From the opening scene of ribaldry over a dead shipmate's coffin to the brutally off-hand dismissal of easement and affection at the end, this may prove too bleak a prospect for many temperaments. That such a despairing work emerged from where and when it did is one of the minor wonders of the cinema. The setting is a ramshackle freighter hauling cheap cargo around the Med, Howard the washed-up captain with a crew of averagely vicious malcontents, and Martinelli the fugitive teenager with whom Howard doesn't find love and redemption, though such is on offer. The treatment of religion as a silly nuisance is likewise unexpected, though adding to the general impression of hopelessness. The closing dialogue might have become one of the standard quotes of the movies, had not the tone of pervasive bitterness consigned the film to an isolation almost as complete as that of its hero.