Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

THE TUNNEL aka TRANSATLANTIC TUNNEL


THE TUNNEL (1935/British). Also released in shortened version as Transatlantic Tunnel. Director: Maurice Elvey.

Absurd sci-fi feature has Richard Dix as a visionary who neglects wife and child as he leads an engineering team determined to build an underground tunnel between London and New York! The project is seen only in idealistic terms -- never practical ones-- and for some reason everyone believes the completion of the tunnel will mean the beginning of world peace! The film takes place in a vague future time period, but nobody ever explains why there's a need for an undersea tunnel when planes would get everyone across the ocean much faster, and boats, while more leisurely, would allow everyone to enjoy the open air and sunshine. [There is a theory that with modern-day technology a train might be able to speed through such a tunnel in less than an hour, but it is only a theory.] This futuristic society has gyrocopters and "televisors" (video phones). and a huge radium drill is employed to dig out the tunnel. The most effective -- and horrifying -- sequence has Dix struggling over whether or not to close huge metal doors on a crowd of screaming men -- including his own son -- because if he doesn't poisonous gas may get loose and possibly kill thousands of other workers in the tunnel. There are also sub-plots with Dix's wife going blind, and another woman falling in love with him, but the drama of the piece seems highly contrived. Leslie Banks, the sinister count of The Most Dangerous Game, plays a sympathetic character, a friend to Dix and his wife (Madge Evans), in this film. The performances are generally quite credible even if the movie isn't.

Verdict: Fairly fast-paced but not especially memorable. *1/2.

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