Just Look Away

Posted on April 15, 2011

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Latitude Zero

This 1969 science-fiction movie has no rating on Rotten Tomatoes (it’s too old), where 49% of people reported liking it.

Why Bother?

The Toho Company, the makers of many a Godzilla movie, was behind this film. Ishirô Honda, the director, also directed a number of those Godzilla movies (including the 1954 original), among other kaiju (strange beast) films. For me and a lot of my friends, that would be enough to recommend it.

Latitude Zero also stars Joseph Cotten (best known for Citizen Kane, The Third Man, and Shadow of a Doubt), Cesar Romero (sadly, best known now for playing the Joker in the 1966-1968 Batman TV series), and Richard Jaeckel (it would take all day to list his work, so let’s stick to his role as Sergeant Bowren in The Dirty Dozen). A combination like that is too good for a movie buff like me to pass up.

I watched it

Two oceanographers and a reporter (Richard Jaeckel) descend under the Pacific Ocean in a bathysphere. A seafloor volcanic eruption breaks the cable tying them to the surface and tumbles them across the seabed. Scuba divers from a submarine named Alpha rescue them. When they recover, they find that the sub was launched in the 19th Century, and Captain McKenzie (Joseph Cotten) claims to be over 200 years old himself.

Pursued by a submarine called the Black Shark, the Alpha returns to Latitude Zero, a utopian city on the sea floor. The Black Shark belongs to Dr. Malic (Cesar Romero), who was a student alongside Captain McKenzie, but chose an evil path. Latitude Zero dispatches teams of citizens to the surface world to offer scientists the chance to work in the secret, super-science, city for the betterment of all humanity.

Both Malic and McKenzie want Dr. Okada because he has developed a radiation immunization. Malic gets Okada, and McKenzie and his three guests go to Malic’s headquarters on Blood Rock Island where they face poison gas, magnetic fields, acid rivers, Rodents of Unusual Size, and other twisted scientific experiments created by Malic.

There’s lasers, gloves with built-in weapons, lots of gold lamé jumpsuits, rocket packs, rescues; a gryphon made from a lion, a condor, and a human woman’s brain; and an exploding island.

The Verdict

Latitude Zero is not the worst movie that I’ve ever seen, it’s just boring and campy. The costumes are howlingly funny now – although they probably looked futuristic in 1969. The matte paintings and blue screens are as bad as you would expect from a 1969 Japanese monster movie. The monsters are obviously people in cheap animal costumes. In short, it’s pretty much what you expect. Mostly it could have used a more rigorous editor.

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