Retrospektive 2018

Sh! The Octopus

William C. McGann
USA 1937
60 min

Standing foursquare among the towering achievements of world cinema, SH! THE OCTOPUS! transcends mere words. Director William C. McGann shows his inventiveness from the start, daring to place Hugh Herbert and Allen Jenkins into starring roles, fully confident they can carry a feature as easily as Cagney or Flynn. Next, he boldly confines most of the action to a single, cramped set —a lighthouse interior— compelling his cast to make dynamic acting choices in the most restrictive of conditions. His most audacious move is to keep the Octopus off-screen much of the time—a touch famously ripped off by such later, inferior films as CAT PEOPLE and THE THING. Finally, he brings it all in at a taut 54 minutes, insuring there won’t even be the slightest whiff of padding; it can scarcely be summarized here, but it involves a pair of cops, a mystery woman, a corpse, and of course an Irish police commissioner. Released as a huge Christmas present to an America still rising from the Depression, it was hailed by Variety as “so feeble even the actors look ashamed of themselves ... the studio should be willing to call it quits after this.” If motion pictures are indeed the world’s greatest art form, then SH! THE OCTOPUS! is truly the pinnacle; after seeing it, you’ll stagger out of the theatre, secure in the belief you have reached out and touched the face of God. (Michael Schlesinger)


  • Allen Jenkins
  • Hugh Herbert
  • Marcia Ralston
  • John Eldredge
  • George Rosener
  • Brandon Tynan
  • Eric Stanley
  • Screenplay George Bricker based on plays by Ralph Spence
  • Ralph Murphy and Donald Gallaher
  • Arthur L. Todd
  • Heinz Roemheld
Warner Bros.
16 mm
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