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Review: Voyage of the Damned (1976)

Directed by: Stuart Rosenberg | 155 minutes | | Actors: Faye Dunaway, Oskar Werner, Lee Grant, Sam Wanamaker, Lynne Frederick, David de Keyser, , , , , Julie Harris, Nehemiah Persoff, , Paul Koslo, Jonathan Pryce, Brian Gilbert , , Adele Strong, Milo Sperber, , Malcolm McDowell, , Keith Barron, Anthony Higgins, Ian Cullen, Donald Houston, , Constantine Gregory, Don Henderson, Tom Laughlin, , Orson Welles, , Katharine Ross, Victor Spinetti, Michael Constantine, José Ferrer, , Fernando Rey, Bernard Hepton, Günther Meisner, , , , Frederick Jaeger, , , Philip Stone

“Voyage of the Damned” is the true story of a ship carrying German Jews that sailed to Cuba in 1939, before the start of World War II, but did not drop her crew because it turned out to be a propaganda stunt by the Nazis. The heartbreaking story is complemented by an impressive cast. Good film about a black page in the history of mankind. Many Nazi atrocities did not become apparent until World War II was in full swing. Voyage focuses on a shameful act before the start of the war. More than 900 relieved people left Germany to gradually find out that the world was not waiting for them. In fact, the Germans had planned everything in advance to blacken the Jews to the outside world and to polish the coat of arms of Germany.

Most of the film focuses on the people on board the “St. Louis “: the Jews from Germany, the crew and the spies who have to make sure that everything goes according to plan. The long playing time gives you enough time to get to know the characters. The passengers all have their story, but they have one thing in : they were humiliated in Germany. Not infrequently, “Voyage” focuses on human tragedies. These people have already been through a lot, but they also appear to encounter all kinds of misery in their personal lives. Many tears are shed. For example, in the port of Havana, Cuba, an elderly couple meets their daughter they haven’t seen for years. They only have a few minutes, after which the young woman is taken back by the Cuban police. Sad!

Voyage is all familiar faces. The cast is a real feast of recognition, which is not harmful to the quality of the film. Lee Grant (“Damien: Omen II”) and Faye Dunaway (“Eyes of Laura Mars”) are strong women who want to keep going despite all the misery. However, one of the two doesn’t have it all sorted out at the end of the movie. Orson Welles (“Citizen Kane”) is a well-to-do gentleman in Cuba, who prefers to be guided by money. Many other well-known names come by. In Cuba, for example, you’ll see Fernando Rey (“The French Connection”) and there is a cameo by Laura Gemser (“Black Emmanuelle”). One of the most beautiful roles, however, is reserved for the originally Swedish actor, Max von Sydow (“The Exorcist”). He is the captain of the “St. Louis “; a man of principles who cares about people. The problem, however, is that he is under the influence of the Nazis. When he lets the passengers land in Cuba, the Germans take care of him and his family. Von Sydow’s struggle with the well-being of his family and the lives of the 934 Jewish passengers is tangible. What can he do?

Voyage of the Damned is an impressive film about a human tragedy that took place just before the Second World War. Germany appears to be the evil genius, but Cuba also played a dubious role. For many, the Jewish passengers turn out to be nothing more than commodities. Steke casts a number of great roles from Von Sydow, Grant and Dunaway, among others. Stuart Rosenberg’s (“Brubaker”) direction is a bit messy, especially at the beginning, with a number of hastily cut scenes. Nevertheless a strong drama.

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