The world in the late 19th century: A scientist and his team are held as "guests" of Robur on his airship, that he want to use to ensure peace on earth. Peace with all, even if he has to ... See full summary »
The world in the late 19th century: A scientist and his team are held as "guests" of Robur on his airship, that he want to use to ensure peace on earth. Peace with all, even if he has to bombard military targets all over the world. Can the scientist stop him ? Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
Just before the warship is bombed, Robur observes it through the scope. The view shown of an approaching sailing ship is clearly filmed from sea level. A moment later he looks again and the view is from above. See more »
It was risk enough to refuse joining forces with him. I think that was a mistake. If I had joined forces with him, I could've found his weaknesses more easily. Now I'll have to work in the dark, Mr. Evans, but at least I'm alive to do so! Perhaps somewhat less than a perfect gentleman, but alive.
Without honor, sir!
Oohh, honor be damned, Mr. Evans!
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Unusually for an early 1960s American film, the opening credits do not list the director, writers, or major technical staff; only the top-billed actors are credited, followed by the title, after which the film begins. See more »
Set in the Victorian era, a mad genius named Robur (Vincent Price) has devised a futuristic flying ship for a devious, slightly contradictory, though possibly admirable purpose. He travels halfway around the world with an imprisoned quartet and a crew of "air sailors".
Although there are some problems with this film primarily due to its budget, and some viewers might be put off by the obvious similarities to Disney's version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954), I enjoyed this somewhat wacky sci-fi/fantasy/adventure film quite a bit, and gave it a 9 out of 10.
The film actually opens with a brief but clever, tongue-in-cheek black & white documentary about the history of flying machines. Abruptly, at the narrative line "Master of the World", the documentary ends. Then we change to color as we're taken to a sumptuously fantastic Pennsylvania town, complete with towering mountains and a seeming volcano.
I have to admit that director William Whitney already had me in the palm of his hand at that moment. I'm all for weird transitions, surrealism and beautifully saturated color cinematography. To make things even better, just as a character tells us how boring the town is, a booming voice (obviously Price's), quoting a doom-laden passage from scripture, emanates from the vicinity of the mountain.
I was also easily sold on the film because I'm a big Vincent Price fan. Price is great, even though the context of the role is a bit unusual for him. There is a lot of comic relief throughout most of the film, and the genre wasn't his norm. However, he comes across as menacingly demented yet suave as always. The rest of the principle cast was marvelous, too, with Charles Bronson playing an early version of Harrison Ford (maybe he always did that), Mary Webster as an appealing love triangle target, and some very fun and appropriate overacting from Henry Hull doing an early obnoxious "I'm an American" shtick and David Frankham as the perpetually irascible Victorian sap.
It's a blast noting all of the future tech elements from past eras' perspectives, and the set design and special effects are actually admirable given that this was a low-budget film for its ambitions. Even the stock footage and footage from the 1944 Henry V (the shots of London that look like a medieval town), although at times obvious, are incorporated well. On the other hand, there is some similarity between the set design and that of a particular era and class of television show--say the Adam West Batman, the original Star Trek, or even the Tom Baker Doctor Who--which all have a fairly low-budget look, but I have to admit that I love those shows, too.
There isn't much of an easily discernible subtext in the film, but of course that's because Master of the World wears its messages proudly on its sleeve. I won't state them explicitly here, as in my view that would be a spoiler, but it's notable, like many other aspects of the film, for its similarity to 20,000 Leagues, including its moral ambiguity. This would actually be a good film, as would 20,000 Leagues, to show a freshman-level ethics class as an exemplification of and discussion launching pad for both utilitarianism and deontology.
Although it's not exactly the most original film to come down the pike (but primarily just because of 20,000 Leagues), and it's not a faithful adaptation of author Jules Verne's work, I don't subtract points for either of those characteristics. Master Of The World has an engaging, solid story that is both thought provoking and a lot of fun.
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