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      City Under the Sea

      Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 81 mins . PG . PAL


      Films like City Under the Sea make me yearn for my lost youth. I tend to hate being an adult, so I act like a kid as much as possible. Sure, it annoys my primary school principal, but I’m getting better marks than most other kids, and I’m working on the Geography teacher as I think she has something for older children.

      Like other films of its age and genre, to properly appreciate City Under the Sea, you need to regress to the childlike state of your early years when you would gather around the television with your family for Bill Collin’s movie matinee. Unless you were an orphan without a television, that is. But you don’t count.

      So, last week I went to the cemetery and dug up Bill Collin’s coffin, and set him up in front of the television in my parents loungeroom. Sure, my parents were a little distraught that I had barged in unannounced on a Sunday night while they were entertaining guests, but they were fine with me dragging Bill’s corpse in, seeing as I hadn’t actually killed him myself.

      It was only when one of the guests pointed out that Bill Collins wasn’t actually dead yet that I took a closer look at the coffin and realized that I had dug up a WILL Collins. Ha! Imagine my surprise! But he was hardly in a position to complain, was he?

      Anyway, I figured that a Will Collins was good enough, so with a bottle of Pineapple flavoured Gold Medal soft drink at the ready, a bowl of popcorn made like it used to be in the days before microwaves rendered us all sterile and Will propped up in a chair next to the tele, we put the DVD on and prepared to be taken back a couple of decades.

      Strangely, I don’t remember these old films being so boring back when I was 9. Was it just me? Or have times really changed that much? Or is it possibly this film really was as dull as listening to Bill moan on about Greta Garbo’s predilection for elephants? Perhaps my fond memories of youthful days long past, sitting in the dark before the television each Sunday night have been painted a rosier hue by my current bitter dissatisfaction at the generic pap served up by modern media concerns. Or maybe I just hate my current life. Eh, either’s true. Take your pick.

      So I reburied Will in my parents backyard, bid them a fond adieu till I next needed bail money, and returned home to ponder the disappointment I had experienced.

      There I sat, pondering and eating and drinking, eating and drinking and pondering, and before long vomiting as the Tang and nachos took effect in the early hours of the morning. After a hearty sleep in my own chunky filth, the next day I pondered some more, and came to the following conclusion: What sense was there in casting Vincent Price, if his unique qualities were hampered by a script which didn’t play to his strengths? For that matter, what point of adapting an Edgar Allen Poe story at all, if all manner of macabre were written out and replaced with family audience friendly silliness? What, indeed, was the point of this film, and why did they write a part for a bloody rooster?! I’m sure Poe never wrote about roosters! Demented ravens with a thing for a-rap-rap-rapping on doors, yes, but roosters, no!

      The tinkered plot, disagreeable as it is (and reports have it that Price was less than happy with it as well), has Ben Harris (Tab Hunter), his sidekick Harold (David Tomlinson) and his sidekick, Herbert the Rooster(!), descending into a rumoured underwater lost city (really just a bunch of caves), when the rather fetchingly buxom Jill (Susan Hart) is kidnapped by strange fishmen. Once in this underwater lair, they discover The Captain (a restrained Vincent Price), presiding over a gang of ageless ancient smugglers and a bunch of fishmen (rejects from Creature from the Black Lagoon).

      Rightly figuring that no good can come from a bunch of old beardos living under the sea kidnapping people, they rescue the girl, have rough sex on an alter to the God Poseidon and flee across the ocean floor from the Captain, his henchmen, the fishpeople and an erupting volcano about to destroy the lost city. Well, all of that except the rough sex bit, actually.

      And driving home the divergence from Poe, just watch closely as they make their escape and you’ll even see a shot of Harold with his pet chicken inside his diving helmet as he makes his way underwater. Now seriously, Poe would never have written that scene. If he had written it, the rooster would have pecked out Harold’s eyes and feast on his brain before revealing itself to be the Ancient Evil One Kockadoodlelonicus.


      At its peak, the City In The Sea has a fine picture. Colours are rich, skin tones lively and black levels good, even if the shadows are a little flat (yet solid). The 2.35, 16:9 picture is also occasionally long on detail with some minor exceptions, such as poorly shot underwater scenes. The transfer reveals fine detail like the elaborate pattens on wallpaper or the rich woodwork better than I’d expect, but not surprising given the healthy bitrate given it. It's not too hard to see beyond the sometimes wobbly print and specs on this.


      Where the overall presentation lacks is in the missing atmosphere a full 5.1 surround mix would have added to the sequences of crashing waves, blustery winds and thunderclaps. The single DD2.0 mono track anchors everything solidly in the middle, providing serviceable dialogue and effects, but ultimately a bit weak in presenting the more complex mixes.


      The film is presented on a bare disc, with a menu system that is less than perfectly thought out.


      It’s hard to recommend this to anyone, really, or know who it might appeal to (other than diehard Price fans). It’s not a very good film, lacking severely in excitement and suspense, and the sense of wonder which should go hand in hand with the concept is missing. It’s fair to say that it looks and sounds reasonable enough though, but that will hardly have people knocking down the doors at Video Ezy, will it? I give it two chickens down.

    • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3626
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        And I quote...
      "What, indeed, was the point of this film, and why did they write a part for a bloody rooster?"
      - Vince Carrozza
        Review Equipment
      • DVD Player:
            Sony DVP-NS730P
      • TV:
            Philips 55PP8620
      • Receiver:
            Sony STR-DB1070
      • Speakers:
            Wharfedale s500
      • Centre Speaker:
            Polk Audio CS245
      • Surrounds:
            Wharfedale WH-2
      • Subwoofer:
            DB Dynamics TITAN
      • Audio Cables:
            Standard Optical
      • Video Cables:
            Standard Component RCA
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