9/18/12

For The Love of Price: City In the Sea (1965) a.k.a War Gods of the Deep

Hey, folks, Bugg here, and I'm here with something special today, the triumphant return of Fran Goria's For the Love of Price. I personally don't know anyone who has seen more or knows more about Vincent Price than my pal Fran, and I'm pleased as punch that she's back with more Pricey goodness... or badness, who knows. Either way, I'm sure you'll enjoy her review of the 1965 film City in the Sea a.k.a War Gods of the Deep. Enjoy, and look out for more from Fran in the near future including co-hosting the soon to debut podcast Netflips with your truly. Now get out your swimmies, slip into a bathing suit, and take the jump, or should I say plunge, with Fran and Vincent Price.


CITY IN THE SEA is a sci-fi adventure tale of (you guessed it!) an underwater city. Set in 1903, our tale begins with a body washed ashore in a coastal British town. Ben (Tab Hunter) is investigating the death and seeks answers at the deceased’s estate. This is where he meets Ben meets his soon-to-be sidekick, Harold (David Tomlinson)…and Harold’s pet chicken Herbert. Shadowy figures begin to appear and steal items and supplies. Soon the thieves kidnap the beautiful young Jill (Susan Hart). Ben and Harold, and Herbert, chase the kidnappers through a series of underground caves, where they find a city under the sea. They learn that the inhabitants of this city are former smugglers who were forced underground to flee their crimes. These people are led (or ruled as it were) by Captain Hugh (Vincent Price). The Captain uses fear, execution, and a couple of gill-man slaves to keep the people in line. Upon their capture, Harold tells The Captain that Ben is a seismologist. The Captain tells the story of how a nearby volcano alters the air in the city and keeps the inhabitants from aging. However, the volcano is about to erupt and destroy the city. The Captain agrees to let the men live if Ben saves the city. The two men are soon caught trying to rescue Jill (who happens to look exactly like The Captain’s dead wife), and a fight for survival ensues in the city under the sea.

First of all, this film has three titles, and it took a little research to know which one was the original, but I think I got it. It was originally called CITY IN THE SEA, and it was intended to cash in on the Poe/Price trend started by Roger Corman. However, the only reference to Poe’s poem is in the opening and closing scenes, where Price recites it in a voice-over. There is a book of Poe’s works in the middle of the film, but no mention of the featured poem. Just before its 1965 release, it was re-titled WAR GODS OF THE DEEP. It was then renamed a second time as CITY UNDER THE SEA for its UK release. The film has several familiar faces, other than just Vincent Price. Tab Hunter played the hero Many of you may recognize him from John Waters’ POLYESTER, GROTESQUE with Linda Blair, and GREASE 2. Then there is the side kick, David Tomlinson, who is best known for family classics like MARY POPPINS, BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS, and THE LOVE BUG. Susan Hart, the damsel in distress, had already shared the screen with Tab Hunter in 1964’s RIDE THE WILD SURF, and she went on to costar once again with Vincent Price in 1965’s DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE. CITY IN THE SEA was directed by Jacque Tourneur. Tourneur began directing shorts in 1931, and he moved on to films in 1939. He directed several notable films such as CAT PEOPLE, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, and CURSE OF THE DEMON. Interestingly, COTS was the second time Tourneur directed Price. The first was in 1963, in THE COMEDY OF TERRORS.

I have to say that I wasn’t exactly a fan of this film. I felt that the story had too many elements for the script and time frame to support. Also, I do not feel like the director did enough to make up for that issue. The main points seem forced, and the secondary points were a bit vague and hard to follow. One of my biggest issues was with the gill-man slaves. The Captain off-handedly mentions that they are an evolved race from a neighboring underwater city. What!? How many underwater cities are there? What did the gill-men evolve from, and how did they come to be The Captain’s slaves? I mean, if you’re going to go through the trouble of making shoddy costumes and forcing these creatures into the film, then at least try to make it plausible.

The script and the director (not to mention the poor editing) were not the only problems with this film. The acting was phoned in by almost all parties. Tab Hunter seemed to be just reciting lines, while I felt Susan Hart should have been in a different movie entirely. Even in a poor film, Vincent Price should still shine. Sadly he was very lack luster in this role. Perhaps this was due to the fact that he didn’t see the script until 6 days before filming, or maybe he just didn’t believe in the project. Either way, He just did not deliver his usual Pricey goodness. I waited for half of the film to see him, only to be disappointed in the performance. The one saving grace for CITY IN THE SEA was David Tomlinson. His portrayal of Harold was professional and refreshing in such a haphazard film. He really brought life to the character, and I believed that Herbert the chicken was truly Harold’s beloved pet. All in all, I have to say skip this one. The good bits were few, and not enough to make up for the bad. In the 85 minute run time, I took 2 cigarette breaks just to shake the monotony. Rest assured, there are plenty of great Vincent Price films, but this is just not one of them.

Price Rating

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