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War-Gods of the Deep

Entry updated 27 November 2018. Tagged: Film.

Film (1965; vt City in the Sea). Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors (UK)/American International Pictures (US). Produced by Daniel Haller and George Willoughby. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. Written by Charles Bennett and Louis M Heyward with additional dialogue by David Whitaker. Based very loosely on Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The City in the Sea" (in Poems, coll 1831 chap, as "The Doomed City"; rev vt August 1836 Southern Literary Messenger as "The City of Sin"; vt April 1845 American Review as "The City in the Sea"). Cast includes Susan Hart, Tab Hunter, Vincent Price and David Tomlinson. 84 minutes. Colour.

In 1903 on the coast of Cornwall, the attractive Jill (Hart) is abducted from her room at her family's hotel by something vaguely humanoid. Her boyfriend Ben (Hunter) and his artist friend Harold (Tomlinson) search for her, discovering a tunnel leading from the hotel to the sea and eventually to the titular City Under the Sea, a sealed world ruled by the Captain (Price). The city was evidently built in the remote past by the Lost Race of amphibious humanoids who abducted Jill, now degenerated into little more than brutes used by the Captain's people as slaves. It emerges that the oxygen of the city somehow provides Immortality to its human residents, who have lived there since 1803; the Captain ordered Jill's abduction because she resembles his wife of a century before. Echoing Lost Horizon (1937), city inhabitants can no longer withstand sunlight, which causes rapid ageing. Predictably, our heroes escape in diving suits invented by the Captain and company, just before the traditional volcano destroys the city and the underwater Monsters. The Captain pursues them to the surface but quickly ages; all ends well for the three main characters.

This was the final film for director Tourneur, who had worked with Val Lewton on such Horror classics as Cat People (1942), and I Walked with a Zombie (1943); it has some of the flavour of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1954), but is let down by a restricted budget. Though perhaps the least effective of the 1960s AIP Poe films, it is still of some minor interest; but there are too many lengthy sequences containing little but talk, and plot elements like the residents' immortality are largely unexplored. Some stock footage from Atragon (1963) and other films appears. Despite contrary reports, the US title was always War-Gods of the Deep, as shown by numerous film posters. It was released as such to home video with At the Earth's Core (1976). [GSt/DRL]


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