IL CINEMA RITROVATO 2017: FISHING FOR GOD
by Tara Judah (Desistfilm)
The most memorable movies aren’t always the best, but there’s something about an earnest stinker that can make the heart swell. Featured in the festival’s Universal Pictures: the Laemmle Junior Years strand, Tay Garnett’s Destination Unknown (1933) is this year’s knock-out rediscovery. A stranger to subtlety, Destination Unknown is a moral allegory warning against the social ills of post-depression America in its last years of prohibition. The men are dehydrated and their tensions rising, until a quite literal saviour appears at the eleventh hour. Clunky would be kind, so I’ll call it catastrophic instead; each allegorical reveal plays out with the nuance of a screaming child. The most amusing example of which is when the Jesus character – a mysterious 13th man, stowed aboard, who has somehow turned wine into water– tells the captain and chief that he ‘was a carpenter, once’. And yet, this ham-fisted divine intervention is forgivable in the wake of a wonderfully consistent slow creak that lends the film its stuck-at-sea rhythmic beat. There’s also Alan Hale’s occasionally Scottish, slightly Irish and altogether unfathomable attempt at a Swedish accent to enjoy. It’s hard to see this as a stepping stone to a career that would go on to boast The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), but Garnett’s stay at Universal was brief, by all accounts.