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

Thursday, March 18, 2010


WAR-GODS OF THE DEEP (aka The City Under the Sea/1965). Director: Jacques Torneur.

Very, very loosely inspired by a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, this is a weird, half-successful fantasy/sci fi flick with many interesting elements. Jill Tregillis (Susan Hart) is snatched out of her ancestral manor on the coast by gill men who somewhat resemble the Creature from the Black Lagoon. A hidden door behind a bookcase leads into a cavern that leads down into the depths below the house. Hoping to find and rescue Jill, Ben Harris (Tab Hunter) and Harold Tufnell-Jones (David Tomlinson) descend into the caverns and find a kind of water-gate that drops them into the sea. Somehow [as in The Incredible Petrified World the logistics for this are never made clear] they wind up in an underwater city, abandoned by its original occupants, which has been taken over by a band of smugglers who came down there to flee the law a hundred years ago in 1803. Their leader, Captain Hugh, is played by Vincent Price, giving one of his better latter-day performances. Hunter and Tomlinson also get into the light-hearted spirit of the piece. There's even a chicken named Herbert who was probably modeled on the duck Gertrude in Journey to the Center of the Earth [which definitely influenced parts of this movie]; Gertrude was a better actor although Herbert has his moments. An undersea volcano is now threatening the ancient city with destruction, and Hugh and his men don't dare return to the surface or they'll age and die in an instant. Frank White's art direction, such as a drowning chamber with huge statues, is often striking, and Stanley Black's theme music is effective, although the rest of his score is a very mixed bag. The movie is quite entertaining for half its length, but then gets water-logged with a confusing and dull underwater battle. The continuity of the film is absolutely wacky, with the characters escaping from the city only to inexplicably wind up back where they started from.

Verdict: Despite many flaws, it has its moments. **1/2.

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