Anomalo fortio (Dangerous Cargo) (1977)

A pirate takes over a munitions ship, killing the captain, and when the crew mutinies and abandons ship, is left aboard with the captain’s widow.

Dangerous Cargo was recently released on disk from Mondo Macabro, an interesting distributor of unusual films. This film is a slow going nautical thriller starring the lovely Deborah Shelton, or as the opening credits list her, Debbie Shelton (Miss USA). That might be the first time I have ever seen a description of an actor in the credits.

Set on a cargo ship, the plot has guns and nitroglycerin being smuggled by the unaware crew. A new crewman, who has come in to replace a crewman, who was mysteriously murdered on shore leave, is working for a third party who wants to steal the weapons and explosives. Further complications include a new captain (who knows about the cargo), the captain’s new wife (Shelton), and the first mate who used to date the Captain’s wife. The plot is not really the main selling point of the movie; Deborah Shelton is. The film includes about a half a dozen scenes of Shelton in various stages of undress. If you are a Deborah Shelton fan, Dangerous Cargo will be a must watch.

However, as a thriller, the film never generates much tension. Take the big storm scene for an example. One would expect shots of the dangerous cargo to be shifting ominously in the hold, as if, at any moment, the ship will blow. Nope, we just get the captain saying “left . . . right” and stock footage of a storm. Dangerous Cargo struck me as a rather lazily directed movie. Still, the film has an undressed Deborah Shelton.

As for Miss Shelton’s acting, she looks pretty, which is enough for the majority of the film. However, the film’s final third hinges on her character. The filmmakers just don’t explain her character satisfactorily (was she in on the gun running with her husband?). At that point, Shelton’s lack of acting experience becomes more noticeable. However, Shelton plays the character as written, so the ambiguity in the character is the fault of the screenwriter.

To be honest, most who watch Dangerous Cargo are not going to pay much attention to the film’s plot. It is pretty pedestrian, although I was surprised by the early exit of one character. The film is too slow to work as a thriller, but it does have its charms (mainly Deborah Shelton).

Date: June 9, 2021
Actors: Deborah Shelton