Moby Dick

In DVD/Blu-ray by Paula Hammond - Features Editor

One of the all-time epics, Moby Dick is the latest film to be given a blu-ray makeover, with a fully-restored version available to buy this November. 

Based on the bestselling book by Herman Melville, scripted by Ray Bradbury, and directed by John Huston, Moby Dick tells the tale of Ishmael (Richard Baseheart) who signs up for service aboard the Pequad, captained by the mysterious Captain Ahab (Gregory Peck). 

Huston himself called Moby Dick “The story of Noah in reverse” and the film is a rich allegorical tale, told  with Huston’s trademark bold brushstrokes. And maybe that’s part of the reason that critics savaged the film on its release. In fact, it failed to get a single Oscar nomination, not even for the startling cinematography and subdued colour-palate which was intended to evoke 19th-Century seafaring engravings. And that’s a genuine crime because while, yes, Moby Dick fails to deliver a convincing or even scary whale, the film itself is brilliantly realised. The script slices through Melville’s subtle moral philosophy with style and aplomb, delivering a product drenched in ominous metaphors and out-right lunacy.

Peck was widely seen as being mis-cast—too nice a guy to be a convincing Ahab—but in truth he’s never been better. Looking like some weird Lincoln wannabe probably didn’t help the way that audiences reacted to the film, but there’s no doubting the fire in his belly all the same.

The new StudioCanal release comes complete with an interview with Angela Allen—script supervisor for Moby Dick, commentary with film historians Julie Kirgo, Paul Seydor and Nick Redman, and a restoration featurette.

It’s a classic for a reason.