The Ghost Ship is a black-and-white film starring Richard Dix. The film was directed by Mark Robson and produced by Val Lewton for RKO Radio Pictures.
Tom Merriam, a young officer (Wade) joins the crew of a ship, the Altair
. At first all seems well and Merriam bonds with the Captain, Will Stone (Dix). However, as the cruise continues, several crewmen die mysteriously. Merriam comes to believe that Captain Stone, who is obsessed with authority, is responsible. When they dock at the first port, Merriam attempts to expose the Captain's madness but is discredited and subsequently fired.
Soon after this, Merriam is involved in a fight and knocked out. One of his former shipmates (unaware that he was dismissed from the ship) finds him and returns the unconscious man to the Altair
before she steams from port. Merriam wakes up on the ship and fears that the insane Captain Stone may now attempt to kill him for vengeance.
- RKO tasked producer Lewton to make a sea-based film because the studio had a ship set already built for the film Pacific Liner in 1938.
- The film's producer Lewton was sued for plagiarism by playwrights Samuel R. Golding and Norbert Faulkner who claimed that the script was based on a play that was submitted to Lewton for a possible film. Lewton disputed the claim, but the court ruled against Lewton. The Ghost Ship was withdrawn from circulation and the film was unavailable for viewing for fifty years.
- The fictional Caribbean island of "San Sebastian" also appears in RKO's I Walked With a Zombie (another Lewton production) and Zombies on Broadway.
- The film was released as part of the Val Lewton Horror Collection DVD set in 2005.