The agonising tensions that go with the death struggles of a sinking luxury liner are presented with stark realism in The Last Voyage.
The crew of the SS Claridon is trying desperately to quell a fire in the engine room after a boiler has exploded.
Later, a bulkhead blows and the sea sweeps in.
In the meantime, passenger Laurie Henderson (Dorothy Malone) has been trapped under a heavy piece of steel in her stateroom.
The blast has ripped upwards through the decks, leaving her little daughter Jill (Tammy Marihugh) in a precarious position on a shallow ledge above the yawning hole.
Husband and father Cliff Henderson (Robert Stack) is driven to harrowing physical and mental tortures in his frenzied hurry to save his wife and child, and the confused and disorderly action of the crew trying to save the ship hampers and maddens Cliff.
Eventually, a powerful engine room worker – Hank Lawson (Woody Strode) – comes to his aid with an acetylene torch.
Such is the hectic pace of the film that the cast appear near physical exhaustion by the end.
George Sanders is impressive as Captain Robert Adams, a skipper of the old school who seeks to save the ship at any cost, and orders the Claridon to continue its course despite the fire down below.
The skipper makes mistake after mistake in a haughty manner, refusing to listen to subordinates who understand better than he what is in store for the ship and crew – key amongst them, Second Engineer Walsh (Edmond O’Brien) whose father perished on the Titanic.
Stack and Malone are also impressive, but the honours must go to little red-haired Tammy Marihugh, a marvellous child actress in a tight spot.
Tammy left the film industry in 1963 and eventually became an exotic dancer. She married a young bodybuilder called Rodney Larson who was violent and abusive to her until she shot him dead in March 1996.
She pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and in September 1997, was found guilty but given probation. She eventually remarried (happily) until her death in 2020, aged 68.
The Last Voyage is beautifully filmed in Metrocolor and the producing team of Andrew and Virginia Stone insisted on such realism that they leased a recently retired ship – a French liner called the SS Ile de France – about to be salvaged, set fire to it, blew it up and finally sank it at Japanese salvage docks.
Captain Robert Adams
Second Engineer Walsh
Chief Engineer Pringle
Third Officer Ragland
Third Officer Osborne
3rd Engineer Cole
2nd Mate Mace
Andrew L. Stone