Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Outward Bound

US movie (1930). Warner/Vitaphone. Dir Robert Milton. Spfx Fred Jackman. Screenplay J Grubb Alexander. Based on Outward Bound (play 1925; novel 1929) by Sutton Vane. Starring Helen Chandler, Dudley Diggs, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Alec B Francis, Leslie Howard, Montagu Love, Beryl Mercer, Allison Skipworth, Lyonel Watts (movie has no proper credits). 82 mins. B/w.

Stagebound, hammily acted version of a preachy play, of interest more for its concept of the Afterlife than for its minimal narrative virtues. Thwarted London-suburb lovers Henry and Ann suicide and find that Limbo is a nearly deserted liner where only they and the steward, Scrubby, realize all are dead. Gradually the secret leaks out as the Ship of Fools nears the Celestial City, which looks through the fog much like Manhattan. The passengers are interviewed and judged by a boarding Examiner – who has the subtlety and charisma of a tv evangelist. Henry and Ann, as suicides – like Scrubby – are sent back, Henry to be returned to life and Ann to remain forever shipbound; yet their love is great enough that Ann, too, regains life.

This Posthumous Fantasy was remade as Between Two Worlds (1944), set in World War II, with Ann and Henry married to each other and the rest of the passengers having been killed in an air-raid en route to boarding a London-New York liner. The tale – especially the judgement sequence – is tiresomely extended, although Prior (here a hardbitten journalist) and Scrubby (Edmund Gwenn) contrive to hold the attention. In the finale, Ann is to be allowed to return to life, but prefers Limbo to separation from Henry; the reward for her virtue is that both are resuscitated. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.