Moby Dick Parent Guide
While scenes of blood-filled waters and dying animals may be disturbing, this adaptation of Melville's tragic story is a great reminder of the dangers of selfish pursuits.
Parent Movie Review
Director John Huston brought the seafaring epic, Moby Dick, to the big screen in 1956. Based on the classic novel by Herman Melville, this oceanic tale follows the troubled and ill-fated voyage of Captain Ahab (Gregory Peck) and his hapless crew.
Looking for adventure, a young man named Ishmael (Richard Basehart) and a tattooed harpooner from the South Pacific (Friedrich von Ledebut) sign up as shipmates on the whaler Pequod. However on the day they are about to set sail under Captain Ahab and his first mate Starbuck (Leo Genn), the pair receives a prophetic warning from a scraggly-looking sailor on the Jeroboam. He predicts the untimely deaths of the captain and all the crew, save one—the one who will return to testify of the captain’s madness.
Compared to today’s action adventures, this story begins at a dawdling pace while introducing crewmembers and establishing Captain Ahab’s obsessive, unstable mental condition. The knots pick up when the fishermen encounter their first prey. Rowing alongside a whale, they repeatedly spear the beast until blood fills the rough waters surrounding the boats. Scenes that follow depict the whalers cutting up the fish and boiling down his blubber into oil.
But as the expedition continues, the sailors realize their commander isn’t interested in filling their hull with marketable whale parts. Starbuck pleads with the captain to listen to reason and even invokes the help of God in his efforts. But Ahab’s obsession with killing his nemesis, Moby Dick, becomes increasingly obvious. (The great white sperm whale took Ahab’s leg in an earlier encounter.) And though he tries, Starbuck isn’t able to bring himself to shoot the captain to stop him.
With stern resolve and no thought for this crew, the captain steers the ship toward the open ocean waters where the great creature was last seen.
Though outmoded uses of special effects date this film, the story includes strong performances, especially from Gregory Peck whose resume, among others, includes portrayals of a romantic hero in Roman Holiday, an idealistic lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird and a driven soldier in The Guns of Navarone. As well, Moby Dick addresses issues that are timely even today. Whether obsessed with revenge, the acquisition of something or any other singular objective, the relentless and unchecked pursuit of any one goal can be dangerous—to oneself and surrounding people.
While scenes of blood-filled waters and dying animals may be disturbing to young and sensitive viewers, this adaptation of Melville’s tragic story introduces audiences to life in a different era. It may also inspire eager readers to pick up a copy of the author’s well-known tome.Directed by John Huston. Starring Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, Friedrich von Ledebut, Leo Genn. Running time: 116 minutes. Theatrical release June 27, 1957. Updated July 17, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is Moby Dick rated Not Rated? Moby Dick is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: While engaged as sailors on a whaling ship, men kill the great beasts by repeatedly harpooning them until blood fills the surrounding waters. Out of anger, a man stabs a whale again and again with a long spear.A man has the skin on his chest sliced open by another sailor. Two men engage in a knife fight.Sailors experience moments of peril during an ocean storm. Men threaten each other with a harpoon and pistol.A whale is seen with many harpoons stuck in his back. Characters drown at sea and one man is repeatedly dragged under water by a fish. A large fish slams into a ship, causing it to sink. Falling objects on the ship crush and kill a young boy.
Sexual Content: Couples exchange fond goodbyes before sailors leave on voyage.
Language: Mild name-calling is included.
Drug and Alcohol Use: Characters frequently drink or smoke.
Other: A cannibal has a dried human head in his possession. Numerous plaques in honor of drowned sailors are seen in a church. A boy is lost at sea. A supernatural event takes place on a ship when a strange green light covers the masts. A coffin serves as a flotation device for a man.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
More parents' guide for Moby Dick after the break...
Moby Dick Parents' Guide
How does Captain Ahab’s desire for revenge blind him to reason? Why are the other sailors seemingly so willing to follow him, even to death?
Herman Melville was an American novelist born in New York City. Though his book Moby Dick has garnered great literary praise, the first 3,000 books printed did not sell out during the author’s lifetime.
The most recent home video release of Moby Dick movie is September 7, 2010. Here are some details…
Moby Dick is part of the Literary Classics DVD Collection, releasing on September 7, 2010, from Twentieth Century Fox and MGM Home Entertainment.
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A gentler interaction with the mighty mammals is shown when a young Maori girl from New Zealand steps in to help a pod of beached whales in Whale Rider. The seafaring Captain Jack Aubrey, the hero of Patrick O’Brian’s novels, sets sail on the big screen in the film adaptation of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. John Huston also took the director’s seat for The African Queen.