Thursday, 8 March 2018

From the Video Vault: "Master of the World" (1961)

Lowly studio American International Pictures produced this campy steampunk delight. Seven years after Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea", this is Captain Nemo in the air. The film adapts two novels by Jules Verne, "Robur the Conqueror" and "Master of the World". Vincent Price is perfect as Robur, captain, world idealist and creator of the "Albatross", part zeppelin - part helicopter, zipping around the world at 150 mph with his message of peace, well sort of. Robur's airship is decorated a la Nemo (albeit on a smaller budget). I love the coffin-shaped cabin doors, though.

Hayao Mijazaki must have been influenced by Verne's vision (the airship in "Laputa Castle in the Sky").
"Master of the World" Courtesy YouTube

Courtesy Studio Ghibli

Charles Bronson is the unlikely hero of the piece. Vito Scotti, the unnecessary comic-relief as the chef on the "Albatross". Veteran actor, Henry Hull ("Werewolves of London", "Lifeboat"), plays Prudent, an annoying old fart. Screenplay is by horror/sci fi supremo, Richard Matheson.

You can see the film's limited budget by the use of stock footage. This was AIP's most expensive production to date, though. Considering it was around one-tenth of the budget of Disney's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea", Critic Leonard Maltin described the film as "very well done".

Vincent Price was to continue with AIP in Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe-inspired horror flicks in the 1960's. He'd already hit pay dirt with "The House of Usher".

Random observations:

  • Early scene with doings in the volcano reminded me of vintage Bond "You Only Live Twice"(1967).
  • Daniel Haller's art direction - vivid colours used with ship interiors - see later Roger Corman 60's horror.
  • Sumptuous Les Baxter musical score, punching above his weight. Another AIP regular.
  • What's the go with the bare-chested bosuns while everybody else is dressed like a gondolier or in a three-piece suit?
  • The ending is surprisingly poignant.
Catch "Master of the World" on YouTube, although it is missing at least 5 mins of original theatrical running time.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Booking Russian trains - avoid the middle man - go direct with Russian Railways (RZD), price comparison

If you google "Russian Trains" you are going to get a third party company, It is a slick, user-friendly website but you will be royally ripped-off. You will also be paying more than double the price. They even add "Taxes" to the ticket price. The only advantage is you can book for longer than 60 days in advance.

Book directly with the official website for the state-owned Russian Railways (RZD):

  • It accepts different web browsers.
  • Click Registration to make an account (easy to do). Your future bookings will be stored under "My Orders" if you lose the printed tickets.
  • When you get to the passenger info section, click "Foreign Document" not "International Passport" before you put your passport number.
  • You can choose seats, forward pacing seats, proximity to toilets/luggage storage/power plugs/dining.
  • When you get to Pay section, choose left hand option NOT right hand (yellow Yandex option). Left button takes you to credit card payment. Pay with Visa/MasterCard (it didn't like my AMEX because it had a 4 digit CVV).
  • Once payment is successful, you get PDF tickets to print out to take to the station. 
Main page RZD - Passengers

"Allegro" high speed train St-Petersberg to Helsinki
Once you have chosen date and time of day, the page drops down for car and seat selection.


For the same journey time, same class, same seats, same train, high speed "Sapsan"
Moscow - St Petersberg:
Russiantrains - 4722 ruble  ($AUD107, $US83)
Russian Railways - 2000 ruble  ($AUD45, $US35)

St Petersberg - Helsinki "Allegro":
Russiantrains - 11901 rubles ($AUD269, $US208, 169 euros)
Russian Railways - 5488 rubles ($AUD124, $US96, 78 euros)

Ticket prices vary greatly according to seasons. Travelling on the weekend we booked St Petersberg - Helsinki for 2034 rubles (29 euros).
It is the same price if you book online with Finnish Railways ( but no seat selection is possible.

Background: My wife and I are retired. This will be our first trip to Russia. We are English speaking and hardly computer-savvy.

Another useful website for Russian newbies: (also invaluable for Australians and New Zealanders applying for a Russian visa).