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Sunday, May 22, 2022

MGM Feeding Families


Around The World Under The Sea (1966) with TV Talent


TV faces gone down, down to plant devices that will alert us to earthquake and typhoon danger. I skipped this Ivan Tors adventure in 1966 because it didn't have monsters, but wait, there was one that turned up briefly for a second half’s borrow from Disney's 20,000 League playbook. No fault with the cast. Unless yours was household without TV (were there any by then?), this looked more like Around the Sea In 80 Days, what with faces off hit programs new and old. Picture Rio Bravo had they left out John Wayne and Dean Martin, TV star supports in full charge of narrative. Around The World was road, better water, test to determine fitness for features at Metro --- would we pay then to see U.N.C.L.E man David McCallum or Flipper's Brian Kelly? It helped to spend real money and for a good director (Andrew Marton), Around the World no cheater as often the lot of TV (or its personnel) transposed to movies. MGM supplied Tors with $1.8 million for the negative, which may have been too generous, as it was mostly kids who would attend, their quarters not enough to avert a $400K loss.



The TV-starry cast acquits well --- you wonder in hindsight how Brian Kelly missed being a bigger screen name --- he'd have been a good man to fight Harryhausen creatures, given the chance. Shirley Eaton was there and lately off Goldfinger, a sure selling slant, especially as hers were bosom and legs constantly ogled by men on board the far-flinging ship. MGM wanted the dependable family audience Disney had enjoyed, but that had everything to do with marketing, mastery of which seemed Disney’s alone. Latter thrived even where output was weak, synergy a concept virtually invented by the Burbank outlier. What Metro needed was absolute parental trust in whatever they released, again an asset Disney had that none could duplicate. Around the World Under the Sea was meant for a wider audience than would attend, and in modest way, it would anticipate a coming blockbuster trend for child-friendly product to pay for itself with youth admissions, alas another ten years past this '66 release.
 

8 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Griff considers AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA:


Dear John:

In your interesting piece on the nearly forgotten MGM/Tors AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA, you muse about something I think about from time to time. Brian Kelly seemed to have the right stuff for stardom... or at least minor leading man status. How'd he miss out on this?

The Tors movie does seem like a dull Metro variation on something Disney or Irwin Allen at Fox might have made. But with a (gulp) $1.8 million production outlay, Unca Walt or Allen would likely have put a little more on the screen -- bigger sense of adventure, more overt suspense, Allen would have concocted at least one hoary sea monster -- and the ballyhoo would have been prodigious. The promotion for SEA is lifeless, and does seem to suggest that moviegoers are being urged to pay to see "stars" they could easily see on their sets at home (with the exception of Eaton). Looking at the poster back in the day, it felt like a movie we'd already seen.

Kelly was personable, and his tenure as the caring father on "Flipper" showed some dimension in his acting skills. As you note, he would have been a worthy successor to Kerwin Mathews as a Harryhausen protagonist.

Kelly came close to a lead at one point; he was the original casting for Robin Stone, the enigmatic central figure in the 1971 film version of Jacqueline Susann's THE LOVE MACHINE. But the actor was in a terrible motorcycle accident before filming began. John Phillip Law replaced him in the role. LOVE MACHINE was almost certainly never going to be a good movie, but Kelly might have brought an interesting quality to the character; it could have led to other things.

Regards,
-- Griff

11:47 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I did see AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA in the theater in '66 and was predictably unimpressed. But when I watched it again a couple of years ago, the thing that most amused me was that, while Shirley Eaton was the only female in the movie, the four male actors played her past boyfriend, her current boyfriend, her future boyfriend, and, uhh, Keenan Wynn.

9:48 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

This is a pleasant if unremarkable film, usually appearing in the Saturday movie marathons since the 80s. It is by far better than the Disney films of the day, and I remember watching it on TNT Latin America on a late night presentation more than on a given Saturday.

11:14 PM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Never saw this one.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

Brian Kelly looks like a generic TV/low-budget movie "star." It doesn't make him a bad person, of course, but he just seems like another vanilla white male. His name doesn't help--we've gone from bland monikers like Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter to Huperdink Cabbagepatch, or whatever Dr. Strange's real name is.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

No monsters? There were some giant sized moray eels as I recall (yes, I saw it on a matinee too) and I believe they were overseen by Jim Danforth no less. No, they were not animated models, but real, though not necessarily live, animals motivated by wires and electricity I think. I seem to remember an interview somewhere in which Danforth described how upsetting the job was. It's been a long time since I've seen the film, so forgive me if I'm mistaken.

2:39 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

I remember Ivan Tors as something of a brand name for animal-based family fare: "Zebra in the Kitchen", "Clarance the Cross-Eyed Lion" (the basis for the TV series "Daktari"), and "Flipper" on big screen and small. In the absence of major stars you'd think MGM would play up his name and credits as quality/suitability assurance to parents. As it stands, that poster is almost a MAD Magazine creation, crowded with detail that implies Bond-scale action and thrills with a hint of sci-fi. Mom might look at the ads, and with no other info decide not to drive Junior to the theater.

Wondering if people confused this with Irwin Allen's "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea", a glorious big-looking cheesefest that rarely if ever got beyond a studio tank. Irwin's pre-disaster films were certainly juvenile in content and safe enough for kids, but they presented themselves as real grown-up movies.

Recalling a later MGM effort, "Captain Nemo and the Underwater City". That fantasy looked respectably expensive if not quite epic, and was more aggressively kid-friendly than Disney's "20,000 Leagues". It was definitely marketed as kid fare.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

I associate Ivan Tors' name with films shot underwater - this, Flipper, and a movie I found in a bin called "Hello Down There" with Tony Randall and Janet Leigh are all partially shot underwater, and those are the only Ivan Tors titles I've been exposed to. At least, those are the ones I can recall.
It seems to me based on that limited selection that Tors was the only person trying to systematically exploit the possibilities of underwater photography in presenting scripted entertainment. Back in the 1960s, cheap underwater filming was a new development, opened up by the invention of the aqualung post-world war 2. Everything else shot underwater back in the 1960s and 1970s that I can remember seemed to have Jacques Cousteau or National Geographic's name on it.

2:04 PM  

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