3 Worlds of Gulliver, The (1960)

“I stop wars, put out fires, feed people, give them hope and peace and prosperity — how can I be a traitor?”

Synopsis:
Dr. Lemuel Gulliver (Kerwin Mathews) is shipwrecked and lands on the shores of Lilliput, where he tries to help mediate a rivalry between the Lilliputians and their neighbors on Blefescu.

Genres:

Review:
This live action adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s 18th century novel — featuring special effects by Ray Harryhausen — is an enjoyably innocuous children’s fantasy with just enough subtle satirical humor to appeal to adults. With that said, Harryhausen fans expecting to see ample use of stop-motion animation will be disappointed, given that there are only two short sequences involving his famed technique; instead, the primary visual appeal of the film lies in the remarkably effective scaled cinematography, which allows Gulliver to appear either over-sized or minuscule in comparison with his island neighbors. While the intricacies of Swift’s highly specific satire of British government are inevitably lost (particularly since the last two sections of the novel are left out altogether), screenwriters Arthur Ross and Jack Sher manage to poke more generic fun at both the petty nature of wars (the kings of Lilliput and Blefescu are locked in mortal combat over the correct way to crack eggs!) and the frighteningly absurd motivations behind witch hunts (which were often simply a convenient way to get rid of enemies). Bernard Herrmann wrote the score, which isn’t quite as distinctive as one might expect — but evidence of his musical genius comes through in certain sections, and adds an appropriately jaunty backdrop to Gulliver’s escapades.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Kerwin Mathews as Gulliver
    3 Worlds Gulliver Scale
  • Excellent use of scaled cinematography
  • The humorously ridiculous rivalry between the Lilliputians and the Blefescuians
  • Bernard Herrmann’s score

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

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One Response to “3 Worlds of Gulliver, The (1960)”

  1. A once-must, for budding ffs to watch with their ff elders.

    I know I saw this as a young ff but that’s now decades ago. We can often dread returning to essentially kids-oriented flicks when we’re adults; when seen as adults, many of those films can look dated (as in ‘out-of-fashion’ for one reason or another) or even embarrassing/mediocre.

    I was pleased to see that ‘3 Worlds…’ holds up rather well. It benefits from an intelligent script and is nicely acted and directed. I also like its ‘full circle’ effect – which is ultimately what falls in line with Gulliver’s final speech about what lies in the hearts and natures of men.

    Herrmann’s score actually came off to me as a wonderfully appropriate added touch to the film. It could not be more different from the composer’s work for ‘Psycho’ (released the same year) and it’s nice to hear him scoring pleasurably in the symphonic realm that is so pleasing to the ear.

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