The fifth film version of Jack London's The Sea Wolf stars Edward G. Robinson as "premature fascist" Wolf Larsen. The captain of the scavenger ship Ghost, Larsen is a heartless tyrant who can tolerate no sign of weakness in anyone. "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven" is Larsen's philosophy (borrowed from the character of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost), and accordingly he reigns over his hellish vessel in true satanic fashion. Idealistic writer Humphrey Van Weyden (Alexander Knox) and fugitive from justice Ruth Webster (Ida Lupino) are picked up by the Ghost when their ferryboat capsizes. Realizing that their chances of getting off the boat alive are nil, Van Weyden and Ruth conspire with embittered cabin boy Leach (John Garfield) to escape. They drift in a small open boat for days, only to return to the Ghost, which has apparently been scuttled by the mutinous crew. Larsen has gone blind, but refuses to allow his crew to learn this fact, forcing Van Weyden at gunpoint to perpetuate the illusion that Larsen can still see. Ultimately, the Ghost sinks beneath the waves, carrying Larsen and Van Weyden to their doom ("This is the end of Superman!" cries Van Weyden as the ocean envelops him); Ruth and Leach manage to save themselves, rowing toward the safety of a nearby island -- and hopefully escaping to a new life. The 1941 Sea Wolf would not be the last cinematic adaptation of London's novel; multiple versions have since been produced for both film and television.
by Hal Erickson synopsis