Friday, December 31, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Crack in the World (1965)

For the past half a decade, our family tradition has been watching a hokey disaster movie on New Year's Eve. For three of those five years, that's meant spending New Year's with the one and only Dana Andrews, who was born 102 years ago this New Year's Day.

Andrews starred in ZERO HOUR! (1957) and THE CROWDED SKY (1960), along with tonight's movie, CRACK IN THE WORLD. In CRACK IN THE WORLD Andrews plays a scientist, Dr. Stephen Sorenson, who plans to harness energy from the earth's core by setting off a nuclear explosion to crack through the earth's mantle and access magma from the core.

Dr. Ted Rampion (Kieron Moore) warns Sorenson that he will set off a series of earthquakes, but Sorenson has learned he is terminally ill and he's in no mood to theorize and wait. It doesn't help Sorenson's mood any that his beautiful, much younger wife Maggie (Janette Scott) was once in love with Ted.

Unfortunately, once Sorenson explodes the bomb he learns that Ted was right, as thousands of people die in earthquakes. Unless they can find a way to turn things around, the earth will split in two!

As always, Dana Andrews is earnest and believable as the scientist who wants to help mankind and causes a tragedy instead. Unfortunately he's saddled with playing a terminal illness which seems to progress by hours, rather than days or weeks, and having him suddenly start wearing sunglasses indoors is a bit bizarre. Other than that, he's quite interesting as the doomed scientist with a curious marital relationship.

The story is absorbing, although completely impossible in myriad ways. The "science" in the movie, in and of itself, kept my oldest daughter in gales of laughter, as she has a geology minor in geohazards. If you put any concept of reality aside -- and ignore Andrews' indoor sunglasses -- it's a fun movie which builds suspense nicely to its explosive conclusion. (A moral of the story: never get in an elevator during an earthquake...)

There are very amusing reviews of this film by RHSmith at TCM's Movie Morlocks and by Glenn Erickson at DVD Savant. One of my favorite comments by RHSmith: "This is just a neat movie. Although the film wasn’t intended for children, CRACK IN THE WORLD has everything a kid wants. It has Walkie Talkies and binoculars and Jeeps and helicopters and trains and laboratories full of gauges and dials and beakers full of colorful liquids, it has warheads and flame retardant suits and explosions and lava and just everything."

Actress Janette Scott started out as a child actress, including playing James Stewart's too-mature daughter Elspeth in NO HIGHWAY IN THE SKY (1951). She made another notable sci-fi appearance, starring with Howard Keel in DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1962). She seems to have mostly retired within a couple of years of starring in CRACK IN THE WORLD; she married singer Mel Torme in 1966. They divorced in 1977.

Kieron Moore was also a veteran of DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS. He played Count Vronsky in Vivien Leigh's ANNA KARENINA (1948), was the bully in Disney's DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE (1959), and starred with Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren in ARABESQUE (1966). He passed away in 2007.

This movie was directed by Andrew Marton. It runs 96 minutes. The film also stars Alexander Knox.

CRACK IN THE WORLD is available on DVD. The widescreen print looks terrific. There are no extras.


Blogger panavia999 said...

Even though it makes my inner geologist cringe, it's easy to love this movie. It's so corny, yet has entertaining sub texts. (the ill scientist who can't 'drill' his wife, but he'll drill the earth's core dammit!) It came out about the time the theories of plate tectonics and the moon's origins were gaining acceptance. Seems the writers took the idea and ran with it.

"Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" is similar with the loony science, though not as good as CITW. Soon after confirmation of the discovery of the Van Allen Belt, sci fi screen writers went crazy with the concept and made a cornball movie. Joan Fontaine in a submarine in spike heels? A meteor shower causes the Van Allen Belt to catch on FIRE, resulting in global heating like a convection oven ?!?!!!

3:02 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree, this is one of those movies which makes no sense but is a lot of fun. The subtexts are definitely there, although they'll sail over the heads of younger viewers, who will be fascinated with the disaster elements.

I've yet to see VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. Another movie for my "to see" list!

Best wishes,

12:38 AM  

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