City Under the Sea (1965)

Poster

Known as WAR-GODS OF THE DEEP in the US, this period fantasy-sci-fi-horror yarn stars Vincent Price, Tab Hunter, Susan Hart, David Tomlinson and John Le Mesurier.

Gill man!
Gill man!

The plot involves Price as the leader of a group of smugglers/seamen living in the sunken remains of a lost city off the coast of Cornwall. This place gets its air via the lost city’s advanced pump machinery that is still working. The race who built the city are now few in number and have devolved into gill men.
Price and his men never age so long as they stay in the ruins beneath the waves, but if they venture to the world above they immediately grow old and die.

The sunken city and underwater volcano (in Cornwall!)
The sunken city and underwater volcano (in Cornwall!)
Released as WAR-GODS OF THE DEEP in the US
Released as WAR-GODS OF THE DEEP in the US
Lobby card
Lobby card

Well, this is a movie that pretends to be a Poe film (a poem of his is recited), but the film is really more of a faux Jules Verne yarn with its steampunk diving suits and general decor.

Vincent Price is The Captain
Vincent Price is The Captain

CITY UNDER THE SEA, directed by Jacques Tourneur, looks great, with good scale model work, gorgeous lighting and detailed, nicely art directed sets, featuring bull-headed statues, a giant stone hand and walls covered in Babylonian-style writing and paintings. We get an earthquake at the end too.

This stone hand is a great piece of decor
This stone hand is a great piece of decor
The sets are all very impressive
The sets are all very impressive
Jacques Tourneur gives this movie a great look
Jacques Tourneur gives this movie a great look

However… the plot goes nowhere, with the story becoming simply a series of attempted escapes, involving walking through passages and Price threatening to punish people, even when the local underwater volcano (in Cornwall?!) threatens to destroy everything.

The plot problems can be attributed to the heavy rewriting the script suffered to add humour to it, mainly so that David Tomlinson’s character could be introduced… with his pet chicken (I think the producers wanted to add the chicken because animals had featured in similar movies: there was a duck in JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, a sea lion in 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA and a poodle in the 1960 version of THE LOST WORLD).

David Tomlinson and Herbert the chicken
David Tomlinson and Herbert the chicken
During the undersea chase scene Herbert the chicken sits in Tomlinson's diving helmet!
During the undersea chase scene Herbert the chicken sits in Tomlinson’s diving helmet!

The gill men could have been a big plus for the film, but these aquatic humanoids are not too impressive and seem to have been made from doctored wetsuits.
The underwater chase scene at the end is v-e-r-y slow and plodding too.

I've got to say I've seen better movie gill men...
I’ve got to say I’ve seen better movie gill men…

With a decent script this could have been so much better, even with the inclusion of Herbert the chicken, but the film remains an enjoyable watch anyway.

poster
poster
poster
Various artwork for the film
B&W shot of a gill man

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: