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Death Ship (1980) - Blu-ray Review

4 beers“It’s as if it is deliberately trying to ram us!” When it comes to farewell lines in seafaring history, there might not be a more prophetic sentence spoken… unless, of course, someone on the Titanic uttered something about needing ice for a drink mere seconds before the ship hit the iceberg. I know, I know. Bad taste, Hays. Well, this is a movie all about bad taste so relax, and, thankfully, this movie has FINALLY seen the light of day in HD.

If tossing naked and nubile passengers overboard is your particular cup of tea, you should look no further than coming aboard this Death Ship. And that, ye hooligan of bad taste, is only one part of the twisted fun in this maddening tale of the haunted high seas.  I mean, poor George Kennedy, wow, does he ever get ground up...

I’m not going to prance around the subject. This horror movie is about a boat that kills people. If that’s not enough to get your juices flowing, then this is not the horror movie for you. We’re talking this boat is pitch black in color, striking in angles, and – with its ladders descended and its windows slowly snaking open and closed again – it is damned memorable as it overlords over a bunch of bad stuff happening to the survivors of its latest wrecking.  That's right, with no one on board, this ghost boat smashes its way into eternity.

"If tossing naked and nubile passengers overboard is your particular cup of tea, you should look no further than coming aboard this Death Ship."

Sure, it offers the survivors safe passage for awhile.  But once they start poking around and reveal its Nazi origins, well, their survival is none of its concern.  The boat wants blood!  With high angles all the rage, this low budget thriller manages to make big waves on Blu-ray thanks to Scorpion Releasing.  

The Shining goes to sea, you ask? Well, yes, it is like that – except on a mediocre budget, no Jack Nicholson, and not nearly enough directorial smarts to stay the course. What more do you need in a horror movie? Depending on your answer, you might find yourself choosing sides in the long-standing argument about just who should have directed this B-movie which stars Academy Award winner (as previously mentioned) George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Sally Ann Howes, Nick Mancuso, and Warehouse 13’s Saul Rubinek.

Originally written by THE Jack Hill (note my preference already) and directed be Alvin Rakoff, it is fairly obvious that Death Ship is a film that exists in two separate worlds.   Jack Hill (Coffy, Foxy Brown, The Big Bird Cage) wrote a psychological ghost story called Blood Star.  It is a damn good story, in fact.  But Rakoff, who wasn’t really into horror films, needed a ticket out of television production and, since this film was a Canadian production, he got the gig to direct. Jack Hill was out of consideration and that, dear readers, is where this discussion comes from.  Would Hill have done it differently?  He would have.  We don't know if it would have been better but it is fun to pretend.

Instead, Death Ship is a horror vehicle with no real destination in mind. It exists because it exists.  Sure, the Nazi leanings are interesting and, with some great camera shots, there are some pretty cool scenes, too but with little suspense, the whole thing gets scrapped too soon. Thankfully, the ghosts on board – who really love their music – have fun scaring the crap out of the survivors who have little explanation for the things happening around them. It’s not until time itself seems to collide with the survivors that we get a peek into why exactly this haunted tale is happening. It is a reveal that is pretty sweet, even if some of the surrounding logic fails.

From footsteps down empty passageways to heavy breathing following some of the survivors, Death Ship attempts to go after the captain of the ship first, but it won’t be outdone if its attempts aren’t realized. There are plenty of targets to choose from.  The ship, full of odd details like old film reels and magazines about Hitler, is set in a locked course around the Atlantic Ocean in huge circles. Endlessly going in one continuous circle after another is its life.

To be fair, I like this movie more than I should. It has its problems, yes, and I can’t help but wish that Hill was behind the camera, but none of that gives me a pause in its overall appreciation as a good horror gem that few give credit to.  It’s unusually paced and uneven in its treatment of a haunted storyline (complete with monstrous mutations and showers of blood), but the horror film is one of the few haunted boat stories that we have and we, as connoisseurs of the b-movie craft, are all the better for it. A world without Death Ship is a world I’d not like to live in.  

Scorpion Releasing is proud to present Death Ship on blu-ray for the very first time with a new 2K scan of the original iterpositive of the unedited, longer cut. Clocking in at 93 minutes, the film and its array of ghosts are stepping up to the bridge to report for duty. Inspecting the wheelhouse has never been this spooky.

Death Ship and its ghost crew are awaiting your orders.


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Death Ship (1980) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
91 mins
: Alvin Rakoff
John Robins
George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Nick Mancuso
: Horror | Horror | Mystery
What in the living hell is on board?
Memorable Movie Quote: "Into eternity, Marshall. Eternity."
Theatrical Distributor:
AVCO Embassy Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
March 7, 1980
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 18, 2012
Synopsis: A terrifying tale of a possessed ship searching for new victims on the high seas! An ocean liner carrying vacationing passengers collides with a mysterious freighter. The handful of survivors seek refuge aboard the sinister freighter, which turns out to be possessed by the evil that once commanded it! The Deathship has a life of its own….pray you are never rescued by the Deathship!


[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

Death Ship (1980) - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Scorpion Releasing
Available on Blu-ray
- December 18, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: None
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

Featuring a new 2K scan from the Interpositive, this release from Scorpion Releasing is a real shocker as the 1.78:1 HD master is detailed and looks better than ever. Some shots, due to the era of the day, are fuzzier than others but the image is reasonably well defined with crisp contrasts and solid textures. The blood, thanks to a tasty shower scene, is bold and bright.. Colors are solid, with blues being a standout. Blacks are, too. Surprisingly, there's enough fine detail on display to make this seem revelatory with its closed-in location. The era-ready color palette looks terrific, too. The disc comes with a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Audio soundtrack.



  • The audio commentary with director Alvin Rakoff still confirms for us that he never really cared for the original script. We get it. He talks at length about the changes he made to the script and about the shooting itself.

Special Features:

So, there’s the new 2K scan of the original interpositive of the longer cut, Katrina Nightmare Theatre mode, a featurette with Rakoff, writer Jack Hill, actors George Kennedy and Nick Mancuso talking about the movie, the film’s Isolated Music Score, What the Ship is Saying featurette, Original Script, Still Gallery, Original Trailer, English Subtitles, Reversible Cover, and a limited-edition slipcover. Get this one fast.

  • Nightmare Theatre Mode
  • Stormy Seas Featurette
  • Isolated Music Score
  • What the Ship is Saying Featurette
  • “Blood Star” Original Script
  • Still Gallery
  • Trailers


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Death Ship (1980) - Blu-ray Review