Sunday, January 2, 2011

Moby Dick (1956)

All about Peck

               We had never read or came across the novel ‘Moby Dick’ in high school.  This version of the film was my first encounter with the famous 800-page story.  Not knowing the original, I nevertheless felt that this 2-hour version seemed sufficient enough to encapsulate most of the points of the story.  And what an awesome story!  It is quite similar to the plot of Jaws, and Steven Spielberg even states the influence of this film in the ‘making of...’ feature on the Jaws DVD.
      But the coolest part of Moby Dick, that makes it so re-watchable today, is the acting.  It stars Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab who is out to kill the infamous white whale, and he just dominates every scene that he is in.  I found it extremely similar to Daniel Day-Lewis’ Daniel Plainview character in There Will Be Blood.  Peck plays it so over-the-top and he is so committed; it is almost as if he didn’t get the memo that the movie wasn’t going to be a soap opera.  But he isn’t the only one who is acting so cartoonish (in a good way).  This film also features the great Orson Welles in a guest role in the opening 20 minutes, as the priest of the seaside village.  He must have heard that Peck was going all out for this role, so he felt it necessary to try upstage him in his 5 minute speech and prosthetic make-up.  Watching these two people in Moby Dick was just an absolute pleasure.  Also, the production values were something to behold, particularly in the whale hunting sequences.  
Summary: This movie certainly holds up despite having not even been considered for any awards in its original release.  The acting is ‘juicy’(?) and seems to be a concise adaptation of the novel.  Plus, the DVD comes with a Coles Notes summation of the book!  I have it ranked at #253 of the 1405 movies I’ve ever seen [on flickchart,com].

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