Krakatoa: East of Java (1969) starring Maximilian Schell, Diane Baker, Brian Keith, Barbara Werle, Sal Mineo, Rossano Brazzi, John Leyton directed by Bernard L. Kowalski - movie review on The Movie Scene

Krakatoa: East of Java (1969)   3/53/53/53/53/5


Diane Baker and Maximilian Schell in Krakatoa: East of Java (1969)

Go West, it Would be Safer

One of the funniest movie mistakes is "Krakatoa: East of Java" not the movie although some will say it is one long mistake but the actual title because geographically it is wrong, Krakatoa is West of Java. They were forced to keep the title having realised their mistake because they had already done so much promotion work with the incorrect title it would be too costly to correct. Sadly that is the most remarkable thing about "Krakatoa: East of Java" because everything else about this adventure movie feels forced and corny almost to the point that things are so bad it becomes a guilty pleasure entertaining for the wrong reasons.

Now as storylines go "Krakatoa: East of Java" is a cacophony of things which is built around a historical story of the devastating 1883 eruption of Krakatoa which caused a giant Tsunami and resulted in thousands of deaths. But the actual eruption and Tsunami comes later in the movie because the first half of this adventure concerns a select crew aboard the Batavia Queen who are looking for a sunken ship and the treasure supposedly aboard this vessel. As such we have a mix match of crew from playboy Italians to a British scientist with his revolutionary diving chamber plus deep sea diver Connoly who has a secret, his lungs are packing up. So we get a bit of banter, a bit of bargaining for payments and we also have drama when they finally find the location of the sunken boat.

Barbara Werle and Brian Keith in Krakatoa: East of Java (1969)

As this is all going on we get some drama as Captain Hanson was forced to take a group of convicts aboard and that leads to more trouble and some action. But then "Krakatoa: East of Java" evolves because we are only half way into the movie and we discover what Hanson and his mistress Laura were really after and this leads to a dangerous passage through a canal near the active Krakatoa and onto more adventure. That more adventure obviously involves the giant Tsunami as Hanson is forced to try and ride the wave, but there is a lot more to "Krakatoa: East of Java" than just this.

The thing about all of this is that it almost feels like it is being written on the fly with moments of drama thrown in because the writers suddenly realised things would come up short. That is probably not the case but because this story evolves, changes, throws moments of minor drama at us which don't really relate to the bigger picture that it does end up a bit of a cacophony. And adding to that feeling is the eclectic characters and scenes which crop up such as a scene where Charley starts undressing and singing a little ditty to Connoly, it is so out of place it is ridiculous. But there are a lot more of these strange moments which make it feel corny.

Talking of corny well this is very much a movie about actors posing and delivering big smiles, basically looking fake. So we have Maximilian Schell as Captain Hanson, heroic, handsome, a wonderful smile and an all round goody guy, John Leyton as marine scientist Rigby, handsome, heroic a decent smile and an all round good guy. I could go on because every character is a stereotype and not a good one be it the heroic men or the beautiful women and it is all very corny, to the point that these performances become entertaining for the wrong reasons.

The irony of all this is that frankly the storyline is a bit of the mess, the acting far too often borders on the corny and it really isn't that exciting for an adventure movie yet it has some brilliant special effects especially considering its age. Yes the moments of super imposed action look dodgy as so many movies did when placing actors in front of a big screen but the miniature work is terrific. Be it the actual recreation of Krakatoa exploding or the close ups of the boat battling the giant wave it does look the biz, shame the rest of the movie wasn't as good.

What this all boils down to is that "Krakatoa: East of Java" is not a good movie because it is both messy and corny. But it does have some terrific special effects work and this makes up for many of the flaws and frankly is the real reason why it is still worth watching, well that and the fact that at times it is so corny it becomes almost a guilty pleasure.


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