Judging A Film By Its Cover: DEATH SHIP (1980)

Welcome (once again) to Judging A Film By Its Cover, where I take a horror movie with outstanding artwork and see if the film itself lives up to it! Today we take a look at one of my all-time favorite horror artworks courtesy of the somewhat great year of 1980! The impact of this art can be primarily seen in the poster for Ghost Ship, which not only (sort of) steals the title, but the artwork is nearly identical! Trust me; this art is FAR superior.

Death Ship (1980)


Plot Summary: Late one night, a huge ship rams into a cruise liner, resulting in the cruise sinking and nearly everybody dying, save for a few survivors (including George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke) and Richard Crenna (The Rambo movies)), who are adrift at sea on a life raft. However, the same ship that rammed the cruise comes along, and they unwittingly climb aboard. They find the ship abandoned, and soon find themselves getting picked off one by one by either the ship (which turns out to be a Nazi torture ship) itself or the now-insane captain of the cruise. Can they escape this ship of death?


Why The Art Is Great: Just look at that. Look. It’s beautifully painted and actually  very creepy. I like how the artist put the people on the life raft on the bottom corner of the art just to show how massive the ship is. Then there’s the huge amount of fog surrounding the ship, giving it an almost nightmarish atmosphere. The poster itself would be creepy even if the face wasn’t on the ship, but then they throw a lot of rips in the metal of the ship making a hideous face. Awesome. My one complaint is that the tagline isn’t that great. This is the only poster I have in my collection (so far) that’s an original one-sheet, and I’m proud to have it because this is one of my favorite horror artworks of all time.


Does The Film Live Up To It? How could it? No, it doesn’t, but I still really like the movie. I’ve always liked George Kennedy, but you have to admit, he’s been in some bad movies (anyone seen Wacko?), and I think he’s a good actor. This is no exception. Richard Crenna’s really good too, but the rest of the cast is only alright. The only really bad actors are the kids, but that’s typical for most movies. A lot of people have called this “The Shining on a ship,” and that hits it right on the head. There are a lot of haunted house tropes, from the ship running itself to the shower pouring blood instead of water. There isn’t a lot of blood or violence (besides the blood shower and when they find a torture chamber filled with decaying corpses in various torture devices).

The film itself isn’t very scary, save for a few nightmarish images later on in the movie. It does drag occasionally, but I found it different and intriguing enough to be really interesting most of the time. Of course, I’m a sucker for both horror movies set on a ship and horror movies about Nazis, and this has both. There are some suspenseful moments as well sprinkled here and there throughout. Until recently, this was never released on DVD, but those wonderful folks over at Scorpion Releasing are planning a DVD release for November! I know a lot of people dislike this one, but I enjoy it.


Well, there you have it. And if you have seen some great artwork out there that you want me to judge, comment below and let me know!

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