THE CITY UNDER THE SEA
WAR-GODS OF THE DEEP
The City Under the Seas claim to anything to do with Edgar Allan Poe is exceedingly slim. Vincent Price recites from the Poe poem over the opening and finishing credits. The film takes the central image from the poem which only consists of the image of a mysterious city under the sea but where Poe played it for doom-laden ambience, the film plays it deadeningly literally, fashioning a standard lost city story. And there is of course Vincent Price, star of most of Roger Cormans Poe films, who plays a character who, vaguely in the style of the Corman Poe films, is gloomily obsessed with a woman he believes to be the reincarnation of his wife. However, resemblances end about there.
More so than any kinship to the Corman Poe films, The City Under the Sea resembles the cycle of Jules Verne adaptations that proliferated in the 1960s, begun with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Around the World in 80 Days (1956). The City Under the Sea virtually repeats the formula of the Verne films the handsome hero, the fuddy-duddy middle-aged scholar and, as in Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), a fowl along for the journey into the lost world. Vincent Prices Captain is of course cast as a Captain Nemo figure.
The adventure itself is a hollow affair. The film has some amazing sets a cavern where prisoners are tied up to be drowned as torrents of water cascade in over a giant hand; colossal caverns; uniquely designed diving suits with helmets that resemble brass coal scuttles with ornamented swordfish attached to them. Everything predictably goes up in a spectacular mass destruction climax. However, the action in between is flat it never mounts to the grandly-scaled action adventure it seems to want to be. Indeed, not that much happens throughout. The underwater chase at the climax is laborious it is like watching action on Still Advance.
The City Under the Sea was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who made several excellent psychological horror films namely Cat People (1942), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), The Leopard Man (1943) and Curse of the Demon/Night of the Demon (1957). Alas, The City Under the Sea, the last film he would make, and is one disappointment in Tourneurs otherwise fine oeuvre.