par excellence, the Quaker-spiced dialogue is terrrific. I still love to hear Stubb say "Did ye not hear Mr. Starbuck? Pull, ye sheepheads!" My MAJOR complaint: Why wasn't this DVD issued in widescreen format?

There seems to be an ongoing debate about whether or not this film was shot widescreen, and everyone on both sides will insist they are right. I can certainly say that I have seen a LaserDisc version of this in the early 1990's, which was matted at 1.85:1, and to boot, it was from a better print with better display of the color tinting used especially for the movie; as far as I remember, the transfer process was either supervised or endorsed by Martin Scorsese, of all people, even with a disclaimer on the jacket explaining the unusual coloring process. For the record, although this DVD is passable enough for me to own (mostly because I have enjoyed this movie since I was a child and still enjoy it in my 30's), MGM could have done much better with this presentation, and I will make this my official call for a better edition."