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.

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