Master of the World (1961)

Genres - Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Costume Adventure, Fantasy Adventure  |   Run Time - 104 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

One of the numerous Jules Verne projects that followed in the wake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Master of the World is superficially similar to that undersea adventure but is far from a slavish imitation. Both films share a madman genius with a sophisticated weapon and an idea about using this weapon against those who would create war, but Master does rather more with it. Scenarist Richard Matheson provides some nifty variations on this theme and while the results are hardly what one could profound, they do serve the purpose of initiating a discussion around the issue among viewers. Matheson's dialogue, though artificial, has flavor and verve to it, and he knows how to construct a screenplay solidly. William Witney's direction is a tad pedestrian for the material, but it certainly gets the job done, and he knows how to play up the adventure elements in a gratifying manner. Master also benefits from two captivating performances from Vincent Price and Charles Bronson. Price rises to the high dramatic demands of the part as needed, but he alternates with some wonderfully restrained moments that are quite engaging. Bronson may be a trifle too hard to read for some, but his withheld emotions are in keeping with the character and add to the enigmatic quality which keeps the viewer guessing just whose side he is on. The supporting cast, however, is not on the same level, ranging from bland to annoying. Special effects are also variable, with the ship itself quite impressive but many other effects slipshod, and with an over-reliance on inappropriate stock footage.