Joan Collins takes the Biscuit
For some strange reason I find "Sea Wife" watch able, even entertaining despite it having a whole cavalcade of issues. Those issues include over acting, contrived story elements and basically being absurdly unbelievable. Yet it draws you into the story of 4 very different people aboard a life raft as relationships form and tension rises as the realisation of their dire situation hits home. Technically it's bad but then it still works in a very average, melodramatic sort of way.
When a British cargo ship carrying evacuees out of Singapore is sunk by a Japanese submarine, 4 passengers manage to make it aboard a life raft. With very little food and water the four of them battle the elements in the hope that they will find land. But along the way tensions run high between the survivors as the realisation that they may die causes problems as does when handsome RAF Officer, Biscuit (Richard Burton - The Wild Geese) falls for the beautiful Sea Wife (Joan Collins - The Bitch) as he is unaware that she is in fact a nun.
The way "Sea Wife" works is that it starts sometime in the 40's with Biscuit, yes I did say Biscuit, placing ads in the national newspapers looking for Sea Wife. It makes you wonder what is going on which is answered when he visits a hospital and catches up with an old acquaintance. What follows and dominates the movie is a flashback to the sinking of a ship in 1942 and 4 survivors spending several torturous days aboard a raft before drifting to a desert island. The focus of this flashback is the relationships between the four survivors all with nick names, never revealing their real identity. So we watch the racist Bulldog have issues with No. 4 a black seaman and then there is Biscuit who falls for Sea Wife who is called such because No. 4 thought she looked like a mermaid whilst swimming.
Now this wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't that everything which happens to them aboard the raft and on the desert island is seriously contrived. We get moments of danger, a storm, a run in with a Japanese ship and then when they reach the island No. 4 finding an old machete which leads to murderous thoughts. Those are just a few of the moments which feel seriously manufactured, set piece scenes which rather than adding to the drama end up detracting from the interactions between these 4 survivors. One of the worst features danger from a shark, a scene which ends up being cheesy rather than exciting.
And then you have those relationships and to be honest they're not great. The racial tension between Bulldog and No. 4 seems all so cliche and very predictable. And then there is the rumblings of romance between the handsome biscuit and the beautiful Sea Wife which seems to drag on far too long. What makes the romance so hard to take is why Sea Wife doesn't want to reveal that she is a nun to the other survivors, is she ashamed, worried that the arrogant Bulldog will make fun of her? It's unanswered and makes it feel like something is missing as does the rather abrupt and surprising ending.
Then there is the acting and unfortunately every single star is prone to some serious over acting. Between far too many long woeful gazes into the distance, overly theatrical deliverance of the dialogue and at times the occasional long pause where it seems like they are trying to remember their lines and it doesn't quite work. And to be honest casting the seriously hot Joan Collins as a nun doesn't work either, it just doesn't feel right. Although the rest of the casting is spot on with Richard Burton being the handsome one, Basil Sydney the arrogant racist and Cy Grant being a bit too much of a stereotype as No. 4 for my liking.
The strangest thing is that having basically criticised pretty much everything about "Sea Wife" I have to say that it is both watch able and entertaining. It's by no means great entertainment but it draws you into the story aboard the raft and although some of the scenes border on being laughable it keeps you watching. Part of which is that you do want to know whether Biscuit ever finds his Sea Wife and so you long for the flashback to end and return to the present in the hope that he does.
What this all boils down to is that "Sea Wife" has a lot of issues and technically should be a bad movie because of them but it is surprisingly watch able. And to be honest watching Richard Burton try to romance Joan Collins makes for some cliche but entertaining scenes.