Master of the World (1961 film)
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|Master of the World|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||William Witney|
|Produced by||Samuel Z. Arkoff|
James H. Nicholson
|Written by||Richard Matheson|
|Based on||the novels Robur the Conqueror and Master of the World|
by Jules Verne
|Music by||Les Baxter|
|Edited by||Anthony Carras|
|Distributed by||American International Pictures|
|102 min / USA:99 min (including prologue)|
Master of the World is a 1961 science fiction film based upon the Jules Verne novels Robur the Conqueror and its sequel, Master of the World. The movie was written by Richard Matheson, directed by William Witney, and features Vincent Price, Charles Bronson, and Henry Hull. American International Pictures released the film as a double feature with Konga.
A man known only as Robur (Price), shoots down and takes on board his flying ship Prudent (Hull), his daughter Dorothy (Webster), her fiancé Evans (Frankham), all of whom were exploring a volcanic crater in their hot air balloon, along with US government agent Strock (Bronson), who had hired them to look for evidence of an eruption. The supposed eruption was caused by Robur working on his airship, who had also inadvertently broadcast a biblical passage over a voice amplifier, stirring religious fears among the citizenry of the nearby town. Robur has been traversing the globe in his airship, the Albatross, with a goal of forcing peace on the world by virtue of his superior military capabilities. He has a loyal crew of like-minded, equally fanatical idealists. The captives learn how his ship operates, and about his technical advances, including generation of electrical power by crossing "lines of magnetic force" (presumably created by the earth's own magnetic field). The captives wish to escape, but don't fully trust Strock, who appears at times to side with Robur. After saving Evans' life, Strock explains that his oath of loyalty to Robur was insincere, and that as a captive, he feels no compunction to behave as a gentleman.
Robur proceeds to destroy various nations' means of making war, but a desert conflict wounds Robur and damages the Albatross. After the airship succeeds in escaping and Robur recovers, the ship anchors at an island for repairs, where the captives rig the armory to explode. All escape down the anchor line except Strock, who follows while being shot at by the crew. First Strock, then Evans, work at cutting the anchor line, finally releasing the airship, which is damaged beyond repair moments later when the gunpowder explodes. Robur orders his crew to abandon ship, but they choose to ignore his final order, and gather in his quarters while he reads from Isaiah 2:4 (the well-known "swords into plowshares" passage), reminding them of their pledge to try to rid the world of war. The ship, along with Robur and his crew, crashes into the ocean and explodes, while the captives watch, injured but alive, from the shore.
The film was an attempt by American International Pictures to create a prestigious epic adventure along the lines of Around the World in 80 Days (1956). While it boasted a larger cast and more location work than was then the norm for AIP - it was the studio's biggest budget picture to date - it still utilized stock footage, including the opening miniature shot of Elizabethan London from Laurence Olivier's Henry V as a stand-in for Victorian London, with the airship Albatross superimposed over the top. Additional scenes of the Albatross destroying both sides in a naval engagement are created in the same manner, with stock footage borrowed from the battle of Trafalgar scenes at the end of the film That Hamilton Woman (1941).
The script combined elements of both of Jules Verne's novels, Robur the Conqueror and its sequel, Master of the World. Robur, genius, inventor and, in this instance, creator of the powered heavier-than-air craft Albatross, with his hand-picked crew, chooses to use weapons of war to force the governments of the world to lay down their arms and live in peace.
Henry Hull came out of retirement to appear in the cast.
Vincent Price is reported to have considered the role of Robur as one of his personal favorites.
According to Filmfax magazine, a sequel to Master of the World, to have been called Stratofin, was considered by AIP. A concept model of the Terror, Robur's new land-sea-air vehicle, was built (the article included a picture of the model, which did not survive). The film, however, was never made, reportedly due to the manner in which Richard Matheson and his cohorts combined various Jules Verne story elements from both Robur novels for Master of the World, which would have caused insurmountable continuity problems from the first film to the second.
- Film Studio Head to Address Movie Exhibitors Today Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 14 Apr 1961: b10.
- HOLLYWOOD CYCLE: Industry Is Gearing for Outer Space As Science-Fiction Takes Over By GLADWIN HILL. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 26 Mar 1961: X9.
- FILMLAND EVENTS: Screenwriters Set for 'Barbara Greer' Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 01 Aug 1960: C13.
- FILMLAND EVENTS: Newcomer Set for 'Master of World' Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 Sep 1960: 31.
- THE HULL STORY: Henry's Unique: 50 Years in the Theater and 49 with the Same Wife Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 27 Nov 1960: b22.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: Science Fiction Films of the Fifties (1950-1962), 21st Century Edition. 2009. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
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