“Call me Ishmael.” This is one of the most recognizable opening lines to an English-language novel. Even if you have never read Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” myself included, you’ve more than likely heard the phrase at some point in time or another. I didn’t go into Josh Huston’s adapted film completely clueless however. I knew that Moby Dick was a white whale that was the subject of a captain’s obsession. But after viewing the DVD I feel like I need to actually read the book to fully engage my mind in the unique and creative story.
The obsessed Captain Ahab is played by the magnificent Gregory Peck. I have great admiration for Peck due to his involvement in one of my favorite films, To Kill A Mockingbird. Saying that, I have to admit that seeing Peck as this tyrannical man was a bit hard to swallow. He did a good job at transforming himself into that of Ahab, but his courageous Finch kept popping into my head and I just couldn’t buy it. Richard Basehart did a great job as Ishmael, but the performance that really struck me was the cameo by Orson Welles as Father Mapple. His minor role was probably no more than 5 minutes in length, but his sermon in the church was so powerful and stately that it stuck with me throughout.
John Huston did a fascinating job at directing this highly praised adaptation. I tend to get motion sickness quite easily, so I feared I would have a hard time watching this film due to its setting amongst the high seas. Fortunately, Huston’s camera work left my stomach unturned as he creatively got the great shots without all the movement. Considering this movie was filmed in 1954, I was actually surprised how good everything looked.
For someone who studied film and appreciates its history, Moby Dick is a true classic. For those who are looking for a CGI-filled adventure, opt out of this one for Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean – it’s more of a fit with today’s film going expectations.