Alright, alright, you got me: This isn’t a horror movie at all. It’s what people back in the day called a “disaster film.” The Towering Inferno (1974) is one of the more famous examples of this cinematic genre. The Poseidon Adventure (1972) is another (I guess every Titanic movie ever made is as well). They still make movies like this today, but they suck, just like everything else today (Split and Get Out included). Back in the old days, though, they could really shake ‘em down.
The Last Voyage starts with the captain of an aging liner on one of its last ocean crossings getting an ominous note from one of his officers: FIRE IN THE BOILER ROOM. Oh, snap! Luckily the S.S. Claridon is a hardy veteran and no punk bitch. She’ll just walk it off.
Below decks, a bunch of stokers/engineers (including a big, slick, shirtless black man, a shocking sight in 1960, I’d imagine) fight to quell the flames. They get-r-done, but all the safety values are fused shut by the fire and the ship can’t let off steam or something. I don’t know. I’m not a fucking scientist. Anyway, a giant explosion rips through the center of the ship. Cliff (Robert Stack of Unsolved Mysteries fame) and his wife and daughter are trapped in their cabin, little Jill (or was it Julie? I forget. Cute kid, though) is perched precariously on a shelf over a gaping hole while mom (forget her name entirely) is pinned under what looks like a piece of hull. Cliff rescues his daughter and desperately tries to free his wife to no avail.
Meanwhile, on deck, the captain and his chief officer argue about whether to assemble the passengers and start putting them off in the boats. The captain is a stubborn old cuss, and doesn’t want to do it. Below decks, the black dude (Hank), and a bunch of guys fight to pump out the water rushing in and to shore up a bulkhead. If that bulkhead gives, the Clairidon is doomed. Dum-duh-da!
Eventually Cliff makes his way to the boiler room in search of a torch. Hank, realizing the bulkhead will give any minute, helps Cliff get the torch (and attendant big ass tank) to his cabin just as the bulkhead collapses in a spectacular rush of water. They don’t have all the necessary parts for the tank, however, so, shit.
On the bridge, the captain gives the order to lower the boats and gets an earful from the chief stoker, who calls him a boob or something. The captain responds with a manly slap.
In the chaos, Cliff entrusts Hank with little June (or Jill or Jacky, whatever). Hank gets her to a lifeboat and returns to Hank and mom’s side. He’s totally committed to helping. Good dude.
Cliff eventually gets the chief stoker to come help, but the water is rising and there’s no getting wifey out. Cliff prepares to meet his doom.
Luckily, a lifeboat returns from rescue ship with the necessary part, and Hank arrives just when it looks like all is lost. He and the stoker-boss free mom, and they all escape as the ship begins to flood, swimming off the flooded boat deck just as the Caldoon slips beneath the waves. Oh, as for the captain, he’s crushed to death when a funnel falls onto the wheelhouse. His last words were basically crying because the boss stoker dude yelled at him. The captain was vapid and all about image, you know.
The first thing I have to say about this movie is: The effects are great. Really. This doesn’t look like a movie from 1960. They did a damn good job. The secret seems to be that they used a real ship (the S.S. Ile de France) that was headed for the scrapyard and really took it to task. Smashed things, partially sank it, actually toppled the funnel onto the bridge. The shipping company was so appalled that they vowed to never allow another one of their ships to be used in such a way again (I get it was their flagship, but come on, it was headed for the chop shop anyway). You don’t get special effects like that from green screens and computers. Another reason old movies are better.
The acting was good, not overdone like in some other movies from the period. The tension also keeps tight until the very last minute. Some might argue it was a little much, but I was okay with it. Come on, it’s a fucking movie.
My one complaint (and it’s a minor one) is that we don’t get a long shot of the ship going down: Just a glimpse of one of its remaining funnels disappearing. But, hey, whatever. I was looking for a movie where a ship sank and I got it. Plenty of shots of panicked crowds, lifeboats, listing decks, water gushing in. Really cool movie. Five middle fingers.