Rum Goings On
Like so many movies from the 50s "Sealed Cargo" is both entertaining and seriously flawed. It is entertaining because we have a movie of two halves, a first half thriller and a second half action adventure movie with both working nicely. But it is flawed because realism makes way for fantasy, unbelievable elements and several questionable visual elements such as a woman in a gleaming white coat on a shipping vessel out at night in waters where u-boats patrol, it just wouldn't happen on so many levels. Yet when "Sealed Cargo" comes to an end you still feel strangely satisfied thanks to that mix of thriller and action.
Pat Bannon (Dana Andrews - Boomerang!) is the captain of a small shipping trawler in Gloucester, Massachusetts where with a lack of crew he is forced to take aboard the untested Danish sailor Konrad (Philip Dorn - The Fighting Kentuckian). He also finds himself reluctantly agreeing to ferry Margaret McLean (Carla Balenda) to a small shipping village in Newfoundland. But when first the radio aboard the trawler gets sabotaged and then they come close to being shelled it leaves Pat unsettled even more so when they come across a Danish schooner, torn to shreds with just a Captain and a cargo of rum aboard. Deciding to tow the schooner into harbour Pat grows increasingly suspicious and on investigating learns that there is something much more sinister going on.
So "Sealed Cargo" is a movie of two halves with the first half being a thriller as not only does Pat find himself with a new sailor and a woman aboard his trawler he also finds the radio has been sabotaged. Add to that one of his crew questioning whether Konrad is who he says he is and also a scene featuring someone sending signals using a cabin light and we have a nice sense of paranoia as Pat is unsure who he can trust and we are left wondering who if anyone is a traitor. This is heightened with the discovery of the eerie schooner with its sails ripped to shreds and just a Captain aboard, it leads to more questions.
But then there is the second half and once we discover exactly what is going on and who is who we basically get an action thriller as Pat along with those he can trust try to save the day. I won't go into details on what is what but I will say for a movie which is 60 years old the action side of things is still relatively exciting with director Alfred L. Werker doing a nice job of still delivering atmosphere when the action takes over.
The trouble is that "Sealed Cargo" is far fetched and is full of technical issues which stop you from taking it seriously. There is the already mentioned scene where we have Margaret in a white coat at night in wartime waters which might look good but is seriously wrong and the fact that Pat's boat was the only one which seemed to go out fishing almost immediately after returning from a trip is just as unbelievable. You may say I am being picky but the thing is that "Sealed Cargo" starts in such a way it feels like a movie made to honour those unsung heroes who delivered small victories during WWII yet because it ends up far fetched and unrealistic it makes it a bit cheesy at times.
The good thing is that whether authentic or not the actors do their jobs well. Dana Andrews, Carla Balenda and Philip Dorn all deliver solid performances whilst a young Skip Homeier delivers youthful enthusiasm. It is the performances rather than their characters which work because their actual characters are forgettable.
What this all boils down to is that "Sealed Cargo" is entertaining, it delivers action and mystery but in the end it is forgettable. For fans of old movies and the likes of Dana Andrews it is worth a watch but for those into realistic war movies it has a lot of problems.