Saturday, October 29, 2011

Master of Reality

Since it's getting to be Halloween, we naturally thought of streaming some Vincent Price. Since The Abominable Dr. Phibes is not available on streaming, we thought we'd try some non-horror, adventure Price:  Master of the World (1961). 

It starts in pre-Civil War Pennsylvania, where strange explosions and Bible-quoting voices are heard from the top of Great Eyrie Mountain. Government agent Charles Bronson goes to the Philadelphia Ballooning Society to recruit a balloon for aerial surveillance, and picks up arms magnate Henry Hull, his daughter Mary Webster and her fiance David Franken. In short order, they are up in a balloon and just as quickly, shot down by a mysterious missile.

They wake up in a great steampunk airship, run by the Nemosque Capt. Robur (Price). They soon find that he plans to use his mastery of the air to destroy all armies and navies and abolish war - regardless of the wishes of the nations of the earth.

Price is clearly a noble, altruistic genius, and his "guests" are a war profiteer (Hull), a simpering ninny (Webster), an arrogant bully (Franken) and sadly miscast (Bronson). And yet, he's the villain.

But this irony is intentional. What is not intentional is the woefully threadbare special effects - scant models, international locations that never get much past Malibu, and what appears to be extensive stock footage. By the time it gets to the - I think - genuinely exciting climax, this movie had used up all of my good will, and I was just making fun of it.

I understand that most of Vincent Price's oeuvre represents a triumph of art over budget. I'd call this a draw at best.

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