Incredible Petrified World, The

Tagged: Film

Film (1957). GBM Productions/Governor Productions. Produced and directed by Jerry Warren. Written by John W Steiner. Underwater photography by Mel Fisher. Cast includes Maurice Bernard, John Carradine, Robert Clarke, Phyllis Coates, Sheila Noonan and Allen Windsor. 70 minutes, cut to 64 minutes for home video release.

Professor Millard Wyman (Carradine) has developed an experimental diving bell capable of reaching greater depths Under the Sea than any yet reached by humanity. A four-person diving crew led by Craig Randall (Clarke) and Paul Whitmore (Windsor) also includes Dale Marshall (Coates), and Lauri Talbott (Noonan). At 1700 feet, the cable connecting the diving bell to the ship breaks and the ship team assumes its crew is lost. Below, though they see light outside the bell where there should be none, and decide they have somehow risen closer to the surface. Exiting in diving suits, they find themselves in a grotto linked to a system of air-filled undersea caverns. Initially hoping they can reach the surface via these caverns, the four encounter an unnamed old man (Bernard) who has survived here fourteen years since his ship sank in this area. There is no way out: a volcanic vent allows air from the surface into the cave system, but proves impassable. The explorers resign themselves to living out their lives here; but Wyman's brother has perfected an improved diving bell, and the Professor uses it to dive at the lost expedition's last known position. In a traditional Cinema climax, the volcano erupts just as the explorers are discovered, and destroys the caverns. The old man dies in this Disaster, but the others are brought safely to the surface.

This slow film is of only modest sf interest: the cave system contains only a giant lizard, with no real Lost World aspects. The Incredible Petrified World is one of several low-budget sf films which Coates made in the 1950s; filmed in 1957, it was not released theatrically until 1960. Carradine, as he often stated later in life, appeared in many such low-end productions simply for the money. A small trivia note is that the underwater cinematographer Fisher was a treasure-hunter who salvaged gold from several Spanish galleons in the 1980s. [GSt]

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