THE INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD (1959)
Article #570 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-6-2002
Posting date: 3-1-2003
Two men and two women survive an accident in a diving bell, and then find themselves in a network of undersea caves.
Let’s consider the word “petrified” for a minute. According to my dictionary, the word “petrify” means to turn something organic into stony, inorganic matter. Considering the deadly dull pace of this movie, the word is rather apt, but at heart, I believe the word should be avoided for movies that purport to be exciting adventure flicks, as the ads did seem to promise for this one. Monsters? You see stock footage of a fight between a squid and a shark, and at one point our adventures encounter stock footage of a big lizard, which they cleverly avoid by staying to the far left of the frame as they pass it. Instead, their primary threat is a seedy guy stranded in the caverns with a very bad fake beard, and he doesn’t appear until the last twenty minutes of the “action”.
It’s really not the actors’ fault; they’re competent enough and trying to do their best. It’s Jerry Warren’s direction that is sleep-inducing; if he knows how to achieve any cinematic intimacy with his actors, he keeps that talent well hidden. His favorite way of directing a scene is to have is actors stand in a row against a flat background and deliver their lines; it’s easy to direct, but flabbergastingly dull. The fact that these scenes mostly consist of nothing but talk, and the talk as written largely consists of dull, conversational dialogue that ideally you should cut out of your script so you can get to the interesting parts certainly doesn’t help either. John Carradine, Phyllis Coates, and Robert Clarke are the familiar faces here.