Death Ship (1980 film)

Death Ship (1980 film)
Death Ship

Death Ship theatrical poster
Directed by Alvin Rakoff
Produced by Derek Gibson
Harold Greenberg
Written by Jack Hill
David P. Lewis
John Robins
Starring George Kennedy
Richard Crenna
Nick Mancuso
Sally Ann Howes
Music by Ivor Slaney
Cinematography René Verzier
Editing by Mike Campbell
Distributed by Avco Embassy Pictures
Release date(s) March 7, 1980 (1980-03-07) (United States)
April 4, 1980 (1980-04-04) (Canada)
Running time 91 minutes
Country Canada
United Kingdom
Language English

Death Ship is a 1980 horror film directed by Alvin Rakoff. The cast includes Academy Award winner George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Sally Ann Howes, and Black Christmas actor Nick Mancuso.


A mysterious black freighter steams at night, apparently deserted. Detecting a Cruise ship close by, the ship alters course as ghostly voices shout in German, "Battle Stations! Enemy in sight!" Aboard the cruise ship, the prickly Captain Ashland (Kennedy) is making his final voyage, attended by his replacement, Captain Trevor Marshall (Crenna), who has brought along his family. Outside, the freighter heads right for them, blasting its horn, and despite Ashland's best efforts, collides with the cruise ship, sinking it. The next morning, a handful of survivors, including Marshall, his wife Margaret (Howes), their children Robin and Ben, a young officer named Nick (Mancuso), his love interest Lori (Burgoyne), the ship's comic Jackie (Rubinek), and a passenger, Mrs. Morgan (Reid), are adrift on a large piece of wreckage. Ashland surfaces nearby, and is brought aboard barely conscious. Later, the survivors come upon the black freighter, unaware it is the ship which attacked them. Finding a boarding ladder slung from the stern, they climb aboard, but not before the ladder plunges into the sea as the officers try to climb it with the injured Ashland. When all are finally aboard, Jackie tries to rally the survivors with humor, but a cable seizes him by the ankle, and he is lifted and swung outboard by one of the ship's cranes, which lowers the thrashing comic into the water before cutting him loose, to be swept astern and lost.

Shocked, the survivors explore the corridors of the empty, echoing vessel, finding only cobwebs and 1930s memorabilia. Hatches open and close by themselves and lights go on and off while a swinging block knocks out Nick, who is exploring above deck. Meanwhile, a delirious Ashland hears a disembodied voice speaking to him in German, telling him "This ship has been waiting for you...It is your new ship....Your chance has come!" The others finally set up in a dusty bunk room, and break up to retrieve supplies and the injured Captain. Finding a record player and a movie projector that play by themselves, the survivors come to believe the ship is somehow alive. While watching the projected film (1936's "Everything Is Rhythm") Mrs. Morgan becomes grotesquely deformed and stumbles back to the bunk room, where a German-speaking Ashland strangles her.

Now awake, and apparently under the ship's influence, Ashland dons a German naval officer's uniform and announces he is the captain. Marshall and Nick make a horrific discovery: the ship was once a Nazi prison ship, and the ghosts of its victims and crew are still aboard. They both decide to escape, but are thwarted when the ship's two lifeboats lower into the sea by themselves and drift away. Despairing, the survivors are further taunted by Ashland, who tosses Lori overboard. Marshall and Nick are attacked by the piercing whine of the ship's electronics as the projector now shows films of Adolf Hitler. Nick lunges at Ashland, but instead plunges into a net holding skeletal remains, and Ashland drowns him. Marshall manages to stab a gloating Ashland, apparently killing him and stopping the ship. Seaching below, Marshall finds a life raft in a freezer full of the frozen bodies of downed airmen and sailors, but as the children are jumping overboard, Margaret is captured by a resurrected Ashland and is trapped in a chain locker. Marshall is knocked out by Ashland, but awakens in time to find Margaret, who has escaped from the locker.

Meanwhile, the ship detects another cruise liner and begins to give chase, ignoring Ashland, who wants it to run down the Marshalls' raft instead. Trying to re-take control of the ship, Ashland storms into the engine room, but is pushed into the steering gear and crushed. His agonized screams echo through the ship, joining those of its earlier victims. Above, the Marshalls rejoice as the freighter turns and steams away. After drifting for some time, they are spotted by a search helicopter and rescued. Afterwards, the Death Ship is shown steaming along at full speed, ghostly voices once again announcing "Enemy in sight!" in German. It heads for another passenger ship, and the sounds of the collision are accompanied by the triumphant blasting of its horn.


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