Seven Waves Away

Seven Waves Away (alternate U.S. titles: Abandon Ship! and Seven Days From Now) is a 1957 British drama film starring Tyrone Power, Mai Zetterling, Lloyd Nolan, and Stephen Boyd. When his ship goes down, an officer has to make an agonizing decision on his overcrowded lifeboat.

Seven Waves Away
US theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Sale
Produced byJohn R. Sloan
Tyrone Power (uncredited)
Based onSeven Waves Away
1938 short story
by Richard Sale
StarringTyrone Power
Mai Zetterling
Lloyd Nolan
Stephen Boyd
Music byArthur Bliss
CinematographyWilkie Cooper
Edited byRaymond Poulton
Copa Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • 3 December 1957 (1957-12-03) (London)
  • 17 April 1957 (1957-04-17) (New York City)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Richard Sale adapted the film from his 1938 short story of the same name, originally published by Scribner's Magazine. The plot has similarities to the real-life sinking of the American ship William Brown in 1841. The William Brown hit an iceberg 250 miles off Newfoundland and lost 31 of its 65 passengers. Two boats with 17 crewmen and the remaining passengers escaped the wreck, but more than a dozen passengers were sacrificed from the crowded longboat.[1]

Though there is no direct acknowledgment by the filmmakers, the film ends with a voice-over stating, "The story which you have just seen is a true one. In real life, Captain [sic] Alexander Holmes was brought to trial on a charge of murder. He was convicted and given the minimum sentence of six months because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the incident."


The luxury liner SS Crescent Star sinks in seven minutes after striking a derelict mine in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, taking with her nearly all of the 1,156 people on board. Twenty-seven of the survivors converge on a single lifeboat designed to accommodate only nine. The dying captain passes command to executive officer Alec Holmes. Holmes then learns from "Sparks" Clary, the ship's radio operator, that both transmitters were destroyed before a call for help could be sent. Holmes decides to try to reach the nearest land, Africa, 1,500 miles away.

With a major storm approaching, the ship's engineer, Frank Kelly, warns Holmes that the overloaded boat will be swamped unless some of the passengers are jettisoned. The mortally injured Kelly then sacrifices himself by jumping overboard. Holmes decides to get rid of the old and injured, over the shocked protests of his girlfriend, ship's nurse Julie White. When he orders crewman Will McKinley to dispose of an unconscious woman, McKinley obeys, then jumps in after her. One by one, Holmes sends others to certain death, until there are 15 left aboard. Passenger Edith Middleton observes that an atomic scientist, a brilliant playwright, and a famous former opera singer have been sacrificed to save two "apemen", a racketeer, and a devout coward. Passenger Michael Faroni demands Holmes go back for the others. When Holmes refuses, Faroni seriously wounds him in the shoulder with a switchblade and is in turn shot dead with a flare gun.

The lightened lifeboat weathers the storm and the rest of the survivors thank Holmes for saving them. Realising he is now a liability due to his wound, Holmes throws himself overboard, but Julie brings him back aboard. Then, they spot a ship. As it comes to pick them up, the others, with the exceptions of Julie White and Edith Middleton, quickly distance themselves from Holmes' actions.


See also

  • Souls at Sea, a 1937 Henry Hathaway film also based on the William Brown incident
  • Lifeboat, 1944 Alfred Hitchcock film
  • Survival film, about the film genre, with a list of related films


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