Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)
"Do you want me to burn him first then prove he's a witch, or shall I prove he's a witch, then burn him?"- Makovan (Charles Lloyd Pack)
Stars: Kerwin Kathews, Jo Morrow, June Thorburn
Other Stars: Lee Patterson, Gregoire Aslan, Basil Sydney, Sherri Alberoni
Director: Jack Sher
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:38m:33s
Release Date: 2002-04-16
DVD ReviewColumbia again digs into its library of Ray Harryhausen features and comes up with this gem from 1960, based on the novel Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift. Kerwin Mathews, who played Sinbad for Harryhausen in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad a few years earlier, returns as both the big and the little Gulliver.
Dr. Lemuel Gulliver, in 1699 England, is discontented with small-town life and desires to make something of himself in the wide world. Washed overboard in a storm, he arrives on the isle of Lilliput, inhabited by tiny people only a few inches tall. After conquering their distrust, he attempts to help them, despite their peculiar and petty obsessions. Taking to sea again, he finds himself on Brobdingnag, captured by a little girl, Glumdalclitch (Sherri Alberoni), who happens to be sixty feet tall. At the other extreme of powerlessness, Gulliver must face the dangers of monstrous squirrels and crocodiles as well as a court magician who is bent on Gulliver's destruction.
In general, the picture is well-paced, moving from one subject to another without becoming boring. A surprising amount of Swift's satire survives into this screenplay, though the most vicious aspects are of course omitted. Nonetheless, senseless prejudices and superstition are thoroughly skewered in good Enlightenment fashion. There's enough of this material to keep the interest of adults, but not so much as to irritate younger viewers.
Mathews is earnest and inoffensive as Gulliver, and adequate for the most part. Jane Thorburn, as the love interest tacked onto Swift's story, is predictably both vacuous and useless. More entertaining are the bad guys, notably the Brobdingnagians, court magician Markovan (Charles Lloyd Peck) and Emperor Brob (Gregoire Aslan). Surprisingly, Alberoni as the young guardian of the doll-like Gulliver is appealing and turns in a commendable performance. This is certainly evident in comparing her to the extremely stiff girl who plays Shrike, Markovan's daughter.
Most of the large-small trick photography was well-established twenty years earlier in Dr. Cyclops, though there's a great deal more of it here. One bit, where Gulliver in Lilliput catches fish in his hat, has some odd continuity problems. The fish are on a normal scale to Gulliver while in his hat, but when he drops them to the Lilliputians, they're normal scale to them as well! Harryhausen really only gets to stretch his talents in two brief sequences: Gulliver's battles with a giant squirrel and, more interestingly, a giant crocodile. Both are stop-motion animated, and of course, quite well done.
The score is by Bernard Herrmann, and it has quite a following. I didn't find it terribly gripping myself, though it does have some suitably jaunty seafaring themes. A pair of utterly insipid songs (not by Herrmann) drag things down a bit. But the most problematic point is the finale, which is not only a crude copout, but it's practically incoherent in its playing fast and loose with what has gone before.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The full-frame presentation is apparently the original theatrical aspect ratio, although examination shows that there is a vast amount of headroom, which would permit theaters to soft-matte the picture and show it widescreen.
Whatever the proper shape, this is a gorgeous picture. The colors are incredibly bright and vibrant throughout. Black levels are deep and shadow detail is good. There is plenty of fine detail as well. The print is in beautiful shape, with only a few occasional speckles, other than in the sequences involving opticals. As is usual, these sequences feature dirt printed right into the film and there's nothing that could be done short of digitally retouching the film. That's probably not economically worthwhile, and this is certainly a picture that will please nearly any viewer.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono tracks are mediocre, I'm afraid. While there is no hiss or noise, and the dialogue is quite clear throughout, the music sounds quite poor. Range is quite compressed and high notes sound quite shrill, while lower notes have a muddy sound to them. Because the score is so highly esteemed, one would wish that it had been handled a bit better. I can't believe the master tapes sound like this (assuming that they still exist). The Spanish track is even worse, with the dialogue sounding equally muddy.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
Feature/Episode commentaries by
Extras Review: A brief (5m:21s) 'making of' presentation, largely consisting of interviews with Harryhausen, is the most intriguing extra on the disc. This seems to be outtakes from the documentary, but it also includes views of the storyboards as well as discussions of traveling mattes and the like.The usual other extras are also provided. The most notable of these is the 1997 documentary, The Harryhausen Chronicles, which although simply described as a featurette on the case, runs a full 57m:54s. Narrated by Leonard Nimoy, it includes interview footage with Harryhausen, his friend and collaborator Ray Bradbury, as well as directors and special effects men such as Dennis Muren, Henry Stelick and George Lucas. This is all well and good, but the documentary is chockfull of the highlights of Harryhausen's animation from nearly every one of his finished films. They don't stop there, however, but add incomplete and test footage from projects that never saw the light of day, including some truly marvelous material, such as the flying gargoyles from the projected picture Elementals. One of the drawbacks of Harryhausen's pictures is slogging through the tedious live action material to get to the good stuff, and this documentary provides copious amounts of good stuff, making it a true joy for any stop-motion animation buff.
In addition, the promotional This is Dynamation short (3m:27s) from 7th Voyage of Sinbad is included. A 1.85:1 nonanamorphic trailer for the feature is included, as well as a full-frame trailer for Golden Voyage of Sinbad, a full-frame re-release trailer for 7th Voyage and an anamorphic 1.85:1 trailer for Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsAn entertaining picture, enlivened by some generally good effects, that will hold the interest of adults and children alike. A nice array of extras and an eye-poppingly gorgeous transfer make this one well worth your consideration.
Mark Zimmer 2002-04-16