The City Under the Sea (1965)
The Not so Fantastic Voyage
"The City Under the Sea" or "War Gods of the Deep" as it is also known looks like one of those fantastic Disney adventure movies based upon a Jules Verne story. It isn't at all, in fact not only is "The City Under the Sea" a co-production between American-International Pictures and Anglo-Amalgamated it is based upon an Edgar Allan Poe poem. Even then there is still something about "The City Under the Sea" which has that fantastic voyage look, the under water civilization and Gill men yet it doesn't have the imagination or the excitement that those big fantastic voyage movies had. Basically "The City Under the Sea" ends up is a wannabe, it wants to be a fantastic voyage but doesn't quite do it.
When the body of Mr. Penrose is found washed up on a Cornish beach, Ben Harris (Tab Hunter - The Burning Hills) returns to the nearby cliff hotel to tell Penrose's companion Jill (Susan Hart) and in doing so meets eccentric artist Harold Tufnell-Jones (David Tomlinson - Mary Poppins). But whilst there something strange happens and Jill is kidnapped by a mysterious creature leaving a trail of seaweed behind. Finding a hidden tunnel, Ben and Harold along with Harold's chicken make their way down to an under water civilization where they discover The Captain (Vincent Price) who has been there for over 100 years with his men, kept young by the unique atmosphere but they are in danger from an under water volcano.
I've never read Poe's poem on which "The City Under the Sea" is based upon so don't know how true it is but I do know that it is a movie very much in the same style as the big adventure movies of the 50s. As such we have a lot of typical components starting with Tab Hunter playing are handsome hero Ben who tries to rescue Jill, talking of which Susan Hart is are beautiful damsel in distress. And of course they are accompanied by someone older, the eccentric Harold played by David Tomlinson who has been cast to add some quirky humour to proceedings which he sort of does.
So we have are trio of adventures and now we have the next component, the hidden city which this time is a sunken town off the coast of Cornwall. Visually it is typical, old Victorian style inventions littler the caves of the city along with old books and old clothes. And talking of old you have to have a dictatorial leader which gives us Vincent Price as The Captain, who to be honest is not very frightening or authoritative.
And of course you need the other component which is a bit of science fiction which here we have the Gill men who look like something you would have once seen in "Dr. Who". To be frank the science fiction part of this is not very convincing and is seriously under played with most of the time the Gill men being part of the back ground as they swim in sea.
Now the sea and that is where we have big problems for "The City Under the Sea" because we have a chase sequence as you would expect with our trio trying to escape but being chased down by The Captain and his men. The trouble is that with everyone being in big diving outfits in dark, murky water it is not exciting, in fact it is both slow and corny as various shots of people's faces grimacing are meant to make it seem like there is a fight going on. It is one of many reasons why "The City Under the Sea" ends up lacking excitement.
What this all boils down to is that "The City Under the Sea" has all the components to be a fantastic voyage style movie but it just doesn't come together and ends up surprisingly dull. Maybe if I was a young child in 1965 it would have been more exciting but now it just doesn't quite get it right.
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