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Master Of The World

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    Ian Jane
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  • Master Of The World



    Released by: MGM Limited Edition Collection

    Released on: August 23, 2011.

    Director: William Witney

    Cast: Vincent Price, Charles Bronson, Henry Hull

    Year: 1961

    Purchase From Amazon


    The Movie:


    Directed by William Whitney, a director best known for his work on various westerns, serials and TV shows over the years, and based off of a script by Richard Matheson (which in turn adapts Jules Verne's two novels - Clipper Of The Clouds and Master Of The World), this 1961 AIP production finally arrives on disc courtesy of MGM's Limited Edition Collection.


    The story, set in the early nineteenth century, begins when an arms manufacturer named Mr. Prudent (Henry Hull), his daughter Dorothy (Mary Webster), her fiancé Phillip Evans (David Frankham) and a government agent named John Strock (Charles Bronson) are taken aboard a massive flying blimp-like structure dubbed The Albatross created almost entirely out of compressed paper by a mad genius named Captain Robur (Vincent Prince). He, along with his crew, spend their days flying around the planet hoping to force all of the world's super powers to put down their arms - in short, he's declared war on war. While Robur's idea is certainly a noble one, his methods are questionable at best - particularly when he starts dropping bombs from his flying machine in order to force his point. While Strock tries to figure out a way to stop him before he goes too far, feelings arise between him and Dorothy, much to the dismay of Phillip.


    Jules Verne adaptations were a hot cinematic commodity in the late fifties and early sixties so it makes sense that AIP would want to get in on that. Matheson's script is a solid one, mixing in some interesting political subtext (it's fairly common knowledge that Verne was not at all hawkish in his politics) while Whitney's direction shows some serious creativity in terms of how to bring Verne's rather epic vision to life with a limited budget. While the stock footage inserts and miniature effects work might be dated by modern standards, it's hard not to appreciate the design work that went into creating The Albatross. It's inside the ship that the vast majority of the film plays out and where the design work is the most effective as when we step outside the interior stock footage tends to reign supreme but there's still a lot to love about the look and fairly palpable cinematic texture of the movie. The film is also a very colorful one, using plenty of primary colors to give the film a candy coated and at times almost surreal vibe.


    As far as the performances go, Price is great as Captain Robur, and even if his character is essentially Captain Nemo in a blimp instead of a sub Price really makes the most of the part and delivers a few rather passionate tirades with utter conviction. It's his dedication to this performance that helps us almost look past his gigantic fake bushy eyebrows and glue on beard. His back and forth with Bronson's Strock is often times the best part of the movie, and the tension between the two men is pretty believable. Henry Hull is a bit goofy in his part, his voice sounding more like a cartoon character at this point in his life, while the lovely Ms. Webster isn't given a whole lot more to do than look pretty - but she does that well. Look for a young and frequently shirtless Richard Harrison as one of Robur's minions and for character actor Vito Scotti as a French chef, the movie's only real source of intentional comic relief. Les Baxter's score for the film is a great one, though some will note the absence of the theme song, missing from the end credits of this version of the movie (which runs 102 minutes and which does feature the prologue intact). A sequel was planned and though AIP started basic pre-production on it, the movie never materialized.


    Video/Audio/Extras:


    MGM presents Master Of The World in a 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks fairly good. It doesn't appear to have been specifically restored but the elements used must have been in pretty decent shape to start with. There's some grain throughout but no serious print damage and color reproduction, which plays such a huge part in the production design for this movie, comes across quite well. Detail is about average for a film of this age though some scenes are a bit softer than others. Overall though, this isn't a bad transfer. The stock footage inserts are a bit worse for wear and stand out against the newly shot footage but you can't fault the disc for that.


    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio track on the disc is well balanced and features clean, clear dialogue. The score also sounds quite good, as do the various sound effects used throughout the movie.


    Aside from the standard MGM Limited Edition Collection static menu screen, the disc also includes the film's original theatrical trailer.


    The Final Word:


    A perfect release would have had the theme song (it's on the soundtrack CD) and some extra features but that didn't happen. That said, it's nice to have this family friendly film on DVD and in decent shape. The movie may look dated to audiences today but it stands the test of time as a creative work of fantasy with some great performances and a smart script. Definitely worth revisiting, especially for Vincent Price fans.






















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