Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Matinee | The Incredible Petrified World (1957)

You know what I miss? Watching old movies and and writing about them. I got the bug around this time last year, but burned myself out by trying to do it daily. I actually liked doing it that often; I just couldn't keep up with the schedule. But what if I try to do it weekly instead...?

Who's In It?

John Carradine (Stagecoach, House of Dracula), Phyllis Coates (The Adventures of Superman, Panther Girl of the Kongo), Robert Clarke (The Man from Planet X)

What's It About?

Three scientists (Clarke, Sheila Noonan, and Allen Windsor) and a reporter (Coates) escape a wrecked diving bell and take refuge in air-filled, but underwater caves.

How Is It?

Interesting for Superman fans, especially those - like me - who like Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane in the first season of the '50s TV show. Coates plays a reporter here too, but she's no Lois Lane. Her husband is leaving her for another woman, leading Coates' character to hate everybody. And sadly, that one note is the strongest characterization anyone gets in this movie.

Sheila Noonan's (Beast from Haunted Cave) character isn't so bad and gets a couple of good scenes in while arguing with Coates over the reporter's attitude, but like all the other characters in the movie, Noonan's has no life outside of the movie's plot. Even John Carradine is wasted as the inventor of the diving bell. After the accident that leaves the bell stranded at the bottom of the ocean, Carradine seems more concerned about figuring out the flaw in his design than he does about the presumed deaths of the four victims.

There's barely a story here at all. A ton of set-up (including a pointless documentary about sea life that's the only appearance of the octopus from the lying poster) finally leads to the point where the four leads are stranded and escape to some dry, undersea caves. Most of the movie is an unexciting survival tale as they explore the caverns. They meet a stock-footage monitor lizard and a crazy hermit with a fake beard, but that's as thrilling as it gets.

Meanwhile, Carradine and Company are on the surface planning a second expedition with a new diving bell. It's all for science though, not a rescue mission, since everyone believes that the first divers are dead. That means that there's no tension around the second mission and - without anything to be afraid of in the caves - no stakes for the main cast. There are some volcanic earthquakes toward the end of the movie, but by that time the second expedition is underway and the resolution is obvious. In fact, the earthquakes are just there to push the leads out of the caves so that they can be spotted by the second team. I know that sounds spoilery, but "spoiler" implies that a surprise is being ruined and I promise that there are already no surprises in the way this movie ends.

Grade: D+

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