Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

5 weeks in a balloon

Back to one of our favourite years 1962 for this enjoyable romp. We liked those Jules Verne extravaganzas at the time - JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, THE LOST WORLD (thats Conan Doyle actually), MYSTERIOUS ISLAND and this. It was a formula that worked - take some senior thespians: James Mason, Claude Rains, Sir Cedric Hardwicke - give them a young sidekick, usually a pop singer: Pat Boone, Michael Callan, Fabian here, some love interest and amusing cameos by reliable old-timers (Peter Lorre and Henry Daniell here, as well as Richard Haydn perfecting his camp fusspot act (as in SITTING PRETTY). We also need some exotic locations and special effects, hopefully by Ray Harryhausen.  FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON by Irwin Allen (before his blockbusters like THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE) fits the  bill nicely. Its as enjoyable a his 1957 THE STORY OF MANKIND! Jules Verne was filmed as often then as Edgar Allen Poe ....

London, the 1800's. Victoria rules her Empire. But overseas, the forces of oppression & evil nibble at the edges. Meanwhile, a gruff old Scots professor takes his latest invention, a huge hot-air balloon, for a trial flight over Moslem Africa, picking up assorted companions along the way. They will meet many kinds of danger, but they must not be stopped, for they are on a secret mission from the Prime Minister: to raise the British flag in a remote part of the Dark Continent before slavers can claim that territory for themselves. In order to succeed, however, they must first spend FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON.
Based on a Jules Verne novel, the story is admittedly silly, but it is colorful and full of action and should appeal to kids. Older viewers will appreciate the unusually rich cast: Sir Cedric Hardwicke & Fabián as the Professor & his assistant; Red Buttons as a playboy reporter; Barbara Eden & Barbara Luna as rescued slaves; Richard Haydn as a stuffy old explorer; and Peter Lorre as a slave trader.
The guest stars & bit players are equally impressive: Henry Daniell, Mike Mazurki, Herbert Marshall & Reginald Owen. All told, they turn this bit of fluff into enjoyable family viewing.

Robin Bean, the editor of "Films and Filming" liked it too. His January 1963 review says: "It is a wholesomely entertaining, gaily ridiculous version of one of Verne's earlier works. Most of the humour is derived from the characterisatons, but there is sufficient wit and sharp observation to stop them becoming caricatures. 
Herbert Marshall makes a brief appearance as the Prime Minister, Peter Lorre amuses as a slave trader, while Henry Daniell is a very suave sheik blandly informing his infidel captives they are to die at dusk, while Richard Haydn clutches his china teapot. Briskly directed by Irwin Allen, thoughtfully  designed and photographed, it is quite a tonic for the drab days of winter. In all, a jolly good show." 

The DVD though has the opening credits in CinemaScope, but then reverts to standard format, but its still enjoyable. 

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