Whitman's Getting Pacifica

Rosemary Forsyth and Stuart Whitman in City Beneath the Sea (1971)

Having been one of the men behind the underwater city of Pacifica, Admiral Mike Matthews (Stuart Whitman) resigned for personal reasons after an accident led to the death of a colleague, the husband of operations officer Lia Holmes (Rosemary Forsyth). But after a personal call from the President (Richard Basehart), Matthews finds himself heading back to take charge and facing animosity from those, including his former friend Commander 'Woody' Patterson (Robert Colbert), who are unhappy about his return. But Matthews has been ordered back for a reason as the gold reserve from Fort Knox along with a radio active element is to be stored there. Trouble is that not only is Pacifica facing destruction from an asteroid plummeting to Earth from outer space but Matthews' own brother, Brett (Robert Wagner), plans to steal the gold.

I guess I am just an old movie soul as whilst I enjoy modern movies which create the impossible with the aid of CGI I love the old sci-fi movies which have props full of bells and whistles to make them look high tech. I also enjoy the melodramatic delivery of dialogue by actors who are full of old fashioned machismo and phoney angst. It is why despite having never watched it before I enjoyed "City Beneath the Sea", the 1971 TV Movie/Pilot directed by 70s master of disaster Irwin Allen. Oh there is no denying that watched now "City Beneath the Sea" is cheesy but in truth the cheesiness of it al adds to its entertainment.

Robert Wagner in City Beneath the Sea (1971)

Now whilst "City Beneath the Sea" has various storylines going on it is in truth classic in construct when you think of sci-fi movies. Early on we get a moment of underwater drama as an accident leaves a man fighting for his life in a room filling with water and that of course gives Mike a chance to show how heroic he is. But then just like the nefarious Dr. Zachary Smith in "Lost in Space" we have the nefarious Brett Matthews who plans to steal the gold which is being stored down below, gold which it has to be said looks like wooden blocks painted gold. But of course that isn't enough because we need more danger to make all those involved, whether good guys or bad end up in danger and so we have the asteroid which could wipe out the city under the sea. It all combines to be an entertaining but comical sci-fi movie which makes you smile especially when they wheel into the place the radio active element which looks like a big ball of tin foil with lights strategically placed in it.

Now whilst the story is classic as are the props and sets another big part of this movies joy is in the cast they have pulled together. Stuart Whitman is perfect as the strong, heroic Mike Matthews who never gets fazed by anything whilst Robert Wagner turns in a perfectly pantomime performance as Brett the bad guy. But it is all the recognizable faces such as Joseph Cotten, Paul Stewart and even Sugar Ray Robinson which adds to the entertainment. Yes every single actor is giving it the full melodrama when it comes to their performances with so many pauses in a sentence that sometimes the pauses out number the words but it is exactly what makes this and other similar sci-fi movies from this era now entertaining.

What this all boils down to is that "City Beneath the Sea" is a wonderful blast from the past, a now cheesy sci-fi/disaster TV movie which is entertaining because of all the things which are cheesy. But in truth it is also entertaining for other things including the storyline and acting.

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