Olive Films present Crack In The World in its 1.85:1 aspect and encode it via AVC.
Now I’ve got to be honest about this – although we should be thankful that the transfer gives us a print that has not been tinkered-about with, or stripped of detail with overly gregarious use of DNR, and that we have a version of the film at all, this is most definitely not what you expect from a hi-def picture. There is damage, an overall lack of detail and definition and a smorgasbord of image variety that all hails from the original and mostly un-restored source. Grain is intact, but of variable consistency. Given the stock, the age of the film and the type of effects sequences employed, we get the expected spikes – various big effects see an intensification of grain, for instance. But I should add that all of this still looks natural and is not the result of any unnecessary and unwanted scrubbing and re-application.
Details aren’t in abundance. Edges are soft and the film can look quite flat and muddy. Considering the events that are depicted onscreen, there is little in the way of appreciable depth to the image. Distant objectivity can be blurred, with some edges even appearing to have a ghostly outline. This is nothing that you should worry about, though – just how the film is. I haven't seen Olive Films' DVD of the title to compare, but I would have no doubt that this image, although still smudged and scruffy, trounces it. I like the way that you can plainly see Janette Scott's underwear quite clearly beneath her nightdress during an early scene and then later on through her slacks!
The Technicolor has fleeting moments of grandeur, but this is a vintage print that really doesn’t want to draw attention to itself any more. Some of the primaries are bright and bold, and the overall palette is warm, but the colours are often quite grubby. Reds are decent enough, and there are several sequences when molten lava is featured that make good use of the satanic glow it produces. The finale is all burning reds and, although deep and dark, they provide a defiantly hellish vision. I saw no smearing or banding, and the saturation appeared to be just right, and quite faithful. The big explosion that roars up to the surface as the missile crack the planet’s core is tremendously vivid, though. Here, we get blooming orange flare-ups, rolling clouds of intense reds and yellows and that crucial billowing inner blackness that always gives such things a livid air of authenticity. Contrast, without trying to be funny, is actually quite hot, but in that vintage sort of manner that likes to produce intense whites and harsh glares even when the sun is clearly not shining very brightly. Again, this is all down to the source.
There are a few shots of Moore’s Dr. Rampion peering out of the window of the little submersible that have drifting diagonal lines stippling them. They are odd-looking and very visible, and only seen during the brief exterior views looking in at Rampion, but they must be part of the original print and not an error with the transfer, although they do appear rather unusual. Other elements are also out of the encode’s control, such as the stock footage of lava, fissures, wildlife, earthquakes and fires. These stick out like sore-thumbs, as such devices always tend to, but the somewhat grubby appeal of the movie, itself, enables such moments to be less glaring that they certainly could have been.
This is solid and faithful … but it hardly resembles what you may have hoped for. Being kind, I'm awarding this a 6 out of 10.
Well, I quite like this LPCM 1-channel mono track, folks. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how robust and detailed some of these older audio mixes have come across when presented in lossless transfers. Things like Robinson Crusoe On Mars, Les Diaboliques and Went The Day Well? have all really found a new lease of life courtesy of such cleaned-up mixes, and Crack In The World is no exception.
Okay, to temper the subtle delights to be found here, there is some hiss and humming present that seems to crop up every so often and then recede once again. It is noticeable but nothing that will impede your enjoyment of the film in any way. But the great thing, as with those other films’ audio mixes, it the depth that is on offer here. Despite the profoundly restricted source material, there is a genuine sense of spatiality that provides the track with a degree of placement and movement within the limited signal. Dialogue has plenty of variance and positioning, and there's never an occasion when it is unclear or drowned-out by action and effects. But just listen to the curious moment when Maggie is compelled to tell Rampion about the serious nature of her husband's illnes – despite being incredibly clear and detailed, her voice also sounds strangely disconnected and otherworldly, as though being beamed to us from somewhere else. I found this quite jarring. The score which, as I've said, is a little too heavy-handed at best and downright comical at its worst, is also delivered with a fair amount of heft, those blurting trombone interjections jabbing out of the mix.
And we get some pretty decent bass activity as well. The floor is not likely to drop away beneath you, but there is, nevertheless, a solidity and a presence to the .LFE that is very welcome. The numerous explosions have lots of heavy impact and some real pressure to them. Even the tense scene of Rampion being lowered down the gullet of a volcano features lots of deep growling bass that swells up around the action. And the entire climax is one elongated stretch of sonic buffeting which this mix handles very well indeed.
A surprisingly exciting and full-on track, folks, with just a couple of minor caveats. Because I liked what it managed to deliver from out of such a limited source, I'm awarding this a 7 out of 10 though, obviously, you can't go comparing it to more modern fare.
Nothing at all.
Setting the precedent for the likes of Meteor, Deep Impact and Armageddon, Crack In The World is a hugely entertaining disaster movie from yesteryear that takes its globally destructive story very seriously, but doesn’t lose sight of the human aspect of science-at-war-with-nature scenario. Very possibly it is this emotional and awkwardly intimate angle that elevates it from the usual sensation-seeking that the genre, otherwise, longs to exploit. Good performances from the main cast make this is all the more affecting. The use of stock footage is not that much of a problem, and the fact that real newsreel footage is utilised to depict the human cost of the catastrophes taking place around the fault-line helps to evoke the anguished shock and isolation of the characters as they wrestle with theories and solutions intellectually within their bunker and physically down mighty flaming shafts.
And Janette Scott is simply gorgeous. Which helps quite a bit.
The transfer is decent, but looks old and weathered. It hasn't been messed-around with and that's the important thing, though. But the audio is quite impressive. There is that little moment of eerie dislocation and some background hissing, but this is a surprisingly powerful and meaty track. Sadly the complete lack of extras is a letdown.
But Crack In The World is a boisterous and tempestuous example of great old school dramatics, suffused with an interesting emotional core but bolstered by large scale pyrotechnics.
Enjoyable hokum, folks.
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