Friday, March 7, 2014

The Incredible Petrified World (1957)

Sheet for Incredible Petrified WorldI would first like to say, Welcome. This project has been a long-time in the making, and I am pleased to see it come to fruition with such a dedicated audience. Though life has drifted from one non-sequitur to the next, my love for the bizarre on-screen has always been nearby. 

My goal, should I be so bold as to place one on the table, is to chronicle the histories and behind-the-scenes stories of science fiction and horror gems, and to adorn them with lobby cards, screen-captures, and whatever else crosses our way. When possible, the films themselves will be available for streaming thanks in great part to the wonderful databases across the internet.

Incredible Petrified WorldPlease, if you have requests for future investigations, be so kind as to drop me a message. If you have additional information or reminiscences concerning the films, feel free to partake in the message boards below. And last but certainly not least, if you would care to propose yourself as a guest-blogger, drop me a line. I would love the opportunity to present other points of view within these pages.

See women trapped in fantastic caverns at the center of Earth!

There are perhaps films more popular than The Incredible Petrified World to have started our journey through vintage sci-fi bedlam, but I’ve been dying to see it ever since I stumbled across some repro lobby cards last summer. Starring film and television regular Robert Clarke, but shored up to quite an extent with the talents of the slightly more-veteran John Carradine, The Incredible Petrified World relies on creative disbelief to overcome the annoying physics of real-world science. A diving bell, one of only two in the world where the working access hatch is in the ceiling, is lost to the ocean depths, estranged in a labyrinthine underworld populated with lizards, lost sailors, volcanoes, and skeletal corpses.

Incredible Petrified World with Phyllis Coates
The Inside Scoop

Co-star Phyllis Coates, best known for her portrayal of Lois Lane in the 1950s television series Adventures of Superman, was brought on board by former-boyfriend and director Dale Marshall as a favor, when the planned lead actress fell through at the last moment. It shouldn't come as a surprise, but the role was of a tough-as-nails female news reporter attached to a scientific expedition. 

Believing there could be no suitable replacement, Coates agreed to the gig, with the caveat that Marshall promise to not release the film in California. She felt if her reputation was attached to such a low-budget film, it would have a ripple effect on her career. In doing so, Coates disregarded the Hollywood axiom of never do favors for former lovers as the film, after a national release in April of 1960, was in fact re-released in LA a year later. True to her paranoia, an executive at Columbia Pictures soon told Coates the film was so bad that his studio would never hire the overly-trusting actress. To add insult to injury, Marshall neglected to pay Coates for her performance.

Diving bell Incredible Petrified WorldAccording to leading man Robert Clarke, the film harbored other secrets beyond Coates' relationship with Marshall. Clarke mentioned during an interview that the cinematographer ‘Victor Fisher’ was a pseudonym for a well-known Hollywood cameraman who didn’t want to be caught working on a non-union picture. Unlike Phyllis Coates, it appears his dalliance was never uncovered and he presumably continued his career unhindered. Such is life.

Worth Watching For...

The Incredible Petrified World is rife with traditional B-movie irregularities, and identifying them was a great way to make the film more enjoyable. As mentioned before, the bell’s hatch is in the ceiling, and with the way water works, the ocean would come spilling in as soon as it was opened. Also, the bell exists much like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, where the interior appears much roomier than the exterior suggests. One scene has an over-sized beach ball being lowered overboard, while the interior contours images of a rounded alien spaceship office, ala Plan 9 From Outer Space. Also, the crew has packed full wetsuit gear in a corner trunk - to bring along on a record breaking dive to unimaginable depths. Just in case, hmmmm? To add fuel to the fire, the screen writer had a tendency to create irrational and unproductive tension in the actor's dialogue, especially between the female roles. Apparently, the stress of the disaster wasn't seen as enough.

Notable Quotable

Dale: You just listen to me, Miss Innocent. There's nothing friendly between two females. There never was. There never will be.
Lauri: Sorry you feel that way. I was hoping we could help each other.
Dale: You don't need help - neither do I. Not as long as we have two men around us. 

Critical Stats

Incredible Petrified WorldThe Incredible Petrified World (1957) was produced by GBM Productions, on location at Colossal Cave Mountain Park, NV; Golden Caves, NM; and the Santa Catalina Islands, CA. Directed by Dale Marshall, starring Robert Blake, John Carradine, Phyllis Coates, and Sheila Noonan. Released in 1960. B/W. Run Time 70 Minutes.