A Hollywood leading man in the 1940s and 1950s, and a fine actor indeed, Dana Andrews became a bonofide star with the Oscar-nodded THE BEST YEAR OF OUR LIVES (1946). Genre fans mostly identify Andrews for his starring role in the British thriller NIGHT (CURSE) OF THE DEMON directed by Jacques Tourneur in 1957, but the following decade saw the actor appearing almost exclusively in international exploitation pictures. In the 1960s, Andrews would be attached to such titles as THE SATAN BUG, BRAINSTORM, HOT RODS TO HELL, and of course, THE FROZEN DEAD, but one of his more respected resume entries during this period was 1965’s CRACK IN THE WORLD.
An inner space lab located three miles underground somewhere in Africa attempts to bore through the layers of rocks lying deep beneath the Earth’s crust. Using an atomic missile to do so, the purpose of this momentous feat is to access a molten mass of gas which could provide the world with unlimited energy if harnessed correctly. The mastermind behind most of this is aging, well-intentioned scientist Dr. Stephen Sorenson (Dana Andrews), who is supported by his much younger wife and colleague Maggie (Janette Scott, DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS). There is some opposition though with another colleague, Dr. Ted Rampion (Kieron Moore, DR. BLOOD’S COFFIN), a geologist who thinks the the explosive missile's underground launching is premature, and even requests to a member of the British government, Sir Charles Eggerston (Alexander Knox, THESE ARE THE DAMNED), that the risky task be halted, even after the approval had already been granted. The project goes ahead full steam, and although all seems alright at first, reports of worldwide earthquakes and other natural disasters lead to the discovery that the missile’s detonation has caused a crack in the Earth, that if not stopped, will cut clean around the globe!
Shot mostly on location in Spain in 1964, CRACK IN THE WORLD is a largely successful melding of science fiction and catastrophic disaster produced by Security Pictures and released by Paramount in the Spring of '65. The screenplay by Jon Manchip White (who also provided the literary source for the Richard Gordon-produced horror opus, NAKED EVIL) gives the film plenty of human drama, especially concerning the three leads, caught in a sort of love triangle with all the tension. Former Hammer starlet Janette Scott (from PARANOIAC and THE OLD DARK HOUSE) trades in her trademark long red locks for a shorter blonde look (and kind of resembles a young Glynis Johns). Anyway, she’s still cute as a button, and her character wants a baby, even though she’s half the age of her husband. But hubby Sorenson (Andrews) has just been told by his physician that he has terminal cancer, with the end being near, and he tries to hide this from dear Maggie as long as possible.
Enter young, handsome and athletic Ted Rampion (Irish-born Moore) who not only was opposed to Sorenson’s actions, but had a fling with Maggie before she left him for the elder genius (Ted also keeps a passionate 8x10 of he and his old flame embracing on his wall). But the steel-jawed Ted actually turns out to be a strong lead hero, and despite his professional rivalry with Sorenson, he maintains his cool, never attempting to move on his babe, and he does his very best to save the Earth. This means lowering a nuclear bomb down below into the Earth’s crust (he volunteers for the job, along with another unfortunate) in one of the movie’s more tense, well-orchestrated action scenes, but this only makes things worse for humanity!
Don’t let the melodrama fool you (it just makes the characters more vulnerable, especially Andrews’ sympathetic role) and with no rubber-suited monster creeping out from the ocean’s floor or any sign of alien invaders hovering above, CRACK OF THE WORLD hails as an entertaining “end of the world” yarn, and though the basic premise may be as implausible as they come, the skilful execution keeps things convincing and the climax is a doozy. The special effects are the real star here, and although we’re talking 45 years after its release, they hold up extremely well, with only some rear projection shots not making the grade. The miniature models (including the destruction of a missile gantry and the collapse of a bridge supporting a moving locomotive) by Eugène Lourié (the talented cinematic “jack of all trades” who directed THE GIANT BEHEMOTH, GORGO and others) are terrific, as is Lourié’s overall production design, which gives the film a lavish Technicolor appearance. Good support is given by Alexander Knox (who seemed to be the go-to actor when it came to presidents, generals, senators and other persons of authority) and look for lovably creepy British character actor John Karlsen (as a background lab technician) who appeared in countless Italian horror and exploitation films, but is probably best known for his comic turn in SHE BEAST (1966).
Never before available on home video, CRACK IN THE WORLD was at one time a TV staple, but has since disappeared over the years. With the film in high demand amongst movie buffs, Olive Films delivers with this long-awaited DVD (and home video premiere), licensing it from Paramount. Anyone wanting to own a legit release of this favorite will not be disappointed, as it's being presented in a fitting 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The picture is sharp, clean and carries a nice level of detail, with colors being vividly distinct and skin tones looking natural. Paramount must have kept the original elements in very good condition since this solid transfer exhibits very few age related blemishes, and there is only light debris on display when optical effects are shown onscreen (naturally). The mono English audio track is free of any noticeable distortion, with dialogue and music being cleanly reproduced. There is no subtitle options on the disc or any supplements, but the great transfer is complimented by the colorful cover design, reflecting the original poster art, and retaining its infamous tagline (“Thank God It’s Only a Motion Picture!”).
For more information or to purchase this DVD, check out the Olive Films website HERE. (George R. Reis)
BACK TO REVIEWS