The 3 Worlds of Gulliver

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver

Starring Kermit Matthews and June Thorburn

USA, 1960

Medicine was kind of a crummy job in 1699. Before HMOs came along, a chicken or a cabbage was already good pay for services rendered. Taking up as a ship’s surgeon was the equivalent of joining an Internet start-up, and the idealistic and ambitious Lemuel Gulliver (Matthews) wants to grasp while the iron is hot. Sexy wife Elizabeth (June Thorburn) would just as soon he stay home and do the This Old House thing. Well, it’s either adventure time or HGTV. Elizabeth stows away and Gulliver is swept overboard, washing up on the shores of diminutive Lilliput. Gulliver tries to bring peace and reason to the locals, but they would rather mount war on the flea circus next door. They’re like the Romulans and the Klingons, only cuter.

Redistribution of wealth is trickier than it appears, so Big G heads out, only to land in Brobdingrag, land of the credulous giants. Deus Ex Machina! Guess who’s here to greet him – scrumptious Elizabeth in harem pants! Her ship conveniently sank, leaving her the only survivor and now favorite of the King (Gregoire Aslan). While Gulliver is happy to get some action, life in the gilded cage soon tires. Gulliver realizes their position is tenuous. He nails fate by beating the king at chess, only to be accused of sorcery. We burn witches here, you know, and Gulliver gets the chance to do battle with a Ray Harryhausen crocodile first. Poor croc, poor Gulliver – Gulliver does him in, and must now flee the county. Not easy when you’re two inches tall.

For a film aimed at kids, an amazing amount of Swift’s social satire remains. The movie is split in two parts, not only by the physical differences of Lilliput and Brobdingrag, but by Gulliver’s motives and actions. The first half emphasizes peace and cooperation and prosperity though improved production. The second half focuses on the need for goals and actions to achieve personal fulfillment, and that sitting fat and happy on the public payroll destroys a man. There’s the overall struggle between Gulliver’s ambitions and Elizabeth’s desire for stability dominates, and marital bliss involves compromising both party’s desires. Pretty heavy for a kids’ film. Filmed in Superdynamation, a sort of double printing process, the giant/midget effects are quite nice, and the process allows astonishing blue skies in every scene. Overall, the color and cinematography are outstanding, and if you gotta watch a kids’ film, this is an excellent choice.

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