SF movie with a soap opera element that sinks in its own suds. Despite a number of good scenes the SF element ends up taking a back seat. Decent drama but if you’re looking for a good early SF movie this isn’t it.
In the twenty-first century, engineer Richard “Mack” McAllan (Richard Dix) gets the backing of a syndicate of millionaires to build a tunnel under the Atlantic Ocean connecting England and America. It has something to do with world peace but that’s not really spelled out how the two are related. One crew will build from England and the American crew will meet them in the middle. The invention of a new radium drill makes it all possible.
Mack is married to Ruth (Madge Evans). They have a son named Geoffrey. Mack’s best friend Robbie (Leslie Banks) keeps an eye on Ruth and Geoffrey for him while he takes care of business. He’s called to New York by syndicate head Lloyd (C.Aubrey Smith). Mack hates the idea but Lloyd insists he go on a PR jaunt accompanied by his daughter Varilia (Helen Vincent).
Ruth feels abandoned and decides to work in the tunnel as a nurse. Workers are being sickened by a gas and it eventually gets to Ruth. She’s blind. She leaves and tells Robbie not to tell Mack where she is. This causes a rift in their twenty year friendship. Mack says their friendship is over but they’ll still work together to build the tunnel.
More years go by and Geoffrey is grown up and goes to work in the tunnel. When Mack sees him he doesn’t force him to leave. There’s a quick subplot where two of the investors plan to dump their stock causing other shareholders to do the same. When that happens they’ll buy it back cheap and control the syndicate. That plan is spoiled by Varlia.
Mack’s crew runs into a volcano and the tunnel may have to be diverted. Men have been killed and now most want to quit. Mack rallies the troops and work continues. But once again the volcano causes explosions and fires. The emergency doors to section K have to be closes again trapping a large crew inside….including Geoffrey.
The soap suds are really let loose as Varlia visits Ruth and says she should divorce Mack. After that Ruth has to handle Geoffrey’s death.
The British Prime Minister (George Arliss) and the President of the United States (Walter Huston) address their nations and agree to stick together and see the project through.
If they cut around a half-hour and did a rewrite to cut down on the suds this could have been a good B SF movie. It has some “futuristic” touches in its trains, cars and planes. Everyone communicates via televisor. The movie is now a curiosity but not a must see.
Oh, I’ve seen this. It’s a weird movie. It feels like the adaptation of a forgotten Arthur C Clarke novel, down to how nobody’s quite got a personality and most of the drama is in how a major engineering project keeps hitting snags and accidental deaths. But it’s interesting, if you’re the kind of person who’d watch a documentary on the Tay Bridge Disaster.
I’m sure a lot of movie makers based their train falls through a bridge scenarios on the Tay Bridge tragedy. That incident made me think of the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia a year or so ago when the train was traveling way too fast. It reminded me that no one at the time of Tay Bridge seemed to remember what happened a trains continued to speed.