Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: 'The 3 Worlds of Gulliver' Blu-ray


Like every movie for which Ray Harryhausen conjured the special effects, director Jack Sher’s 1960 adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels is primarily remembered as “a Ray Harryhausen film.” Yet The 3 Worlds of Gulliver is not your typical Harryhausen film. The master was known for loading astonishing though—let’s be honest here—fairly mindless swashbucklers such as Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad movies, and Clash of the Titans with menageries of stop-motion monsters. Jonathan Swift’s source material was pretty light in the creature department, so the mass of Harryhausen’s effects are matte shots showing Kerwin Matthews either towering over the Lilliputians or scurrying beneath the Brobdingnagians. Brief skirmishes with a giant crocodile and squirrel scratch the stop-motion itch, but this is hardly the effects orgy that the master’s best-loved films are.

That’s not a huge problem because The 3 Worlds of Gulliver is also atypical in the Harryhausen canon because it works as a perfectly clever and entertaining film beyond its effects set pieces. Swift’s blunt political satire may have blunted further in the transition from page to screen, but it is still very present, very witty (Arthur Ross, scribe of Creature from the Black Lagoon, co-wrote the terrific script with Sher), and clear enough for even its child audience to grasp. Charming whimsy plays a starring role too as the somewhat bland yet still likable Matthews encounters a cartoony crowd of jackass politicians and eye-rolling royalty who remain oddly lovable despite being completely arbitrary, utterly blinkered, and fairly despicable. If only real-world politics were this much fun... or at least this unhorrific.

Twilight Time’s new blu-ray edition of The 3 Worlds of Gulliver does a fab job of presenting the picture’s splashy colors and velvety textures. Even the matte shots hold up rather well under the unforgiving hi-def conditions, though the disc naturally looks best during its effects-free frames. It’s all very organic and clean too, and viewers have the options to watch it in its theatrical 1.66:1 or subsequently altered 1.78:1 aspect ratios.

Extras are pretty nice but somewhat redundant. The hour-long “Harryhausen Chronicles” TV doc is already available on Sony’s Jason and the Argonauts blu-ray and Twilight Time already included the short “This is Dynamation!” on its (albeit out-of-print) edition of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. The seven-minute “Making of The 3 Worlds of Gulliver” has been ported over from the film’s DVD edition. An audio commentary with film historians Randall Cook, C. Courtney Joyner, and Steven C. Smith is exclusive to this release though. It’s available from Twilight Time’s official site here.
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