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Let's face it, if you're bothering to read reviews of this film, you
are probably going to see it out of a sense of obligation if nothing
else. So, it really doesn't matter what I say, now does it?
This is a fairly typical early 1950s not-very-scientific attempt to use the genre as a means for moralizing. The morality of this film is certainly worth listening to for its anti-war, anti-pollution, etc, messages, but the film lacks depth, science of any kind, and, basically, a compelling plot.
Being a fan of 50s sci if, I thought this film started off pretty well. Although there is no obvious crisis looming on the horizon, a scientist and a group of anti-nuke colleagues obtain grant money to explore deep within the earth for the possibility of habitable subterranean environments. Since the film was made in 1950-51, the level of concern regarding nuclear warheads is certainly understandable (too bad some have forgotten about this, eh?).
Much is made about the vehicle which they will use for this journey. The vehicle looks like a suped-up bullet nose Studebaker with a large drill bit attached to it. This vehicle is apparently capable of drilling through several hundred miles of solid rock, without any visible cooling system. As the scientists explore deeper and deeper into the earth, they are not surprised (though I was) to find that most of the crust and upper mantle (my terms, not theirs) are in fact hollow, and have not only gorgeous stalagmites and stalactites, but flat floors graded properly for people to take walks on. Harassed by noxious gasses, magma and pretty poor acting, the cast dwindles as the story devolves into a simple adventure tale.
The acting is generally uneven, and is hampered by the occasionally absurd script. I really don't want to single anybody out, but Marilyn Nash and Bruce Kellogg are particularly off-pace in this one.
The director, Terry Morse, went on to make a few good films (such as the List of Adrian Messenger), and also a lot of other films (the American version of Godzilla, and the timeless classic - not - Love Slaves of the Amazon). And this is sort of below-standard fare in the context of his filmography.
Well, OK then, go see it... You know you want to, and I am not going to stop you... But don't say you didn't have fair warning.
I have probably watched this science-fiction movie more than any other
the years, principally because it continues to bring back a happy
memory of mine--playing "cyclotram" in my parent's San Fernando Valley
laundry room, using our washing machine as my control panel!
The movie, which actually stars Victor Kilian--but whose name has been eliminated for some reason from all extant prints (by his choice?)--is the improbable (and highly unscientific) tale of a journey undertaken by a group of scientists into the Earth, via an amphibious machine called a "cyclotram", in order to find a possible "safe haven for mankind." It isn't really a very exciting movie, it isn't really a very good movie, but I LOVE IT!
Side note: although portions of this movie were "filmed in Carlsbad Caverns" (all second-unit work, it would appear), the majority of the "underground" scenes were filmed in Los Angeles' Griffith Park's famed Bronson Caves!
A group of scientists drive an enclosed vehicle into an extinct volcano and then bore more than a thousand miles into the earth. They're searching for underground sanctuaries in case the surface of the earth becomes uninhabitable due to nuclear warfare. This is one of those low-budget, black-and-white films from the 50's that you want to laugh at it, and while it does have its share of bad dialog and cheesy special effects, there's an earnest, committed quality here which eventually overcomes most of the obvious faults. Viewers looking for cheap thrills will be disappointed.
The film begins with some stock footage about nuclear war and is part
of a presentation scientists are making in order to drum up support for
an ark, of sorts, to be sent deep within the planet. This way, in case
we have a nuclear war, the species can survive deep inside mother
Earth. The story, at times, is highly reminiscent of Jules Verne's
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH.
When I rented this film, I assumed based on the box cover that it was a typical low-budget 1950s sci-fi/horror film. However, to my surprise, there were no bug-eyed monsters, alligators or lizards with cheap fins pasted on or silly masked ghouls. While it certainly did not have a huge budget, the film made a genuine effort to entertain, have SOME basis in scientific facts of the day and say something about mankind. While some might find this all pretty dull, I actually enjoyed it more than I thought and in hindsight I am glad the usual silly and schlocky monsters and such were missing. Now this isn't to say this is a masterpiece. Occasionally, the characters behave a bit silly--such as their needlessly bickering (which makes no sense for such an expedition) and the science behind all this is suspect (such as the lack of differences in air pressure, the presence of drinkable water as well as breathable air over a thousand miles inside the Earth and their ability to ascend at an incredible rate without exploding!). Still, it is oddly compelling and the acting (while they weren't arguing) was pretty good. Plus, unlike JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, it's nice NOT to see dinosaurs and other creatures waiting to greet our heroes.
Final verdict--well worth a look and a decent time-passer despite some limitations.
PS--This film is from Alpha Video--one of the worst producers of DVDs out there. Fortunately, unlike many of their films which are scratchy public domain prints, this one is a very good copy and is very watchable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This could have been another cheesy 1950's outer space sci-fi flick,
but the participants were going in the opposite direction. So instead,
this is a cheesy 1950's subterranean film, starring an underground
submarine called a cyclotram. It's mission is to discover a habitable
region where the world's population can take refuge when the upper
world is destroyed by a nuclear holocaust.
The film opens with a voice-over describing the new Atomic Age and it's promise of a more abundant life. However Dr. Jeremiah Morley (Victor Kilian) sees the danger associated with those who would use this power for corrupt purposes, and his warnings earn him the nickname "Prophet of Doom". It seems to me that Morley was the film's dominating presence, yet Kilian's performance is actually uncredited here. His "Society to Save Civilization" disbands after a year for lack of financial backing.
Enter wealthy playboy Wright Thompson (Bruce Kellogg), admittedly jobless and happily so, and looking for adventure. He hooks up with Morley's scientist friends and offers to finance their underground journey, as long as he can come along. With renewed energy, Morley, Thompson, and a group of five additional explorers board the cyclotram to seek humanities' last chance for survival.
What this viewer was left wondering for some time into the picture was when something exciting would happen. There are brief diversions involving bouts of toxic gas and semi dangerous spelunking, but that fearsome cave dinosaur never shows up. In a particularly nonsensical scene, a frayed rope is repeatedly shown as the cyclotram navigator Andy climbs up a rock face after rescuing Thompson. Andy actually makes it up to the top of the cliff ledge when the rope snaps, and he falls to his doom - bad timing!
With repetitive nuance, the cyclotram forges ahead (or below), marking time at 850, 960, 1100, and finally 1640 miles below sea level, where Thompson fashions a directional marker pointing straight up to New York - that may have been the film's innovative high point. Upon finally reaching the subterranean promised land, the group is dismayed to learn that conditions there make their pregnant bunny sterile. So much for the advancement of civilization.
"Unknown World" held the promise of so much more, but doesn't deliver. The cyclotram never finds itself in a situation that it can't handle, and the path it follows conveniently plays along an underground fissure practically the entire way. When it finally reaches a depth of 2500 miles at the earth's core, the cyclotram floats it's way up to the surface world in what seems like no time at all! But the biggest mystery to me would be how seven of the world's pre-eminent scientists could undertake such a momentous journey, and no one thought to bring a camera!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I suppose that if you're going to make a movie about a group of
religious scientists who use giant power drill to find a refuge from
nuclear war deep inside the earth, this is how you should do it. Victor
Kilian (who looked old even in 1951) leads a group of pioneers on an
expedition to see how deeply their "cyclotram" (big drill) can take
When you think about it, how can you make a tedious trip to the center of the earth interesting? Well...there's a slight issue with some poison gas, one of the crew wanders off to do some unauthorized rock-climbing, a few mechanical malfunctions thrown in here and there, and lots and lots of banal dialogue. Finally--whew!--the cyclotram emerges in a giant cavern that resembles a surface shoreline. After some animal experiments go awry--all the little critters end up dead--and some unexpected crew casualties, the remaining folks head home. There's a panic scene, of course, before the big cyclotram bobs to the surface of the ocean.
This film's pretty typical of early 50s science fiction, with lots of morality thrown in. The special effects are shaky, but how exactly can you make a model drill convincing in this context? Not too bad, but nothing special.
Unknown World is a very low budget version of Journey to the Centre of
the Earth, but this has nothing to do with that movie at all. I quite
A group of scientists, including a woman build a large drilling machine and use it to go on an expedition to the centre of the earth to find an alternative place to escape from in case of a nuclear war breaking out. When they reach the centre of the Earth, they find its just what they have been looking for. We see a large sea and big waterfalls. But not to be as one of the rabbits they have with them has its babies still born. After a volcano erupts, they head back to Cyclotram and back to civilisation.
The first ten minutes of this movie is taken up with a short film about the Atomic Age, using extensive stock footage of nuclear tests etc.
The cast is mostly made up of unknowns, led by Bruce Kellog.
Unknown World is worth checking out, especially for fans of 1950's sci-fi.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
As with ROCKETSHIP XM, Irving Block, Jack Rabin and the Lippert Company were trying to make a serious science fiction film with something to say. To the films credit, UNKNOWN WORLD is not exploitive or stupid as Rabins and Blocks next film ,CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON was. Years before I first saw this film, I owned a still of the drilling machine that takes the cast to center of the Earth and found it rather interesting looking. Its not bad looking in the film, and the scenes of it drilling into the Earth are of some visual interest. However, the film is just to lethargic and indifferently acted too be of interest to anyone other 1950's science fiction buffs. The trip to the center of the Earth is just to slow going.
There are various versions of this sci-fi wannabe floating around,
stating it runs anywhere from 64 to 73 minutes--whatever the showing
time, it's far too long, for most of the running time you gasp for air!
There are essentially two sets--the Carlsbad Caverns (or as a stand-in,
some caverns near Griffith Park in Los Angeles) and the interior of
some contraption called the Cyclotram, sort of a large dumpster with
controls and four leatherette office chairs with straps. Plot:
Scientists have decided to burrow to the center of the Earth to avoid
the predicted oncoming Atomic Holocaust.
The titles on the print from one purveyor are jumpy and miss listing the only female in the cast--and one who has an interesting back-story: Marilyn Nash was supposedly discovered by Charlie Chaplin while playing tennis in Hollywood, and he signed her to a contract to play "The Girl" in Monsieur Verdoux; her contract was for five years, in which time Chaplin made no further films in the U.S. Miss Nash's Tinseltown buzz faded quickly and years later she tried to make a "comeback" with this Lippert Films release. Too late. It's pretty dull stuff, if not excruciating, and not even mild camp, unless you are starved for an underground adventure with few thrills, deadly dialogue, and forgotten actors.
I thought that this would be a typical "lost world" type movie. A bunch of people set out on an adventure to find a hide away from the threat of nuclear war by drilling deep into the earth...sounds similar to a lot of other story lines. Problem is that with effects of this style (not too bad for the time), and acting this bad, I thought at least we would get a cave man or a cheap dinosaur. No, they just keep going deeper and deeper, losing members of the team as they go. It also ends so abruptly that you think the writer just gave up.
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