Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Crack in the World 1965


"Thank God It's Only a Motion Picture !"

   On the face of it, a Spanish/American mid 60's sci/fi co-production shot with a (mostly) British crew & cast (with some Italians lurking in the background) & starring a former A-list Hollywood actor (plus a couple of British "B" leads) might seem to have "low budget cheez" written all over it, but crack in the World is a resounding good time and a great choice for an apocalyptic end of world theme movie night. 

   Dana Andrews plays Dr. Stephen Sorenson who heads up "Project Inner Space" who's purpose is to drill into the earths core and tap into the liquid magma core as an unlimited source of energy. To break the final layer of crust he intends to use a nuclear missile shot downward thru the earth at huge underground installation in a remote part of the world (Africa is hinted at). Although perhaps not the classic mad scientist Sorenson is treading kind of lightly on the 'ol thin line of megalomania ego & insanity. Joining him is his much younger wife & fellow scientist Maggie (Janette Scott - who fills out a nightgown nicely) and geologist Ted Rampion (Kieron Moore). Previously Maggie & Ted had been involved, with her eventually deciding on the elderly Sorenson (although she's obviously faithful to him, he feels jealously toward Rampion). This along with his being diagnosed with a malignant form of cancer opens up a whole bunch of vest pocket Freudisms as he rushes ahead with the project, ignoring the warnings of his younger rival, as Rampion believes the resulting explosion will fracture the earths crust and cause apocalyptic natural disasters.

   The missile is launched and all seems good until a huge crack is discovered moving around the earth thru a fault line called the Macedo trench, with the end result being the earth will break apart. With his rapidly spreading cancer and the psychological responsibility for deaths of thousands of people, Sorensen starts to really go off deep end as he starts ominously wearing dark glasses and is wrapped in more & more bandages. This behavior slowly begins to drive Maggie back into Ted's arms (and she does start mending his socks for him).
   In an attempt to stop the crack an atom bomb is lowered into a handy volcano in its path (in one the movies more thrilling sequences) with the plan being to blow a large hole to stop it. Unfortunately the crack reverses direction and heads back to Project Inner Space - at this point the movie stomps down on the accelerator and never lets up. It's soon discovered that the result will being a giant section of the earth will be flung up into space to form a new moon. The climax finds volcanic destruction & earthquakes, with Soresen locked down in his vast underground bunker recording the events (and maybe the end of the world) while Ted & Maggie attempt to escape.

   The true highlight of the film is the spectacular special effects done by Russian born Eugène Lourié and although the entire budget of Crack in the World was only about $500,000, he creates some fantastic set pieces combining miniatures, pyro effects and some awe inspiring Ken Adam ala James Bond inspired set design (The only letdown is the strangely drawn map of the inner earth that looks like something from a 4th grade science fair). Actual volcano footage is neatly integrated and the whole thing as the look of a much higher budget.
  Most of the geology stuff in the script can most likely be torn apart by anyone with a passing knowledge, but its put forth with such conviction by the earnest cast that you can't help but get caught up in the excitement. The love triangle is put forth very maturely and although its a plot point, it never overshadows whats really going on.

   It's been said that Dana Andrews drank heavily during his later years, but he always put in a solid dependable performance (even if the movies were always diminishing properties). The next year he would be behind some Nazi zombies in The Frozen Dead and would finish up his career by crashing a plane into a jet airliner in Airport 1975. I always liked Kieron Moore and he appeared in a great trilogy of 60's British sci/fi - horror films. Along with Crack in the World he appeared in the 1962's Day of the Triffids (where he shared the climatic lighthouse scene with his co-star here Janette Scott) and the the wonderfully lurid Hammer knock-off Dr. Blood's Coffin (1961). A dark, sullen & brooding actor he always looks to be about 10 seconds away from kicking someones ass.
   Thanks to frequent showings on T.V. in the late 60's and 70's Crack in the World was an awe inspiring event for bunches of kids. With its scenes of  frightening mass destruction (particularly a train crash) and giant underground labs, this was a movie which you saw as a child and never forgot. Now out as an excellent DVD & Blu-Ray from Olive Films.


  1. Yeah, KPLR Channel 11 out of St. Louis showed the crap out of this movie on Saturdays and especially Sunday afternoons. I always thought it was a crackerjack disaster flick, predating the entire 70's Disaster Cycle by 5 years. I'm pleased to hear it's out on disk - definitely want to pick it up! Great post!

  2. I do almost always enjoy films like this, even the lower budget ones. Well, the older ones. Those late 90s kind of ones dont hold my interest.
    But yeah, as always, great write-up!

  3. I had a good time with this movie. Having never seen it, and skeptical, the Olive DVD ended up as a welcome addition to the collection. Great write up, too, Dick.