The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)

Article #657 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-1-2003
Posting date: 5-31-2003

Gulliver gets lost at sea and ends up at the kingdoms of Lilliput and Brobdingnag.

I’ve covered several Harryhausen movies so far, and even if I haven’t always liked the movies as a whole, I’ve always enjoyed Harryhausen’s creations (I was going to say creatures, but the word really doesn’t appy to EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS) and they have been the best things about the movies. I would imagine that Harryhausen fans wouldn’t be disappointed by any of those movies. This one, however, is the first Harryhausen movie that might disappoint them. It’s not that the stop-motion work is bad; it’s that there is so little of it in the film. Outside of a crocodile (or alligator; I’ve never been able to tell them apart) which Gulliver fights late in the movie, the only other stop-motion creation is—a squirrel. And he has only about twenty seconds of screen time. This could hardly be satisfying for those tuning in expecting the usual Harryhausen fare.

As for the movie itself, I have to give it a little credit. Most adaptations of the Gulliver story seem satisfied with covering the Lilliput story and ending there; this one at least gets to Brobdingnag (though I notice only one attempt to pronounce the name occurs in the movie). The third world of the title appears to be his home land of England, which might be a little disappointing to those expecting a third voyage. The original Gulliver story had four voyages in all, but I suspect part of the reason they are rarely filmed is that they can’t be made into children’s stories as well as the Lilliput story. “Gulliver’s Travels” is not a children’s book; it is a savage satire, and the farther you get into the book, the more uncompromising and misanthropic it is.

Also to its credit is that the movie retains some of the satirical touches. On the down side, I don’t think it really knows what to do with them. In fact, I’m not sure the movie really knows what it is; it tends to swing back and forth between satire, children’s story, adventure, and preachy moral lesson. The gigantism special effects look very nice, but the movie’s lack of focus causes my attention to wander too much. This may be Harryhausen’s most disappointing movie.


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