Even if forgiving the melodramatic story, Mare Nostrum plays more like a travelogue with occasionally interesting effects scenes than anything else. Ingram’s a fine director–except his awkward cuts to close-up, they’re common, which is annoying since his other compositions are not–and the film moves quite well. It’s predictable (the end is foreshadowed in the first scene and the big development is kind of obvious) and often too much… but it passes time well, using action scenes to get the interest up.
Of the action scenes, I suppose the chase through Marseille is the best. There are some excellent special effects sequences, but Ingram uses them sparingly. The movie’s about a Mediterranean sea captain during World War I and there’s some at sea sequences with well-shot models. Technically, it’s a nice film. I love not being able to figure out how someone did special effects.
The performances are okay in general, with Pâquerette an excellent villain. Antonio Moreno is ineffective the first half as the lead and better, once the big development occurs, in the second. Unfortunately, the reverse is true for Alice Terry. As the love interest (and Austrian spy), she’s a lot better at the beginning than in the end. Not all of it is her fault, the script throws her some really absurd situations.
Given the World War I subject matter, I figured Mare Nostrum would be a little better. I don’t know why, maybe because there’s so much possible material, it’d be hard for something not to use it… but the film manages. Still, it’s fine. Not particularly interesting, definitely not involving, but there’s some good stuff in it.
Directed by Rex Ingram; screenplay by Willis Goldbeck, based on the novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez; director of photography, John F. Seitz; edited by Grant Whytock; produced by Ingram, Harry Lachman and Walter Pallman; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Starring Apollon Uni (The Triton), Álex Nova (Don Esteban Ferragut), Kada-Abd-el-Kader (Young Ulysses), Hughie Mack (Caragol), Alice Terry (Freya Talberg), Antonio Moreno (Ulysses Ferragut), Mademoiselle Kithnou (Dona Cinta), Mickey Brantford (Esteban), Rosita Ramírez (Pepita), Frédéric Mariotti (Toni), Pâquerette (Doctor Fedelmann), Fernand Mailly (Count Kaledine) and Andrews Engelmann (Submarine Commander).