Sea Wife (1957)
“What happened out there…in the surging vastness of the India Ocean?”
Sea Wife (1957)
Director: Bob McNaught
Cast: Joan Collins, Richard Burton, Basil Sydney
Synopsis: After their vessel is sunk by a Japanese submarine off the coast of Singapore during World War II, a beautiful nun, a black purser, a military officer and a racist businessman escape in a small lifeboat.
Sea Wife is a curious little shipwreck movie which focuses more on the will-they, won’t-they relationship of Richard Burton’s (Alexander the Great, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf) man of the world and undercover nun Joan Collins (yeah, I know.) as they and a couple of others find themselves marooned at sea during WWII.
Both are on a ship ferrying British and European citizens away from Singapore which is sunk by a Jap sub. Burton and Collins (Turn the Key Softly, The Virgin Queen) – who is forced to jump ship without her habit – find themselves occupying the same dinghy, together with a racist Colonial type (Basil Sydney) and the ship’s black purser (Cy Grant). These two are mostly there to supply some much-needed friction, as Burton and Collins dance around each other. Why Collins didn’t just own up to being married to a Significant Other, rather than playing coy is something of a mystery – she had nothing to lose or gain from keeping her status secret. And it would have saved poor old Burton from a whole heap of frustration.
Because Sea Wife chooses to concentrate on the relationship between Burton and Collins, it seems to go nowhere and you end up wandering what the point of it all is. The sub-plot regarding Sidney’s racist attitudes towards Grant, and the megalomaniacal leanings of the black man which are revealed when the relative status positions are reversed upon Grant’s discovery of a machete, would make a movie of its own if it were expanded upon, but writer George K. Burke doesn’t appear to have the requisite skills to create the necessary depths and nuances of character.
(Reviewed 1st March 2012)