Tuesday, 30 October 2012

London in the Raw (1965)

London in the Raw (1965)The huge success of the Italian film Mondo Cane in 1962 engendered a horde of imitations, among which were a trilogy of documentary films by enterprising British film-making partners Arnold L. Miller and Stanley A. Long - West End Jungle (1961), London in the Raw (1964) and Primitive London (1965), all emanating from their own production company, Searchlight Films. It is with the second of these films, London in the Raw, that we are concerned.

The mondo formula was to present a series of vignettes of outrageous and bizarre, and preferably titillating, aspects of human culture. The advantage was that these movies were not only money-spinners, they were also relatively cheap to make. While they presented themselves as slices of real life the one thing that virtually all these films have in common is that much of the footage was either faked or staged. London in the Raw is no exception.

The subject matter of London in the Raw is the sordidly glamorous side of London life in the mid-60s. This gives it a certain focus that is lacking in some other mondo films.

London in the Raw (1965)


The mondo film is in fact a sub-genre of the exploitation movie, and like the American exploitation movies made from the 1930s to the 1950s these films try to get away with salacious material by presenting themselves as being educational or in the public interest. This is an aspect that gives the exploitation movie much of its charm (and amusement value) to audiences today.

Miller and Long had started their careers as pornographers, so while much of the footage is staged the movie does depict a world with which they were extremely familiar. The world of the sex industry, of clip joints and strip clubs, of “glamour” photography, of night-clubs owned by gangsters - this was their world and they were quite prepared to show it more or less as it really was. The result is an enthralling time capsule and much of the footage shot in real clubs such as Churchill’s in unique and of considerable interest from the social history point of view.

London in the Raw (1965)


Of course like all exploitation movies this one promises more titillation than it actually delivers but it was not going to succeed at the box office without at least some nudity. The nudity is provided in a number of ingenious ways, including an art life class for beatnik painters.

Beatniks feature in several segments of the movie, offering an intriguing view of the developing counterculture of the 60s. One of the more interesting facts revealed by the extremely informative liner notes is that the counterculture was in fact to a very large degree financed by the sex industry (a fact that apologists fir the counterculture are eager to ignore), so the scenes of beatnik artists earning a living through porn are in fact disturbingly accurate.

London in the Raw (1965)


The movie is not all sex clubs though. The intention was to present the movie as a portrait of London life in 1964 and it includes a number of segments dealing with health clubs (an industry that possibly has even lower ethical standards than the sex industry) and a surprisingly gruesome segment dealing with hair transplants, these segments being intended to demonstrate the lure of beauty.

While it is quite unequivocally an exploitation movie it is also a rather depressing look at the loneliness of modern life. Virtually every aspect of contemporary London life that is examined in this movie is to some extent driven by the fear and despair of loneliness, giving the movie a rather melancholy feel.

Miller and Long were skillful enough film-makers and the movie is, within the limitations of its budget and the difficulties presented by some of the locations, technically very competent.

London in the Raw (1965)


The BFI Blu-Ray release comes with a host of extras including an alternative cut of the main feature and three short documentary films of varying interest. All three were made by a British duo of documentary film-makers, Staffan Lamm and Peter Davis, and oddly enough were originally intended for Swedish television.

Pub, made in 1962, is a tediously unwatchable exercise in social realism. Strip is a look behind the scenes at a London strip club in 1966. Chelsea Bridge Boys, shot in 1965, is much more interesting - a look at the Rockers, the British motorcycle youth subculture that gained such notoriety from its violent clashes with the Mods, a rival youth subculture. The members of the unofficial motorcycle club (which despite its name includes quite a few female members), the Chelsea Bridge Boys, come across as being not overly intellectual but a great deal more honest and intelligent than the pretentious and insultingly condescending interviewers.

London in the Raw (1965)


The BFI’s Blu-Ray transfer of London in the Raw is exceptionally good and looks crisp and vivid. The three short subjects suffer somewhat from the less than perfect condition of the surviving source materials. The BFI clearly out a good deal of effort into the presentation of these cinematic oddities.

London in the Raw is by its very nature a mixed bag but it’s certainly a fascinating look at the 60s. If you’re interested in this time period then it’s most certainly worth a look.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Monster from Green Hell (1957)

Monster from Green Hell (1957)Monster from Green Hell, made by Gross-Krasne Productions in 1957, was one of the many giant bug movies of the 1950s, and it’s possibly the worst of them all. In fact I’ll go further and state categorically that it’s the worst such movie I’ve ever seen (and normally I'm quite fond of the giant bug sub-genre).

Rocket scientists Dr Quent Brady (Jim Davis) and Dan Morgan (Robert Griffin) are investigating the effects that space flight will have on animals, and ultimately on people. They are concerned that cosmic radiation may cause mutations.

They are conducting brief 40-second sub-orbital flights with various animal subjects but something goes wrong with one of the missions and the rocket remains in space for 40 hours. This naturally causes mutations, and as everyone knows mutations always cause things to grow to enormous size.

Monster from Green Hell (1957)


In this case the creatures aboard the rocket were wasps. The rocket came down in West Africa, and now the entire continent is threatened by being overrun by gigantic wasps the size of a house. The rocket scientists feel kind of bad about this so they fly to West Africa and set off on safari to a patch of jungle known to the natives as Green Hell.

A missionary doctor has already set out to investigate strange stories of giant monsters, with fatal results for the doctor. Undeterred, the rocket scientists start tramping through the jungle.

Monster from Green Hell (1957)


And they continue tramping through the jungle. They run short of water but a rainstorm saves them, and they continue tramping through the jungle. They find a poisoned waterhole, after which comes more tramping through the jungle. Their porters desert them, after which there is more tramping through the jungle. They find the mission station, and recruit new porters. This is good news because it means they can resume tramping through the jungle. Finally, when all this tramping has padded the movie out to a barely respectable 71-minute running time, they find their giant wasps.

They are well equipped to deal with overgrown insects, being armed with a large supply of hand grenades. Unfortunately, after all that tramping through the jungle, they find that grenades have no effect on gigantic wasps.

Monster from Green Hell (1957)


Will they find some other way of dealing with these huge insect pests? And will they be able to destroy the queen wasp? By this stage you probably won’t care, you will just be praying that the solution does not involve further tramping through the jungle.

The acting is what you expect from a low-budget 1950s science fiction film. It’s barely adequate. There’s lots of stock footage of stampeding jungle animals. Sadly there’s precious little dramatic tension. Kenneth G. Crane’s directing career was mercifully brief, this being one of only four movies that he helmed. This was his first movie as director. Perhaps he improved. After this movie he could hardly do worse.

Monster from Green Hell (1957)


The special effects of huge buzzing insects that apparently can’t fly (not surprising since they’re the size of barn) at least provide some amusement.

The Region 4 DVD is fairly poor but is watchable. There are no extras.

Monster from Green Hell might have been moderately amusing but the pacing is just so painfully slow that any entertainment value is nullified. Not recommended unless you’re an ardent giant bug movie completist.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)Escape from the Planet of the Apes was the second of the sequels to the classic Planet of the Apes, and it’s a big improvement over the first sequel (Beneath the Planet of the Apes). It was directed by Don Taylor with a screenplay by Paul Dehn and was released by 20th Century-Fox in 1971.

The budget was somewhat limited but by bringing the apes to our world the budgetary limitations were neatly circumvented and are not evident.

A spacecraft splashed down in the ocean. It’s been missing, presumed destroyed, for two years. A big surprise awaits the rescue crews - the crew of the spacecraft consists of three apes. Naturally enough they are taken to the Los Angeles Zoo but when veterinary psychologist Dr Lewis Dixon (Bradford Dillman) starts running some intelligence tests it soon becomes obvious that these are no ordinary chimpanzees. Not only are they much too intelligent, they also talk. And talk very intelligently.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)


The apes are, it will not surprise you to know, Cornelius (Roddy McDowell) and Zira (Kim Hunter).

A presidential commission is established to decide what to do with the ape astronauts. once their abilities are demonstrated the commission is quite sympathetic. In fact the apes are moved to a luxury hotel and treated to guided tours of the city. There is however one dissenting voice, Dr Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden). He’s a scientist and an expert in theories of time. He has his suspicions as to what the arrival of these apes means, and his suspicions are soon confirmed. It’s not that he dislikes Zira and Cornelius, but he has grave fears that their presence in the 20th century could have catastrophic consequences for humanity. When Zira announces she’s pregnant his fears take on new urgency.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)


The perplexing question is how did apes advance so quickly so that within 2,000 years (a very brief period in evolutionary terms) they could become as intelligent as humans. Dr Hasslein fears that he knows the answer, and he is convinced that Zira’s baby must not be born.

The rest of the movie follows Zira and Cornelius’s desperate attempts to save their baby.

The central idea here is of a sort of time loop. It’s a good idea and one of the strengths of the movie is the idea is developed by the plot itself without too many expository speeches (which are one of the weaknesses of so many science fiction films).

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)


Giving the movie a contemporary setting has the disadvantage that we don’t see the planet of the apes itself so that visually this movie is rather less spectacular than the earlier films.

Acting in ape makeup is no easy thing but McDowell and Hunter have no difficulty in conveying the emotions of their characters, a considerable tribute to their acting abilities. Bradford Dillman is good while Ricardo Montalban contributes a cameo as a sympathetic circus owner.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)


The one real weakness is the character of Dr Hasslein. He’s the villain of the piece but he is in fact a man who is willing to face unpleasant truths, and is also willing to do what is necessary to save human civilisation. Both Eric Braeden and the scriptwriters really needed to make him less of a mere villain. He’s potentially an interesting and complex character but he’s not developed enough, a rather unfortunate missed opportunity that would have added more complexity to the movie.

Notwithstanding that minor quibble Escape from the Planet of the Apes is a fine science fiction movie, combining a clever idea with an emotionally involving story.

The British Region B Blu-Ray release is quite impressive. All five movies in the original series are available in a boxed set at a pleasingly reasonable price. Both the movie and the Blu-Ray set are recommended.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Homicidal (1961)

Homicidal (1961)William Castle’s movies were notable more for the ingenious ways in which he promoted them than for their own merits, but most were at least competent and some (such as Mr Sardonicus were excellent. Homicidal, released by William Castle Productions in 1961, belongs in the competent category.

In this case the gimmick was a “Fright Break” which allowed audience members who couldn’t stand the terror to retreat to “Coward’s Corner.”

There is another element to this film that could be regarded as a gimmick. It’s one that works better than you might expect it to but I can’t say any more for fear of revealing spoilers.

Homicidal was strongly influenced by another very successful movie, but again to reveal which movie would be to give away a spoiler.

Homicidal (1961)


In Homicidal we know from the beginning that Emily is a psycho killer, and it isn’t very long to before we see her in full-fledged homicidal action. The movie begins with a flashback to childhood for two of the main characters, and we then move to the present day. Emily is caring for Helga, who is confined to a wheelchair and also cannot speak. Helga had been the childhood nanny of Warren and his half-sister Miriam.

Emily shows up at a hotel and makes an extraordinary offer to the bellboy. She offers him $2,000 to marry her, with the marriage to be annulled immediately after the ceremony. It all sounds pretty strange but two thousand bucks is two thousand bucks so he agrees. The wedding itself will come as a big surprise to him.

Homicidal (1961)


Emily obviously has some reason to hate Helga, and Helga obviously has some reason to fear Emily. We will not find out the reason until the end of the movie.

As a murder investigation gets under way (I’m being deliberately vague to avoid spoilers) Miriam and her friend Carl start to suspect that Emily may be the murderess but when she announces that she is married (not to the bellhop but to someone else) they are hesitant about going to the police. That could turn out to be a big mistake.

The plot is ludicrous if you examine it too closely. It’s based on an idea that stretches credibility beyond breaking point, but plot holes are not necessarily a fatal flaw in a horror movie and it’s to director William Castle’s credit that the movie sweeps us along so we don’t have time to think too much about whether any of it makes sense.

Homicidal (1961)


The support cast is mostly adequate but the star is certainly Jean Arless who plays Emily. She was not a great actress but her performance is sufficiently bizarre and unusual to make it a reason to see this movie.

There’s the kind of emphasis on childhood trauma as an explanation for psycho killers that was so popular at the time. It isn’t very convincing, but then such theories never were.

William Castle was trying to establish himself as a low-budget version of Alfred Hitchcock, doing introductions to his movies that were very similar to the introductions Hitchcock did to his television series. His enthusiasm for movies and his flair for showmanship make it difficult not to like the guy. As a director he rarely reached any great heights but he understood what audiences wanted and he was a thoroughly competent artisan who occasionally pulled off some fairly effective shocks.

Homicidal (1961)


This movie is part of the William Castle Film Collection DVD boxed set and it’s been given a very good anamorphic transfer. There’s also a brief featurette that focuses more on his showmanship than on his movies. The boxed set as a whole is a very worthwhile buy.

Homicidal might not be a great movie but it’s entertaining and it has one unusual feature that makes it stand out. Recommended.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)

Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962) There are movies that are simply bad. They’re bad ideas badly executed. And then there are movies that could have been good, but just missed out. Journey to the Seventh Planet is one of the latter. There are some good ideas here but the execution is lacking.

Released in 1962, it was one of three notable B-movies made in the early 60s by independent producer Sid Pink, the others being The Angry Red Planet and Reptilicus. They’re notable not for being great movies, but for being highly entertaining bad ones.
Journey to the Seventh Planet, like Reptilicus, was a US-Danish co-production which is why the cast features so many Scandinavian actors and the crew of the spaceship is a mixture of Americans and Scandinavians.

A UN space mission is sent to explore Uranus. When they arrive they are surprised (to say the least) to find the planet looks just like Denmark. And it seems to be inhabited by lots of beautiful Danish girls. It doesn’t take too long for our astronauts to figure out that some kind of intelligence has been probing their minds, and that the Danish scenery comes from their own minds, their own memories.

Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)


As well as recreating their fondest hopes (a planet that looks just like Denmark and is full of beautiful Danish girls) it can also recreate their deepest fears. If one of them is afraid of rats they will be menaced by giant monster rodents. And what is this strange intelligence’s objective in doing all his? You don’t win any prizes by guessing that it intends to invade the Earth.

The five astronauts are trapped in an enclosed world behind a force field, a force field so powerful that it can only be penetrated by walking straight through it. On the other side they find the monsters. Now they must save both themselves and the Earth.

Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)


The special effects, like the movie itself, are a mixture of good ideas and bad execution. The stop-motion monsters are pretty laughable. No matter how bad the social effects might be they’re delightfully goofy and campy. The sets betray the very limited budget Pink had to work with but in general they don’t look too bad by the standards of 50s B-movies.

The acting can best be described as atrocious, apart from John Agar (who had started his career in A-movies and worked his way down) who is reasonably good.

Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)


The main problem from which this movie suffers is that it doesn’t make the best use of its most interesting ideas. We would be more affected by seeing the astronaut’s hopes and fears turned into realities if we knew a little bit more about them, and if we knew why these hopes and fears were so important to these individuals. There is one tantalising hint, when the crew commander admits that he’s never been in love. That could make the appearance of a girl he’s once been fond of rather poignant and could have given the movie a solid dramatic punch, but the idea is just thrown in randomly and then forgotten. Ib Melchior’s screenplay (from a story by Sid Pink) must take some of the blame for this.

There is the usual use of stock footage for the rocket launches and animation is used (not outstandingly well) for the shots of the spacecraft in space.

Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)


Despite all these flaws Journey to the Seventh Planet is great entertainment in the way that only 1950s B-movies can be. Don’t expect too much and you’ll have a lot of fun with this one. Recommended.

I caught this movie on cable TV a while back but it is available on DVD. The print I saw was unfortunately fullframe and had been cut but apart from that it was unexpectedly good.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

You Only Live Twice (1967)

You Only Live Twice (1967)You Only Live Twice was the fifth James Bond movie, and marked the (temporary) departure of Sean Connery from the leading role. Not everyone likes this 1967 movie but it works for me.

Ironically much of the criticism of this film centres on its silliness. If you want a taut coherent plot, in-depth characterisation and an intelligent commentary on Cold War politics then perhaps Bond movies are not for you. In some ways this movie establishes the template that made the later Roger Moore outings so much fun - increasingly outrageous and unlikely gadgets, spectacular action set-pieces and a generally high camp atmosphere. All those elements were there from the start of the franchise of course, but this one really kicks into tongue-in-cheek mode. Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay and throws everything into it.

The franchise would return to a more conventional and serious spy movie ambience with the next movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That movie did well at the box-office, but not as well as the previous three films, suggesting that the formula established in You Only Live Twice was in fact the correct one.

You Only Live Twice (1967)


Someone is stealing US and Russian manned spacecraft. Both sides blame the other and war seems a distinct possibility. Right from the start Bond suspects that SPECTRE is involved and of course he’s right. SPECTRE is working for an unnamed power (clearly Communist China) but as usual SPECTRE is really working for itself. The idea is that a war between the US and the Soviet Union will leave a power vacuum which they can then exploit, becoming the world’s sole superpower.

The stealing of the spacecraft is done by another spacecraft which swallows them up. Whether it makes sense or not doesn’t matter - it looks cool.

You Only Live Twice (1967)


The unknown spacecraft appears to have come down in the vicinity of the Sea of Japan so Bond is despatched to Tokyo. There he meets the first of the movie’s three Bond girls, the beautiful Aki. He meets M’s man in Tokyo, who famously offers him a vodka martini, stirred not shaken. And true Bond aficionado knows that Bond has his vodka martinis shaken, not stirred. Is it a mistake? Or some subtle (perhaps over-subtle) joke?

Bond is to receive assistance from Tiger Tanaka, the head of Japanese intelligence. The meeting comes about in classic Bond style as Bond is literally dropped into Tanaka’s headquarters. Bond suspects that Osato Chemicals is involved and breaks into their corporate headquarters. This sets the stage for one of the cleverest fights in a Bond movie, with sofas used as weapons! And it sets the stage for an attempt to kill Bond, an attempt that is foiled even more cleverly by a helicopter (I won’t spoil this great moment by giving any further details).

You Only Live Twice (1967)


Bond then gets to use a very cool gadget indeed, a gunship gyrocopter, which leads to a fine aerial fight sequence. He discovers SPECTRE’s headquarters in an extinct volcano, which leads us to a set that is spectacular even by Bond movie standards. It was in fact the largest movie set ever built, designed by the great Ken Adam. And it’s the stage for one of the most exciting finales in any Bond movie with hundreds of ninjas assaulting the volcano.

Undoubtedly the biggest problem with You Only Live Twice is that the arch-villain Blofeld isn’t revealed until much too late and when he is revealed he doesn’t get enough to do. That’s a pity since Donald Pleasence certainly had the potential to be a great Bond villain. The idea of letting the audience hear but not see Blofeld at first is a good one but it’s taken too far.

You Only Live Twice (1967)


Another minor problem is Sean Connery stopping while trying to look Japanese. He just looks like Sean Connery with a stoop! But these are minor quibbles.

On the plus side Mention must be made of the excellent theme song (sung by Nancy Sinatra), John Barry’s superb score, and the rather sexy Toyota 2000GT sports car that Aki drives.

Ken Adam’s sets and the Japanese locations are major highlights. Even the sets that only appear briefly (just as the operating theatre) are superb.

You Only Live Twice (1967)


Connery was very comfortable in the role by this time and he’s terrific. The three Bond girls are Helga (played by Karin Dor, a major cult movie favourite for her performances in many of the German Edgar Wallace krimis), the beautiful Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki and the equally gorgeous Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki. Tsai Chin, another cult movie legend best known for the 1960s Fu Manchu movies, makes a brief appearance.

The Region 4 DVD looks great and features an excellent audio commentay.

Any movie that features deadly armed gyrocopters, killer spaceships and hordes of ninjas has got to be worth seeing. You Only Live Twice is great entertainment. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Man and the Monster (1959)

The Man and the Monster (1959)Made in 1959, The Man and the Monster (El hombre y el monstruo) is one of the neglected classics of Mexican gothic horror. Like so many great Mexican gothic movies it was produced by Abel Salazar (his brother Alfredo co-wrote the screenplay).

A music critic, Ricardo Souto (Abel Salazar), comes across a musician who mysteriously disappeared some years earlier. The musician is Samuel Magno (Enrique Rambal). Magno had never had the talent to realise his ambition to become a great pianist, but his pupil Alejandra (Martha Roth) did have the necessary talent. Consumed with jealousy Samuel sold his soul to Satan in exchange for the talent he lacked. He is now the greatest pianist in the world, but whenever he plays the piano he becomes a monster. Literally becomes a monster. And it is not only his appearance that changes; he becomes a cold-blooded killer, intent on destroying anyone he sees as a threat, in other words anyone with musical talent.

The Man and the Monster (1959)


Samuel lives in solitude, playing the piano only at night and secretly.

Now Samuel Magno has another pupil as promising as Alejandra. Her name is Laura. She not only has as much ability as Alejandra, she also bears her an uncanny resemblance (not surprising since she is also played by Martha Roth).

Laura is about to make her concert debut, but will Samuel be able to cope with the fact that she is a greater pianist than he is?

The Man and the Monster (1959)


The one weakness of this film is the makeup effects for the monster, which look rather comical and may spoil this movie for some people. If you can get past that this is actually a very fine piece of gothic horror. The musical theme may suggest some link with The Phantom of the Opera but the story is quite different. It does have a similar theme though, a man whose hideous appearance prevents his talent from being recognised.

Director Rafael Baledón helmed another Mexican gothic classic, the excellent Curse of the Crying Woman (which was also produced by Abel Salazar). He does a fine job here. The black-and-white cinematography, as in all the Mexican gothic horror pictures of the 50s, is moody and atmospheric.

The Man and the Monster (1959)


Like other Mexican movies of this type it owes a considerable stylistic debt to the great Universal horror movies of the 30s (a debt Abel Salazar freely acknowledged).

Enrique Rambal is very good as Samuel. Martha Roth does well in her dual roles. Abel Salazar was less significant as an actor than as a producer but he makes an acceptable hero.

There is no leal love story here, the movie being focused rather tightly on the theme of artistic obsession.

The Man and the Monster (1959)


The Casanegra DVD, like all their releases, looks magnificent. Sadly it has fewer extras than most of their releases.

A fine horror movie, and like the best of the Universal movies it is more effective in creating atmosphere and a tragic mood than in providing outright scares. Highly recommended.

Monday, 1 October 2012

War Gods of the Deep (1965)

War Gods of the Deep (1965)American International Pictures’ War Gods of the Deep (also released under the title The City Under the Sea) was based on (or inspired by might be more accurate) Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The City in the Sea. It’s a lost world tale, which happens to be one of my favourite sub-genres.

The great Jacques Tourneur directed this 1965 movie, but all did not go smoothly for him. The producers insisted on the inclusion of an irritating comic relief character in the person of Harold Tuffnell-Jones (played by David Tomlinson). Tuffnell-Jones is accompanied everywhere by his chicken, and by the end of the movie one has grown very tired of both him and his chicken. Both Tourneur and star Vincent Price protested vigorously and bitterly but they were overruled by the producers.

Despite this annoying and unnecessary alteration to the script (penned by Charles Bennett and Louis M. Heyward) this is still a rather wonderful film.

War Gods of the Deep (1965)


The discovery of a body washed ashore on the Cornish coast in 1903 will lead lawyer Ben Harris (Tab Hunter) to a strange world beneath the sea. A beautiful American girl, Jill Tregillis (Susan Hart), runs an hotel in the 15th century Tregathian Manor. Shortly after the discovery of the body Jill disappears, the only clue being a trail of sea-water and sea-weed left behind by her abductors. Ben finds a secret passageway which leads to a watergate, and (along with Tuffnell-Jones and his chicken) is swept into a maelstrom.

They find themselves in a world beneath the sea. An ancient city was buried beneath the waves, but the inhabitants of the city possessed enough technology to construct powerful pumps to bring air and fresh water to their inundated city. They survived for an unknown length of time, and then died, although they left behind some strange descendants.

War Gods of the Deep (1965)


In 1803 a band of smugglers led by the local squire, Sir Hugh (Vincent Price), fleeing from the excise men, discovered a grotto far beneath sea level, and discovered the sunken city. A hundred years later these smugglers are still alive. Sir Hugh regards himself as the king of this underwater realm, and of the strange descendants of the city dwellers. Sir High and his men have been in this undersea world for a century, and have not aged a day.

But now the underwater volcano that once provided life-giving heat to the denizens of the city under the sea is becoming more and more active and threatens to destroy both the city and Sir Hugh and his followers.

War Gods of the Deep (1965)


Vincent Price is in his element here and gives a wonderful performance. He also gets to recite Poe’s poem, and Vincent Price reading Poe is always a treat. Tab Hunter is very good. The best that can be said about David Tomlinson is that he is unable to wreck this movie. Susan Hart does not get very much to do but she’s quite adequate. John le Mesurier is one of several well-known faces in the supporting cast.

This was to  be Jacques Tourneur’s last film and his approach is as stylish as ever. The special effects are extremely good and stand up very well today, as do the sets and the underwater city. This movie looks much more expensive than it is. There’s some very effective underwater photography. Stephen Dade’s cinematography is both lush and atmospheric. There’s also some amusing technobabble. Plus it has guys in rubber suits, always a plus, and some rather cool vintage diving suits.

War Gods of the Deep (1965)


Does it have any of the authentic flavour of Poe? Well, perhaps just a little.

War Gods of the Deep was released on DVD in MGM’s Midnite Movies range, in an excellent anamorphic transfer which does full justice to this fine movie. It was released individually and as part of a double feature. The individual release is still available and at the very modest price is outstanding value for money.

This is a delightfully entertaining tale of adventure with a slight gothic tinge (and to modern viewers a definite hint of steampunk). Highly recommended.