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Moby Dick (John Huston, USA, 1956)

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A rolling and thundering color film that is herewith devoutly recommended as one of the great motion pictures of our times.
— New York Times (1956)

We are shamelessly jumping on the bicentennial of Herman Melville's birth to show John Huston and Ray Bradbury's wonderful adaptation of Moby Dick.

Given it's under two-hours long the film remains admirably faithful to its source. "Call me Ishmael" declares itinerant whaler Richard Basehart as the opening credits fade. Though slightly intimidated by the sermon delivered by Father Mapple (Orson Welles in a brilliant one-take cameo), who warns that those who challenge the sea are in danger of losing their souls, Ishmael nonetheless signs on to the Pequod, a whaling ship captained by the brooding, one-legged Ahab (Gregory Peck).

For lo these many years, Ahab has been engaged in an obsessive pursuit of Moby Dick, the great white whale to whom he lost his leg. Ahab's fixation spreads throughout the crew members, who maniacally join their captain in his final, fatal attack upon the elusive, enigmatic Moby Dick. Screenwriter Ray Bradbury masterfully captures the allegorical elements in the Herman Melville original without sacrificing any of the film's entertainment value (Bradbury suffered his own "great white whale" in the form of director Huston, who sadistically ran roughshod over the sensitive author throughout the film). Cinematographer Oswald Morris' washed-out colour scheme brilliantly underlines the foredoomed bleakness of the story.

A classic slice of big-budget 1950s Hollywood.