Film Review : Crack in the World

picture from crack in the world

I know! Let’s nuke a volcano!

In the mid 1960’s sci-fi movies were starting to move from the campy alien invasions and monster movies towards things more grounded, more nature havoc creating and taking on a more socially and politically aware. Crack in the World mixes the best of both worlds and whilst it is a very slow burn, it builds up to a cracking finale.

Released : 1965

Runtime : 1 hr 36 mins

Premise

In search for unlimited energy, a scientist drills into the Earth core which causes the Earth to crack and begin to split in two.

The Disasters Faced

Earthquakes, fissures, volcanoes, lava, red rashes that mean death, moons, falling debris, rebound relationships and potential stampedes.

Crack in the world picture

For lava effects, see red light!

The Execution

In many ways, Crack in the World is designed and built-in a very classic sci-fi way. There’s a lot of pre-amble and science. People talk about science by pointing at charts and shouting at others to show they’re angry, right and need to do things immediately. Also, due to the limitations of budget and effects at the time, initially a lot of the action also happens off-screen. I was worried in the first half that actually the film would be far busy focusing on a love triangle in which none of the trio acted nicely to each other. From this angle, the film didn’t really engage me as no one seemed to act like a proper human being and the scenes were reduced to childish sulk-argue-cuddle-sulk-flirt with the other one cycles. Thankfully the second half ups the anti with volcano descents, mountain collapses and action sequences that are daring and show the sheer scale of what they were trying to go for. It’s an ambitious film, and although it perhaps spends its tight 96 minutes dwelling too much on Wife Swap : End of the World special – it certainly knows how to entertain when everything kicks off.

The Effects

Scale models are used frequently in the movie and they do a great job. The train sequence is particularly well done, as is the volcano one. Set design has that “we’re doing sci-fi so everything must be metallic silver” hint that everything of that time had. However, the set destruction is top-notch. Things collapse, walls fall – flames are close by. Elsewhere, I really like what the effects team did with perspective. The world is splitting in two, so in the shots where you can see the crack coming – it’s excellently placed in false perspective behind the actors or model sets.

Why It’s Worth Watching

Often today with cheap TV disaster movies, the crisis is averted – but not here. The crack is set in motion from the beginning of the movie and its about damage limitation rather than avoidance. The acting, whilst the script is a bit wooden, is well done. I wished there was more time with some of the background characters to flesh the film out beyond the main trio. It meant other people’s sacrifices and hard work had much less impact. From a character standpoint, my own minor qualm aside from the second quarter of the film, is how each of the main trio of characters are each unlikable in their own way. Stephen is unavailable emotionally, Ted is rage quitting at every opportunity and Maggie just wants to bounce between whomever she’s just argued with last. They all needed a good slap. It’s also an interesting comment on the way we use our planet for profit, lifestyle and how we look after it for the future and that’s an even more relevant topic for discussion today.

Drinking Game

“But I love you”

“Leave me alone Maggie”

*Maggie runs to the other guy* …”I love you!”

crackintheworld01

The model effects are still impressive to see in action and are better than the cheapo CGI we get today

Weirdest Moment

I have no idea what Stephen’s illness was, or what anything his doctor was doing would help him live for a couple more days. It’s an important plot point, but makes little sense when on-screen.

Favourite Character

It’s rare – but I really don’t have one for this film. Steele seemed like a great guy from the screen time he was given!

Random Trivia

The film takes place in Tanganyika, which existed from 1961-1962, then became the Republic of Tanganyika from 1962-1964 before changing its name to the United Republic of Tanzania after merging with Zanzibar. When this film was released in 1965, the country’s name had already changed. I wonder if anyone thought it was fictional or if people do what they do in the Olympic Games opening ceremony and discover new countries they didn’t even know existed…

Conclusion

Crack in the World is a great piece of 1960’s cinema book-ended with a turgid love triangle which we could have done without. However, if you can stomach the empty love, you’ll find an awful lot to enjoy with weird science, dramatic musical cues and some excellent practical effects for the time.

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