Director: Andrew Marton
Script: Jon Manchip White & Julian Halevy
Cast: Dana Andrews, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore, Alexander Knox, Peter Damon, Jill Gillen, Gary Lasdun, Todd Martin
Running time: 96 minutes
Back in the Seventies and Eighties terrestrial television used to be full of films helping to fill up the schedules throughout the day. In fact, I first got into movies by watching a wide variety of films with my mum, while she beavered away at the ironing or peeling vegetables for meals. My favourite genres back then were sci-fi and fantasy films, and films like Crack in the World were good for my mum to watch too since they featured a bit of romance as well. I can’t actually remember seeing Crack in the World with my mother, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been shown on BBC1, BBC 2 or ITV sometime during the 1970s. It’s the sort of afternoon matinee feature they screened a lot back then…
Project Inner Space is led by Dr Steven Sorenson (Dana Andrews) and his considerably younger wife, Maggie (Janette Scott), and its aim is to harness the geothermal energy of the Earth’s core by detonating a powerful nuclear missile deep within the Earth’s core. After getting naysayer Maggie’s ex-boyfriend, Ted (Kieron Moore), out of the picture temporarily the Sorensons proceed with their dangerous experiment resulting in a crack occurring within the Earth’s crust, which threatens to split the Earth in two if it’s not stopped in time.
Steven Sorenson is dying anyway so is rather blasé about the whole thing, while his wife is torn between being the dutiful and loving spouse and the more thoughtful and critical researcher and post-doc that she really is. She’s also torn between her love for two men, (her dying husband and her ex-lover), hence the romance I mentioned earlier. In fact, Crack in the World is more a human drama than sci-fi film, but is still a fun watch in the main.
Director Andrew Marton, (who won a special Oscar for directing the chariot race in Ben Hur) keeps things moving along at a reasonable pace, (even though it takes 30 minutes to get to the missile launch), and tries to keep the film visually interesting, even when there are just dialogue scenes on screen. In fact, the sets are impressive, in a sort of James Bond villain’s lair kind of way, and the other visual effects, including matt paintings are quite impressive too, given their age. Parts of the film reminded me a little of some of Gerry Anderson’s ambitious sets for Thunderbirds and the like, especially some of the modelling on display.
Where the film is not so good is in its regular use of stock footage of volcanic lava and magma flows, which don’t always seem to match the main film’s footage, and the movie has too many two dimensional character stereotypes, including the mad scientist, the smart woman becoming a dumber foil to her male counterparts to make them look good, and the misunderstood hero character who saves the day at the last minute – or does he? I don’t want to give the ending away!
Like many sci-fi films from the 1950s and 1960s Crack in the World is full of ridiculous ideas and dodgy science, but is kind of more fun because of its ridiculousness. In fact it could be seen to be the Armageddon of its day. Although Armageddon didn’t have a gopher thrown into its cheesy mix like this film does!
Crack in the World is certainly recommended to those who enjoy a spot of vintage sci-fi and to those who are nostalgic for the days when TV scheduling had a healthy dose of cool older movies you’d never heard of before, and not just more recent blockbuster films, pretty much all screened after the 9pm watershed.
101 Films is distributing Crack in the World on Blu-ray. The only extra on the disc is a brand new commentary with film historians/ writers Allan Bryce and Richard Hollis who do a good job of putting the film into context in an engaging and light-hearted manner.