Master of the World (1961)

MASTER OF THE WORLD (1961)
Article #608 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-13-2002
Posting date: 4-9-2003

In the nineteenth century, several balloonists become prisoners of a madman who is determined to end war in the world by destroying warships with his flying air fortress.

American International Pictures didn’t quite have the financial wherewithal to really pull off a Vernian epic; the special effects sequences are less than convincing. The story itself is largely a rehash of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, only taking place in the skies instead of in the ocean. Nonetheless, it is a sturdy story that bears repeating, and the script by Richard Matheson is solid, and avoids the cutenesses that made the Disney movie a bit of a trial at times; there’s nary a cute animal nor a cute song to be found. Though Henry Hull’s performance as the armaments manufacturer is too one-dimensional, there are strong performances by both Vincent Price (as Robur) and Charles Bronson (as Strock). In fact, the Strock character is one of the most interesting in the story; though he serves the function as the main hero of the story, he is a pragmatic strategist who abjures noble cant in favor of quiet logic, and who is not afraid to look like a villain if it should increase the chances of making a more effective move later on. He is in his own way as strong a character as Robur, and Robur rightly recognizes him as the only one of the characters who is a real threat to him, and Bronson (whose silence can speak volumes) is well cast in the role. If anything, this movie may actually do a better job of giving us a complex array of characters, and bringing out many of the moral dilemmas inherent to the situation. Though not a completely successful movie, this one is worth a watch.

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