Unknown World


Director: Terry O. Morse

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The sci-fi cheapy Unknown World (1951) begins as a newsreel essay on the probability of atomic destruction. When the newsreel concludes, someone asks if the small audience wants to see it again, but nobody does.

The promise of thermal nuclear destruction becomes the rationale for a scientific expedition into the earth's interior looking for a big hollow place where people might survive once the surface of the world is rendered permanently radioactive.

No one ever suggests that if humanity had such a place inside the earth to colonize, wouldn't they screw it up just as badly. The premise is that either there is a subterranean world & therein humanity can survive, or there isn't an interior world & humanity will therefore become extinct.

Unknown World was inspired by, but by no means based on Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. A vehicle part cavern-tractor & part driller-submarine is called the Cyclatram. Our subterranean explorers set out for Mount Neleh (a vaguely amusing reference to Mount St. Helens, which had a mystic reputation even before it blew itself up as an active volcano).

The Cyclatram enters a volcanic vent that connects to deep-earth caverns, drilling through places not large enough for the tractor. The cast takes occasional sojourns on foot to check stuff out. Some of this footage shot in Carlesbad Cavern, so it's pretty convincing at times, being often enough the real deal.

Eventually the Cyclatram breaks into a region of the Hollow Earth that is lit by a mysterious glow. The script never bothers to trump up an explanation for there being light in the earth's hollow, but it's nice to have just the same. There are sub-ocean ocean & land masses & deserts & plenty of oxygen. It's the very place where humanity should be able to thrive come the nuclear holocaust.

Although they find a few fossils to imply there'd once been life down there in the bright hollow of the planet, they don't encounter anything interesting that's alive. And they've been there hardly any time at all when they have a rude awakening. It's not as hospitable as first seemed likely, as there is an active volcano that nearly kills everybody before they find an improbable water-filled cavern through which to drive their Cyclatram to the surface ocean.

It's not much of a film but the Cyclatram is a nice prop. It looks like an art deco children's toy or something from Buck Rogers. Just about everything that happens is to make fun of while watching, but the Cyclatram is cool. It's only too bad there wasn't at least one dinosaur fight while in the hollow earth, or a sea serpent, or a troglodyte tribe, or something interesting besides a volcanic explosion.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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