Sunday, 18 September 2011

Around the World Under the Sea (1966)

Around the World Under the Sea falls into the category of harmless adventure movies. Not a classic but passable entertainment.

This 1966 movie was produced by Ivan Tors whose specialty was nature-based adventure TV series usually involving cute animals. Always very much G-rated and aimed mostly at kids but characterised by fairly spectacular photography (very spectacular by the standards of 1960s television).

Around the World Under the Sea has everything you’d expect in an Ivan Tors feature film - it’s family entertainment with no sex or violence, the special effects are pretty good, the acting is strictly B-movie standard, there are cameo appearances by cute animals and most of the movie takes place underwater.

The world has been rocked by an unusual number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and while there’s no way of preventing them it might be possible to minimise the devastation by providing early warning. The plan is to emplace fifty sensors at various places on the ocean floor, each sensor having a radio link to a central facility in Washington. A sophisticated research submarine capable of operating at extreme depths will be used to place the sensors. Doug Standish (Lloyd Bridges) is the hardbitten but idealistic scientist chosen to command the expedition.

He now sets about recruiting the other five members of the submarine’s crew, all experts in their fields. There’s Hank Stahl (Keenan Wynn), an expert in breathing devices, crusty but with a heart of gold. There’s Dr Craig Mosby, whose main qualification seems to be that he’s played by the star of Tors’ Flipper TV series. There’s computer wizard Dr Philip Volker (David McCallum), sporting huge horn-rimmed glasses so we’ll know he’s a scientist. There’s Dr Orin Hillyard, played by Marshal Thompson (another star from one of Tors’ TV series, in this case Daktari). And lastly there’s a medical expert, Dr Maggie Hanford (Shirley Eaton). You have to admire a girl who arrives on board a submarine where she’ll be the only woman crew member wearing a sexy dress and high heels.

Making a thrilling action adventure movie that has no bad guys and no monsters is always a challenge. This movie meets the challenge reasonably successfully. There are sufficient hazards to provide at least moderate excitement.

Of course one way to provide some drama would be to have the submarine’s crew of six include one beautiful glamorous woman, which is exactly what we have here. And no less than three crew members become hopelessly obsessed with the bodacious Maggie Hanford.

The other drama is provided by Dr Philip Volker. Movie scientists in that era were usually either idealistic heroes or crazed madmen, but Volker is a little different. He’s in it for the money. He only agreed to join the expedition on the condition that once the sensors have been placed he can borrow the submarine and the crew for a treasure hunt. He’s the closest thing the movie has to be a villain but he’s not really particularly villainous, he’s more of a likeable rogue.

Lloyd Bridges was a natural for a movie like this, being a veteran of 155 episodes of the underwater action adventure TV series Sea Hunt, as a result of which he’d become a fairly proficient scuba diver. And while he was never a good actor he always put so much enthusiasm into his performances that he rarely failed to entertain. Much the same can be said for Keenan Wynn. David McCallum seems vaguely amused by it all. Shirley Eaton as Maggie Hanford isn’t really a femme fatale, she just has a glamourous sexiness that drives male scientists crazy.

The best thing about this movie is that it was made in the mid-60s so it doesn’t try to ram political messages about the environment or sexism own our throats. It’s just a lightweight kids’ adventure film with a cool submarine, good special effects, very good underwater sequences and fun campy performances.

Unfortunately the print TCM screened is a very poor fullscreen version and this movie doesn’t seem to have had a DVD release. I have no idea if the out-of-print VHS release was fullscreen or not.

1 comment:

iain said...

No monsters? What about the gigantic moray eel????? Did TCM screen a cut print?? And what about the presence of hunky Brian Kelly, best known as Porter Ricks in Ivan Tors' terrific series Flipper?