The DVD Vault: Obsession and the Sea

Welcome back, film fans, to the all-new and vastly improved DVD Vault.
There must be something about salty sea air that drives men to obsession. Or at least that’s what filmmakers would have us believe. Drawing on the Obsessed Captain archetype has led to some great films; when you mix a passionate leader, a desperate situation and a claustrophobic setting, there’s no telling what can happen. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the best examples of maritime obsession on DVD.
‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’ (1982)
OK, technically this movie doesn’t take place at sea, but director Nicholas Meyer’s big innovation on this movie (and the one that has steered everything ‘Trek’ since) was to turn the Enterprise into a veritable submarine. Everything about this film is imbued with a nautical sensibility, and it makes for some of the most grounded sci-fi ever. Even details so small as sweaters on characters’ shoulders had somehow never really been considered before, but here they go above and beyond in creating a universe somehow entirely distinct from our own yet immediately identifiable.
Another part of what keeps this film so firmly rooted in reality is the simplicity of its story. Years ago Captain Kirk (William Shatner) left the megalomaniacal Khan (Ricardo Montalban) on a planet of his very own, to rule as he saw fit. When a cataclysmic shift in the solar system lays waste to Khan’s planet, he turns from seeing Kirk as a benefactor to vowing revenge for his abandonment. Soon enough he finds a way back into space to kill Kirk, and Kirk in turn is driven to destroy Khan once and for all.
If you’ve never approached the ‘Trek’ franchise before, this is the perfect entry point (something that is evident from the instant the film opens with the caption ‘In the 23rd century’). Best of all, the film requires no knowledge of the ‘Trek’ universe outside of what it gives you in due course.
The special features are just as good as the film. Paramount has been gracing us with fantastic two-disc sets of the ‘Star Trek’ films (all hovering around the $15 mark) that any sci-fi or DVD fan should seriously consider adding to the collection. Two great commentaries (one spoken and one text), design and production featurettes, interviews and more make this a treasure trove of information at a bargain price. When paired with the great new video transfer and sound mix, this set is one for the shelf.
As an aside, it should be noted that the short list of sequels better than the originals always contains ‘The Godfather: Part II’ ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ and ‘Star Trek II.’ It’s that good.
‘The Bounty’ (1984)
Oh, how I wish I could have been alive in the good old days of seafaring. Scenic locales, high adventure, lovely local ladies, severe whippings