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The late 19th century: After their balloon has crashed, arms
manufacturer Prudent (Henry Hull), his daughter Dorothy (Mary Webster),
her fiancé Evans (David Frankham) and gouvernment agent Strock (Charles
Bronson) all find themselves on a propeller-driven heavier-than-air
airship, the Albatross, owned and piloted by Robur (Vincent Price), a
genius and maniac who wants to use his ship to end all wars - by means of
war. He figures aerial superiority could force gouvernments to abandon all
hostilities - and to some extent, he might have a point there. Prudent is
worried about this though, because without wars, who would buy his
weapons? Evans is worried because Dorothy seems to be drawn to Strock more
than she's supposed to. And Strock? He plays it cool, but it soon becomes
clear that he is worried that anybody but the USA should have aerial
superiority - anywhere in the world. Other than the others though, he
seems to have a plan.
After much to and fro, and Robur bombing quite a
few battlefleets in the meantime as interfering in an actual war in
Africa, Strock reveals his plan: While Robur and his men repair the damage
on the ship their latest intervention has caught, Strock and Evans blow up
the Albatross's ammunition depot, and then they along with Dorothy and her
dad save themselves via the anchor rope (the ship is actually repaired in
mid-air). This works, too, despite the fact that while they try to blow up
the ship, Evans tries to get rid of Strock at the same time ...
is a likeable message about pacifism somewhere in this movie, but
basically the film is too harmless to really bring this message to the
fore, and tries too much to be a sci-fi-adventure to really care about
pacifism to begin with. That said, Master of the World is not without its
virtues, Vincent Price delivers a great performance, Charles Bronson is
actually pretty good, and the Albatross as such is wonderful to look at.
On the other hand, the special effects are less than special, with the
Albatross just copied into scenes it apparently doesn't belong in, plenty
of black-and-white stock footage in a colour film just to save costs, and
the action is a bit too restrained to the Albatross's interior to really
make this film work.
Still, it's one of the films that gets you in a
nostalgic mood, that seems to have been old-fashioned even at its release
due to its designs, costumes and the like. That said, the film seems to be
a less-than-ideal vehicle for action expert William Witney, but I guess he
did what he could ...