I have to admit, I am glad I wasn’t alive during the 50’s. I mean, the threat of nuclear war hasn’t exactly gone away in recent years but during the 50’s it was right at the forefront of society’s consciousness because of how new the threat was. Let’s face it, when you are doing “Duck & Cover” drills in schools, you know tensions are running at a super high pace. Art often imitates life, and vice versa, which is why so many movies during that period seemed to focus on that theme. Today’s movie is one such movie so let’s see how they decide to handle it as I watch Unknown World.
The plot: As fears of nuclear war continue to rise, famed geologist Dr. Jeremiah Morley writes a report that says a series of nuclear explosions, whether accidental or on purpose, could absolutely destroy mankind. Morley comes up with a plan to save the human species and sets up a group called the Society to Save Civilization. Morley and his team (Dr. Max A. Bauer, Dr. Joan Lindsey, Dr. James Paxton, Dr. George Coleman, and Andy Ostergaard) starts up their research but they are unable to secure government funding. Morely and his team come up with a plan and 3 months later, he heads to the Carlyle Foundation and speaks to their board of directors to try and get the funding. Morely explains that they plan to travel down some of the natural tunnels leading down into the surface of the Earth, using the Cyclotram, a giant boring machine capable of drilling through the dense Earth. After a year of being unable to secure funding, the Society is forced to shutter their project but Wright Thompson, the son of a wealthy newspaper magnate, offers to fund their project on the condition they let him join the expedition. Morely accepts and work begins on building the Cyclotram and when it’s finished, they head to Mt. Neleh to begin their journey. When they reach the top of the volcano, they stop the Cyclotram and get out to do a final check on their position and Morley, feeling impatient, decides to go ahead and descend into the crater instead of waiting till dawn. When the path starts to get too narrow for the Cyclotram to move freely, Morley has the vehicle stop and they head out on foot to find the best way to proceed. As they explore, Morley complains about Wright, considering him a useless waste of space, but Max reminds him that if it weren’t for him, they wouldn’t be able to proceed with their expedition. After finding a plaque commiserating a previous exploration’s stopping point, they find a good spot to drill through and continue on their exploration. As they continue through the tunnels, tempers start flaring as they argue over how best to proceed. Not caring for Morley’s cautious approach, Coleman and Paxton decide to go on ahead on foot. When Andy detects toxic gas outside on the Cyclotram’s system, the others quickly don gas masks to try and catch the two men only to find they have died from the gas. After burying the two men, the rest of the team proceeds down the tunnels when Joan discovers that their water supply has run dry. Morley theorizes that the valve was accidentally left open and the toxic gas that had gotten into the vehicle when they went looking for Coleman and Paxton, had forced the water out of the container. Wright was the last one to get some water and apologizes while Andy starts to hit him but they are pushed apart. The group go looking for water, with tempers flaring between Andy and Wright as Andy continues to give Wright a hard time for his accident, and they briefly come to blows. Wright hears water coming from behind a wall and Andy brings a pair of sledgehammers so they can break through the wall, taunting Wright into helping him. As the smash through the wall, they are suddenly struck by a burst of steam and they all rush back to the Cyclotram. As Morley, Andy, and Max keep an eye on the outside temperature, Joan tends to the burn Wright received from the steam. After the temperature cools, they notice water from the steam and they all rush out to drink some of it. When Joan gets dizzy and faints, they all go check on her and after making sure she is all right, try to figure out their next move. Wright wants to head back and Max agrees with him but Morley, Andy, and Joan all want to continue so the proceed. They eventually break through a chamber into an underground ocean and they head to shore to rest. As they take samples, they determine that the area is no good for human life so they continue on their way. When they come to a fork in the tunnel, Andy goes out to check one of the tunnels and convinces Wright to check the other one. When Wright loses his footing and slides down an embankment, he yells out for help and Andy comes to rescue him but ends up falling to his death. Wright feels guilty for Andy’s death and as Joan tries to console him, he decides to forge ahead like Andy would have wanted. The group eventually discover a massive chamber that has a large air and water supply and is lit by natural phosphorescent light. As they perform various tests, the rabbits that Joan brought give birth to litter of dead babies and when she does the autopsies, determines that something in the atmosphere made them sterile. Realizing that this couldn’t be the oasis they hoped for, Wright, Joan, and Max want to go back but Morley refuses, saying that he lived through 2 great wars and refuses to return to a world where humanity wants to kill itself. Suddenly, an underground volcano starts to erupt and Wright, Joan, and Max all rush back to the Cyclotram but when they yell out for Morley to get in, he refuses and gets swept away by the surging water. Shutting the door before the water gets in, they end up sinking further into the water until they reach the maximum depth the Cyclotram can safely take before they come to a stop. As the Cyclotram drifts along in the water, they suddenly start rising and realize they are somehow heading to the surface, eventually breaking through the water to find themselves close to a tropical island.
This is not a good movie, which is probably why it is on “The Best Of The Worst” box set. The acting felt stilted and it seemed like nobody could really commit to their roles. The main story was ok, but some of the sub-plots felt forced and seemed to just fizzle out. Take the “love triangle” that was implied to occur between Joan, Andy, and Wright, but honestly, I never really saw any real indication that Joan cared about either of them until after Andy died. The other thing was Morley’s motivation, as at first it was to save man kind but at the end it’s revealed that he simply wanted to find a place he could live out the rest of his days alone, making you wonder if that was his intention the whole time. The special effects were incredibly bad and did not help this movie at all. About the only reason to watch this movie is if they do a MST3K riffing of it.
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5