Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Crack in the World (1965)

Crack in the World is both a science fiction movie and a disaster movie and it delivers the goods on both counts. This 1965 production was made by Security Pictures and distributed by Paramount and boasts surprising lavish production values.

Dr Stephen Sorenson (Dana Andrews in possibly the best of his many 1960s cult movie appearances) is a well-meaning and dedicated scientist who has come up with a plan to provide the entire world with limitless cheap energy. The plan is simplicity itself - all you have to do is drill right through the earth’s crust to reach the magma below. He’s managed to get large-scale funding for the scheme and has set up an ambitious drilling operation in Tanganyika.

There’s only one slight problem. Just before reaching the magma they strike a layer of rock they can’t drill through. Dr Sorenson has a solution for this - a thermonuclear explosion should do the trick. He’s persuaded the US Air Force to provide him with a nuclear missile for the purpose.

Dr Ted Rampion (Kieron Moore) works for the project but he has his doubts about the wisdom of using nukes. His fear is that the explosion will create a gigantic crack in the world and that will mean the end of the planet. He believes that underground nuclear tests have already caused hairline cracks in the earth’s crust.

This scientific dispute is complicated by a romantic triangle involving Dr Sorenson, Dr Sorenson’s wife Maggie (Janette Scott) and Dr Rampion.

Dr Sorenson is determined to go ahead with the blast anyway, and he does. And of course the result is the crack in the world that Dr Rampion predicted. Now Dr Sorenson and Dr Rampion have to work together to find a way to save the earth.

The romantic triangle subplot actually works surprisingly well. Apart from adding some extra dramatic tension it also has the effect of humanising Dr Sorensen, making him more than just a well-intentioned mad scientist. Some reasonably good acting from all three leads helps a good deal. Dana Andrews does particularly well as his character starts to self-destruct.

The special effects are extremely good by the standards of 1965. In fact they’re extremely good by today’s standards. This may not have been a big-budget movie but it looks like one. The sets are equally impressive with the project’s underground operations centre looking quite convincing. The miniatures work is excellent and there are enough explosions to satisfy anybody.

The science is of course very silly, another major factor in the movie’s favour.

Andrew Marton’s long directing career wasn’t especially distinguished but he does a very creditable job here. The movie is nicely paced and the tension is maintained very effectively.

The location shooting was done mostly in Spain.

There’s a definite mad scientist touch to the movie but it’s nicely balanced by making Dr Sorensen a sympathetic and even tragic figure. And while his actions might have threatened the survival of the world he accepts the responsibility for those actions and then knuckles down to the task of saving the world. The anti-technology elements are irritating but they’re balanced to some extent by giving the scientists the chance to try to undo the damage they’ve done. It’s also made clear that Dr Sorensen’s motives are admirable even if he is inclined to take perhaps a few too many risks. But as he points out, if you don’t take risks you can’t make progress.

Olive Films’ DVD release is completely typical of this company’s output - there are zero extras but the 16x9 enhanced transfer is absolutely superb.

Crack in the World is exciting and fairly spectacular and it’s also well-acted. Both science fiction and disaster movie fans should be delighted by this movie. Dana Andrews fans will be pleased to see him getting the opportunity to do some real acting. Very highly recommended.

1 comment:

Randall Landers said...

Awesome movie with awesome effects and acting. Still watch this one time and again when it's on TCM.