A wonderfully realised cine-tale of Herman Melville's timeless book of revenge and ambition. On the surface this is a marvellous tale of adventure upon the high seas. An insight into the 19th-century trade of whaling in which the dangerous hunt, if successful, may not only satisfy the need for exhilaration, where untested men and boys would arrive home fully grown through their adventures, but also where a high price may be had for the precious whale oil acquired from their victims.
There is, however, another side to this tale. The book Moby-Dick (or Moby Dick) warns of the price of obsession and the single-mindedness of pursuing a goal whose only purpose is to recklessly face and destroy the monster within at all costs. The story is deeply symbolic with intense Jungian overtones and is deeply haunting and profoundly meaningful. Starbuck's comment to Ahab on this matter is precise.
Within the book, each of the characters, and indeed locations, present facets, both light and dark, which exist within each of us. The adventurer; the monomaniac; the cool-headed reasoner; the savage; the fanatic; the rebel; the spiritualist. These, combined with the direction of the story, explode before the reader casting poignant shards in the heart's direction. The story fully envelopes the self and places us into a state of insecure exhilaration, better known as suspense. To have a single-minded aim tainted by revenge is sure to lead to a downfall, whether mortally...or spiritually. I encourage all to read the story of Moby-Dick and marvel at how it touches upon the collective unconsciousness.
Now to the film and DVD. John Huston's version is indeed Gothic. The dialogue (Ray Bradbury) is well-crafted for the film and the visuals compliment the story superbly. There may be one or two times where one might spot some inconsistencies but we can accept this. It does not detract from the overall picture and we should not be too fussy as Huston's intent is clear. We should be grateful Huston and Bradbury were able to utilise their skills in transferring a deeply symbolic tale to the big screen and still retain its impact.
The print used by Optimum Home Entertainment is excellent but do not be put off by the semi washed-out colour of the film as Huston intended this. He deliberately shot the film under overcast skies and the interiors with a partial chiaroscuro effect to fit this dark tale.
As an endnote I must take my hat off to the DVD cover designer showing Captain Ahab, the whale's flukes, and the harpoon's flukes to which Ahab intently looks upon; this image says it all.