MARE NOSTRUM (1926)
Directed by Rex Ingram
Featuring Apollon Uni, Alex Nova, Kada-Abd-el-Kader
What it is: War drama
During World War I, a married sea captain from Barcelona falls in love with a beautiful woman (who resembles a picture of the sea goddess Amphitrite) while on a visit to Naples. He discovers that she is a German spy and becomes enmeshed in espionage.
The title refers to an ancient phrase for the Mediterranean Sea (where much of the action takes place) as well as the name of the ship of the sea captain. If the story sounds like a doomed romance, that's because it is. It is, however, a very good one, and it has a number of memorable sequences. My favorites usually involve a German U-Boat prowling through the water in search of ships to sink, but there's also a memorable chase scene through the streets of Versailles; the movie was shot in European locations. The fantastic elements aren't a major part of the story, but they are striking and effective. There are two scenes featuring the sea goddess Amphitrite in action; her appearances bookend the movie. There's also the momentary appearance of a ghost of a certain character (probably a hallucination of guilt), and the appearance of Death whose grotesque hand wipes a ship's name off of a list. Despite these touches, the movie is primarily a war romance drama.