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Enjoyable Jules Verne adaptation!
on June 25, 2012
Enjoyable low-budget romp based off of the Jules Verne novels Robur the Conqueror and Master of the World, but, oddly, using only the second one's title. Vincent Price stars as self-proclaimed "master of the world" Robur, inventor of a giant flying zeppelin named the Albatross, who abducts Charles Bronson's stoic police inspector and Henry Hull's blustery balloonist and his daughter, played by the fetching and strong-willed Mary Webster. Also along for the ride is Webster's idiotic, cowardly fiance played by David Frankham who does nothing but whine and be a jerk.
The screenplay by Richard Matheson is on the talky side with little in the way of action, but it's intelligently written and has some extremely quotable scenes. Prince really sinks his teeth into the part of the determined and passionate Robur, providing a less manic and composed alternative to James Mason's intense Captain Nemo in Disney's earlier 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Although Matheson insisted Charles Bronson was "miscast" as John Strock, he does his best in a pretty basic hero role that just calls for him to be square-jawed, stoic and punch henchmen. The stoic and square-jawed Bronson is perfect for punching henchmen, so I'm unsure what Matheson is talking about. His cool, quiet demeanor acts as a nice counterbalance to Price's more animated, over the top (but still enjoyable) performance.
Mary Webster's Dorothy is little more than someone for Bronson and Frankham to fight over and for Hull to act protective toward, but nevertheless, she does have an arc, albeit a pretty standard one, wherein she finds the guts to stand up to wimpy heel Frankham's Phillip and choose the manlier Strock. This just leaves Henry Hull. Many viewers complain that he overacts in his role as Dorothy's father, but, frankly, that's what makes his role so enjoyable. He's hilarious and provides much better comic relief than Vito Scotti's horrific performance as the Albatross' resident "French" chef. His dinner table debate with Price as Robur is one of the film's best scenes.
Add a few steampunk sci-fi elements like a cool giant airship and "futuristic" flintlock pistols (basically just embellished with some added on silver parts) and you've got yourself a pretty solid, but not great, movie. The only thing that sinks it is its low budget which necessitates the over reliance on stock footage. Beyond this, I found it just as enjoyable as the earlier Verne epics Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Fox's Journey to the Center of the Earth.