RKO had built an expensive ship set for their 1938 production Pacific Liner. Val Lewton was given instructions to come up with a film that could use the still existing set.

Very shortly after its theatrical release in December of 1943, producer Val Lewton was sued for plagiarism by Samuel R. Golding and Norbert Faulkner, who claimed that Lewton based his script on a play which they had written and submitted to Lewton's office at the time "The Ghost Ship" was being developed. Although Lewton had the opportunity to settle out of court, he chose to have the case tried. Despite Lewton's claims that their manuscript was returned unread, the court ruled against Lewton and RKO (a decision upheld at appeal), and The Ghost Ship was withdrawn from circulation. It remained unavailable for viewing for the next 50 years.

When the Altair first takes off, the footage of the ship passing through the mist is lifted from King Kong.