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Master of the World

Entry updated 30 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1961). AIP. Directed by William Witney. Written by Richard Matheson, based (not very closely) on Robur le conquérant (1886; trans as The Clipper of the Clouds 1887; vt Robur the Conqueror 1887) and Maître du monde (1904; trans as Master of the World 1914) by Jules Verne. Cast includes Charles Bronson, Henry Hull, Vincent Price and Mary Webster. 104 minutes. Colour.

Master of the World owes more to the Disney version of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1954) – which it clearly imitates – than to the two Verne novels, with the Albatross, a very light clipper ship with propellers on the masts, substituting for a submarine. Robur (Price), a warped idealist, uses his invention to enforce peace by making war on war, bombarding opposing armies from the air; he kidnaps as witnesses a US special agent (Bronson), an arms manufacturer (Hull) and a young couple. The film was more lavish than most AIP productions (usually very-low-budget exploitation movies), but most of the money went on the elaborate flying ship. The travelogue aspect of the film is achieved largely through library footage, some of it wildly anachronistic: a supposed aerial shot of 1860s London is from the 1944 film of Shakespeare's Henry V. A melodramatic, one-note script by Matheson (usually better than this) and flat direction weaken the film, but it remains watchable if silly. [JB/PN]


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