Ship of Fools Movie Review
Ship of Fools is a 1965 drama film directed by Stanley Kramer and it stars Vivien Leigh, Simone Signoret and Oskar Werner. It was nominated for Best Picture, but is not as well regarded nowadays for good enough reasons.
It is about a group of diverse people aboard a ship from Mexico to Germany in 1933. It is a typical setting and a movie could have been terrific, but turned out to be more of a good concept than a fine execution. That is mainly because the movie is way too preachy and even more indelicate. It is as subtle as an earthquake which is most evident in its depiction of anti-Semites and even more so of dog lovers who are portrayed as the absolute worst people which was surprising and done all too over-the-top. But even though it can be boring and is definitely overlong, it is saved by its excellent dialogue from time to time and it even has some tremendous sequences that are the highlights, warm and so powerful and just emotional and moving. Those are the scenes with Leigh’s character and especially Werner’s wonderful and so poignant character and his beautiful companion.
The characters are mostly quite good as is the acting which is the highlight of the whole Ship of Fools experience. Mary is a great and very grounded character, so wonderfully portrayed by always great Vivien Leigh. The dwarf character is excellent for not being portrayed in a bad manner but is still annoying in the end with great opening, but awful ending lines that just made the movie feel pointless. And all the other characters fail in comparison to her and the two aforementioned characters who are absolutely marvelous. Yes, Dr. Schumann and La Condesa are so wonderful and such a romantic and genuinely lovable couple with a poignancy and chemistry rarely seen in movies. He is such a tragic figure and so sympathetic whereas she is just a wonderful and humorous person. Oskar Werner gave such an outstanding performance here worthy of any nominations and Simone Signoret is also so incredibly good with some downright terrific character acting moments displayed.
The movie is very well shot and filmed as well with the acting transcending its cliches and flaws in a great way. But the directing from Kramer is just awful and he is the one responsible for such heavy dialogue and immensely unsubtle approach. A different director would have done a much better job with this already fine concept. And this bad execution still leaves ‘Grand Hotel‘ as the finest movie of this ‘large group in one facility’ type film. The movie is emotional and is very romantic at times, but is too melodramatic, sometimes in a very unnecessarily preachy and cliched manner. It is predictable and also very badly edited thanks to its overlong nature. And it is too serious and although the humor present is quite good, it is still very rarely displayed.
As for its Oscars, it thoroughly did not deserve its wins for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction as both are not that good whatsoever. The nominations for Best Screenplay, Best Picture and Best Costume Design are all undeserved, but the acting nominees Simone Signoret, Oskar Werner and Michael Dunn all deserved their nominations as all were superb in their respectable roles.