Exploring the consequences of humanity’s reckless pursuit of scientific progress is a staple of both science fiction literature and film, Andrew Marton’s sci-fi thriller Crack in the World follows that theme with a team of scientists who have come up with a brilliant idea to save the world from its energy crisis – by drilling a hole in the Earth’s crust! What could possibly go wrong, right?
The story begins with Dr. Stephen Sorenson (Dana Andrews), a brilliant scientist obsessed with harnessing the energy of the Earth’s core, a man who is also secretly dying of cancer, alongside his assistant and wife Dr. Maggie Sorenson (Janette Scott) he is developing a massive drilling machine that can bore its way to the center of the planet. There is one dissenting voice, the project’s chief geologist Dr. Ted Rampion (Kieron Moore), who is convinced that the lower layers of the crust have been weakened by decades of underground nuclear testing and the detonation of a nuclear bomb at that depth could produce a massive crack which could threaten the very existence of Earth. Take a guess which man is right. But the fate of the world isn’t the only drama on hand as Ted is Maggie’s former lover and even brilliant minds like Stephen Sorenson aren’t above things like jealousy.
As expected, Rampion turns out to be right – it wouldn’t have been much of a movie if he’d been wrong – and the rest of the movie deals with these scientists and their race against time to stop the crack from expanding and causing a global catastrophe, which will culminate in a huge chunk of the planet being thrown out into space to become a new moon. I know that sounds ridiculous but you just have to roll with it. Along the way, our heroes will face a series of challenges that test their resolve and push them to their limits, from deadly magma flows to treacherous underground caverns, they must use their wits and ingenuity to survive and save the world. Unfortunately, how this is depicted in this film mostly relies on stock footage of volcanos erupting and forest fires and not much in the way of special effects carnage that one would expect from a film with such a catastrophic premise. The exciting conclusion, when the large crack circles back and targets Sorenson’s facility, does provide some cool visuals but it’s a case of too little too late.
• The idea of a machine that could drill through the Earth’s crust had already been approached in the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel At the Earth’s Core, which was later realized as a Doug McClure movie, sadly, this film doesn’t have any dinosaurs.
• The nuclear bomb that sets off the Tukomor volcano, and blows the island out of visible existence, creates no waves and I must say that is a very subtle nuclear explosion.
• Even if some type of huge crack physically separated a chunk of the Earth from the rest of the planet, with no solid link, the chunk would not fly out into space. There is a thing called gravity and centrifugal force that would prevent stuff like that from happening.
• In the film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Dr. Evil attempted to blackmail the world by threatening to detonate a missile warhead in a shaft drilled deep into the earth, which is pretty much what the idiot scientists did here.
One of the strengths of Crack in the World is its cast and both Andrews and Scott deliver solid performances as the leads, bringing a sense of urgency and intelligence to their roles, but fans of the disaster movie genre will most likely be a tad disappointed because aside from the aforementioned plethora of stock footage all we get to see is one train caught in a rockslide and the destruction of their underground control center, and as well executed as those moments are they’re not really worth writing home about. While the scenes of the drilling machine boring into the Earth’s crust are particularly well done, and the final sequence where the heroes try to stop the expanding crack is tense and exciting, the overall film lives and dies on how invested you are in the drama between our three leads, and I myself couldn’t have cared less.
Crack in the World (1965)
Movie Rank - 6/10
Andrew Morton’s Crack in the World is a middle-of-the-road entry in the science fiction canon and while it did have an interesting premise the filmmakers didn’t have the budget to fully realize the scope of their story and so as a disaster film it falls a little short.