Man, today is going to be a fun day weather-wise. All sorts of storm and tornado warnings pretty much all day long. In an odd way, this weather actually makes watching this movie a little more fun. So when I saw the title of this movie, I thought I was going to get a monster movie about a half-man/half-fish creature terrorizing people. Instead, I get a movie based off of a couple of Edgar Allan Poe stories and you know what, I am perfectly ok with that. So let’s see what we get with today’s movie, Manfish.
The plot: Inspector Warren of Scotland Yard flies down to Jamaica and heads over to the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Lead into the office of one of the inspectors, Warren hands over a photo and extradition papers for a man known as “The Professor” but the inspector says that he can’t allow him to leave, then proceeds to tell Warren a story as to the reason why. Some time past, a man named Brannigan won a ship named the Manfish and it’s first mate, Swede, in a card game but is ducking paying the creditors. When the creditors threaten to take the boat, Swede and the other two deck hands go looking for Brannigan and Swede finds him playing poker, and Brannigan gives Swede enough money to pay the deck hands. That night, Brannigan is at a local bar and starts talking to a woman when her date, the Professor, returns to the table and, when Brannigan refuses to leave, throws his drink in Brannigan’s face. Brannigan grabs his wrist and is about to punch him, noting the ring the Professor is wearing, but the two are separated before anything happens and the Professor leaves with the girl. The next day, Brannigan takes the Manfish out to do some turtle fishing and as his crew dive down to collect turtles, they spot a skeleton clutching a bottle. Brannigan brings the bottle back to the ship and finds a ring, similar to the Professor’s, and a note written in French. Heading back to port, Brannigan goes to see a female friend of his, who is able to read the note and Brannigan learns that it is from a pirate name Jean Lafitte and tells the location of a buried treasure, but he needs the other half of the map. Brannigan goes to see the Professor and after showing him the ring he found, asks where he found his ring. After Brannigan threatens him, the Professor points to a nearby cove and says that he found the ring there. Brannigan heads back to his ship and grabs some scuba gear, then dives down to where the Professor said he found the ring. Back on the shore, the Professor dons his own gear and takes a spear gun with him as he goes after Brannigan. Seeing Brannigan, the Professor fires his spear gun at him but misses and the two end up struggling underwater before carrying their fight to the surface. On the shore line, Alita, the Professor’s female companion, tells Brannigan to kill the Professor, as she has the other half of the map, but the Professor says that Brannigan will need him to translate the map and Brannigan reluctantly lets him live. Taking the Professor and Alita onto the Manfish, Brannigan has Swede pick up enough supplies for a week’s journey while the Professor translates the map. Heading off to Hispaniola, where the treasure is supposedly buried, Brannigan, Swede, and the Professor take the life boat ashore and head up into the jungle. Heading to where the map leads them, the Professor sees a skull in a tree and says then need to drop a line through it’s eye so they can see what direction the treasure is buried. After Swede climbs the tree and drops the line, they head off in the direction the Professor indicates and after going the distance listed on the map, begin digging. They eventually find the treasure and Brannigan tells Swede to go get the boat ready to sail while they cover up the hole but the Professor says that he means to bury him in the hole. Swede refuses to leave and let Brannigan do that, even when Brannigan offers him the boat, and the Professor indicates that there is more treasure to be found so Brannigan reluctantly allows him to live. The three head back to the Manfish, and Brannigan gives Alita a bracelet from the chest, before heading below with her and the treasure. The Professor heads down to talk with Brannigan about what they should do next and Brannigan heads up to steer the ship back to port so they can sell some of the treasure in order to buy enough supplies to find the rest but while he is gone, the Professor hides a spear gun underneath his mattress. When they reach port, the Professor gives Swede enough treasure to sell to get £300 and Brannigan tells him to speak to their friend Aleppo about buying the treasure. Swede and Alita leave and Brannigan tells the Professor that he needs to work fast in translating the other map but the Professor says there isn’t another map, then shoots Brannigan with the spear gun. The Professor drags the body up onto the deck and is forced to hide it when Brannigan’s former crew show up to get money that Brannigan owes them. The Professor pays them off but before he can get rid of the body, a ship pulls into port next to them. After more obstacles occur through out the day and night, the Professor is finally able to get rid of the body, tying it to one of the air tanks and dumping it overboard. However, the rope causes the air tank to slightly open, allowing air to bubble up and in the Professor’s nervous mind, it sounds like someone trying to breath underwater. Already nervous about what he had done, the Professor then grabs the treasure and secures it with a rope before tossing it overboard, planning on pulling it up later when they leave port. Swede and Alita return to the ship after selling the treasure and the Professor tells them that Brannigan had taken the treasure and left. The Professor says they should leave but Swede refuses to believe that Brannigan left them and chooses to wait for him. The next morning, the creditors arrive for the money for the Manfish and the Professor keeps saying that Brannigan is gone. Swede notices that one of the air tanks is missing and that the Professor keeps looking overboard and dives down into the water and finds Brannigan’s body. Swede has some people help him bring the body on board, while the police arrest the Professor, who swears it was self defense. Alita, seeing how upset Mimi, Brannigan’s female friend, is, she gives Mimi the bracelet that Brannigan gave her and walks off, but Mimi simply drops it on the pier and walks away. Swede uses the money from selling the treasure to pay off the creditors and they declare him the owner of the Manfish. Happy at the news, Swede hires back their old crew and they set sail but as they are sailing off, Swede notices a rope caught in the prop and tugs it free, not realizing that the treasure was tied to it and it sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
Despite my initial disappointment over the title, this was a pretty good movie. The acting was pretty good, with John Bromfield (Brannigan), Victor Jory (Professor), and Lon Chaney Jr. (Swede) doing really good jobs in their roles. Victor Jory was especially good after he killed Brannigan and kept getting more anxious, nervous, when he kept facing obstacles in hiding the body, then fell deeper into madness as he kept believing he heard Brannigan gasping for air under the water. The story was great, especially since I have read the Poe stories that were used as influences, “The Gold Bug” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and could pick out the scenes where those influences took place. There wasn’t much in the way of special effects but the tone was pretty good and definitely helped move the movie along. A good adventure movie that is worth watching.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5