Directed by Stuart Orme
Written by Guy Burt, based on the novel by George E Simpson and Neal R Burger
Starring David Jason (Jack Hardy), Ian Puleston-Davies (Commander Travis), Tony Haygarth (Alan Cassidy), Julian Wadham (Captain Byrnes), James Laurenson (Admiral Nealy), Robert Whitelock (Spender), Jamie Martin (Tyler), Roger Evans (Monroe), Robert Horwell (Mason), Alan Stocks (Peterson), Lee Whitlock (Reeves), Ricky Nixon (Langdon) and Jonathan Cullen (Captain Basquine)
1981: HMS Scorpion, a World War II British submarine, suddenly surfaces in the path of a Russian merchant ship, 38 years after it disappeared in the Baltic Sea. When the hatch is opened there are no bodies found inside and the vessel shows no signs of aging or having been at the bottom of sea for such a long period of time. Commander Travis of naval intelligence is put in charge of finding out what happened and decides to follow the path of its final known voyage, taking with him Professor Jack Hardy, the only survivor of the original crew, who was picked up by the German Navy in open water, but has no memory of what happened or why he survived, and Alan Cassidy, one of the submarine’s designers. A series of strange and disconcerting events leads Hardy to the conclusion that they are caught in some kind of rift in time.
‘Ghostboat’ is a feature-length drama production made for Yorkshire Television (ITV) that was broadcast in two parts, with a total running time in the region of 140 minutes. It stars David Jason, a staple of British Television, who is perhaps best known for his role as Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter in the much-loved BBC sit-com ‘Only Fools and Horses’, but had, between 1992 and 2008, starred as Inspector Jack Frost in the popular ITV crime drama ‘A Touch of Frost’. ‘Ghostboat’, which was first broadcast in April 2006, is based on a 1978 novel of the same name, although in the book the action takes place in the 1970s in the Pacific Ocean and the “enemy” is the Japanese. In the film the action occurs in the early 1980s, the enemy is Nazi Germany and the action takes place against a backdrop of the Cold War and the uneasy diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.
The film, although rather slow moving and repetitive, is quite effectively staged, although I have read that the submarine is not authentic, something that did not affect my viewing because I know nothing about these things. It is too long and once it becomes clear what is happening and Hardy begins to piece together memories that he had previously blocked it does start to drag somewhat. I am not convinced that David Jason is particularly effective in the lead role. He doesn’t give a bad performance by any means, but he does seem a little miscast.
Ultimately it is all a little daft, but I enjoyed it. Some comparisons might be made with the 2002 film ‘Below’ and, up to a point, the 1980 film ‘The Final Countdown’.
Review posted 22 December 2009