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

Thursday, April 29, 2021


Vincent Price
MASTER OF THE WORLD (1961). Director: William Witney.  

In 1868 a man called Robur (Vincent Price) takes off in a heavier-than-air craft, the Albatross, with an international crew and several prisoners, including agent John Strock (Charles Bronson of Crime Wave), munitions manufacturer Prudent (Henry Hull of Werewolf of London), his daughter, Dorothy (Mary Webster), and her fiance Phillip (David Frankham of The Return of the Fly). Robur has decided the only way to create a lasting peace is to bomb war ships and fighting armies. Strock and the others do their best to ground his ship and put him out of action.

Frankham, Webster, Hull, Bronson
Master of the World
 is loosely based on two late Jules Verne novels. Screenwriter Richard Matheson has turned Robur into a variation of 20,000 Leagues' Captain Nemo. Although Robur may have been a bit crazy in the books, he did not have the same mission as Nemo. Arguably the best thing about this movie is the performance of Vincent Price, who invests the project with a dignity it probably doesn't deserve. Frankham is also good, Bronson is solid, Mary Webster is more decorative than anything else, and Henry Hull is, in a word, awful. Attempting a comic portrayal from the beginning, he is merely annoying. The movie starts out as a light comedy and its transformation into a thriller isn't always convincing. 

the Albatross in flight
William Witney, the great serial director, is at the helm and there are a couple of exciting sequences, most notably when Frankham and Bronson are lowered on ropes from the Albatross and nearly careen into trees and mountain tops. The philosophy of the film is a bit muddled -- no one ever points out the sheer illogic and hypocrisy of Robur's actions. Trying to stop war is an admirable goal but doing it by killing peacetime sailors and blowing up armies is hardly the way to go about it, yet Master tries to turn this idiot into some kind of tragic anti-hero. 

Verdict: Half-baked, modestly entertaining sci fi film actually has little to do with Verne. **1/2. 


angelman66 said...

I have always loved Vincent Price, even though he made just as many bad movies as good ones. He played the evil genius so perfectly in so many 1960s and 70s films, always with humor and a twinkle in his eye. Not sure if I have seen this one, it seems like a familiar plot!
- C

William said...

It's the kind of movie that you can see and then easily forget, although Price is as marvelous as ever.