A steamship is almost hit by a yacht in the fog. Captain Swanson (Stanley Fields) and his crew try to hail the yacht. One crewman notices that no one is at the helm. Swanson takes a dingy and some of his crew to the abandoned ship to investigate. He sends one man aboard to cut the engines so the rest can board. When they don’t hear from the crewman they board the ship and find him unconscious. Someone knocked him out. They then find a man who was hung and a woman who had been frozen to death. The rest of the ship seems empty. Swanson wonders what happened and where is everyone.
The yacht is the Dulcina. She was chartered by Maximilian Kreig (John Halliday) for a trip to Australia where he planned on marrying Lili Kingston (Shirley Grey). Also on board are Morton Hazlitt (Morgan Wallace) and his wife Millicent Hazlitt (Verree Teasdale) and Gregory Cordoff (Jack La Rue). Three days ago Kreig received a telegram informing him that he was being indicted for forgery and grand larceny. Knowing that he will be arrested as soon as he reaches land he decides to hatch a plan to escape justice.
To cover himself Kreig shoots the only person who knows about the message, the radioman. He then pretends to launch an investigation into the death of the radioman. Through manipulation he goads Cordoff and Hazlitt into fighting over Hazlitt’s wife Millicent. Cordoff stabs Hazlitt. Cordoff is confined to quarters and the ship is diverted to the Samoan Islands.
Kreig is far from done with his plans. He begins systematically killing everyone on board who finds out that he is the killer. His ultimate plan is to kill everyone and escape to one of the uninhabited Samoan Islands with Lili, whether she wants to go or not. A fly in the ointment occurs when Lili’s former fiancé, James Cowles (Neil Hamilton), is fished out of the ocean after ditching his plane. James had been following Lili and plans on getting her back.
“Terror Aboard” was released in 1933 and was directed by Paul Sloane. It is an American pre-Code mystery film.
I was pleasantly pleased with the movie. I wouldn’t really call it a mystery since you know who is responsible for everyone dying. The main draw of the film is not the various murders in the film but in the various murder methods, either done or manipulated by a calm and cool psychopath. There is a shooting, a stabbing, a hanging, one person is frozen to death, another is stabbed with a letter spike, and of course, lots of people were drowned. It appears as though it is a mystery since the beginning of the film is when the derelict yacht is found but then the rest of the movie is in flashback.
It’s a short film, a little over an hour, so the murders happen fast and furious which keep the pace going, once the flashback sequences begin.
Comic relief is in the form of Charlie Ruggles as Blackie Witherspoon, Kreig’s personal steward. Ruggles is sometimes funny and sometimes not. In this movie he is a bit out of place since most of the film is serious and dramatic except when he is bumbling his way on screen.