Production designer Trevor Williams and cameraman Glen MacPherson deserve credit for the polished-looking production of Andrew J. Fenady’s lumpish rendition of Jack London’s novel “The Sea Wolf.” Barnacled story suffers from miscasting, loose direction and archaic dialogue; the meller founders.
Frisco writer Hump (Christopher Reeve) and petty thief Flaxen Brewster (Catherine Mary Stewart) are rescued from the Bay by treacherous Capt. Wolf Larsen (Charles Bronson).
Wolf’s sealing schooner Ghost is on its way to Japanese hunting waters. Wolf is an unschooled tyrant familiar with the classics but not with kindness — his creed is that the strong shall defeat the weak.
Hump becomes cabin boy aboard the Ghost. His chief enemy among the sullen crew is Cookie (Clive Revill), who scurries around the ship sowing nastiness, while Flaxen recovers from the sea accident that dumped Hump and her in the drink.
Reeve, constantly kempt throughout the ordeal, gives Hump some credibility, a tough assignment under the circumstances.
Though struggling manfully with the complex role of Wolf, Bronson, stuck with some of London’s original lines, not only can’t find the pattern but acts ill at ease.
Len Cariou, playing the requisite good-doctor-gone-to-booze, and Marc Singer, as the rebellious Johnson, give the vidpic’s best perfs. Revill’s histronics as Cookie are wickedly obvious and in step with the telepic’s broad tone.
Stephanie Nolin was the nifty costume designer for the period piece, special effects coordinator Mike Vezina was particularly successful. Nick Rotundo’s editing is pro, and Charles Bernstein’s score urges the action onward.
“The Sea Wolf” has been filmed at least four times, with the first version in 1914. Maybe it’s time to drop anchor.