Steven graciously agreed to watch a selection from our Best of the Worst DVD collection purely so I could write about it. Full disclosure: he agreed and we watched it last month. This write-up has been languishing in my notebook, awaiting just such a Monday.
Spoiler Alert! I’m just going to tell you the whole plot, but you needn’t worry that I will give away all the twists, because there aren’t any.
Unknown World (1951) opens with a Newsreel to give us all the background we need. It is a perfectly legitimate method for glossing over necessary exposition, but it is not a very believable newsreel. There is at least one scene where the cameras would not have been there filming. I guess there is no real point in carping about that. The main problem is not suspension of disbelief; it is suspension of impatience while waiting for the movie to get on with things.
The plot concerns fear of nuclear holocaust, a popular theme of the time. A group of scientists is convinced that it is only a matter of time before the surface of the earth is destroyed. Their solution is to travel deep underground and find another place to live. The newsreel is largely concerned with their efforts to fund the project.
The newsreel also introduces the scientists in the group, including the token women and the fairly handsome man I pegged as her Love Interest. The scientists were really indistinguishable one from the other (except for the female, of course). I think they were supposed to have different personalities, but they only showed intermittent flashes of actual character.
As the newsreel ends, we see that the scientists are viewing it with the maverick scion — really more of a spoiled brat son — of some super wealthy guy who they are hoping will finance the stalled project. Spoiled Brat readily agrees to spend Dad’s money on the venture with the proviso that he accompany the expedition. He is vaguely dashing and pretty much an arrogant douche, leading me to wonder if I had been wrong about the love interest. You know how fictional women LOVE the arrogant type (some real women, too, I suppose).
Off they go in this weird spaceship-looking thing that can run on land and sea. I flashed on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but the ship doesn’t fly (although I can’t help thinking that a couple of musical numbers with Dick Van Dyke would have livened up the proceedings). They enter the earth through a dead volcano and head down.
It is dull going. They drive for a while, stop, get out and walk, then drive some more. Nobody should be surprised to hear that I stopped paying attention. A few of the party die, including Spoiled Brat, but nobody goes in a spectacularly dramatic fashion. They never start to bicker as you would expect from a group stuck in a cramped space with no cable or beer. Maybe they weren’t sure who to fight with, because of that lack of distinguishable character thing.
At one point a member of the team expresses a desire to return to the surface. In a very civilized fashion, they vote. The Go Ons win by one vote, and nobody rebels and tries to go back anyways! I voted with the Go Backs, but of course my vote didn’t count. What disappointed me most was the absence of monsters. I think if you’re going to invent this magical tunnel to the center of the earth, you ought to throw in at least a couple of monsters.
I was a little concerned that Steven would regret his generosity in agreeing to watch a cheesy movie with me. However, we managed to keep ourselves reasonable entertained with editorial comments. My best line came at the end of the movie. the survivors have miraculously returned to the surface. Apparently they take a detour from the path down, because they splash up in the middle of the ocean. There is a beautiful tropical island with palm trees.
“It’s probably Gilligan’s Island,” I said.