‘Crack in The World’ used to play a lot on ’70’s British television, but has been strangely invisible for years now. My copy was taped off Sky about 1994! It is a gripping sci-fi thriller based loosely on the ‘Mo-Hole Project’; American scientists once attempted to drill to the Earth’s core, but abandoned the idea ( for reasons that are still shrouded in mystery ). Another source of inspiration could be the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short story ‘When The World Screamed’.
Dr.Stephen Sorenson ( Dana Andrews ) is head of ‘Project Inner Space’, a plan to ( you guessed it ) drill to the Earth’s magma core and tap the limitless energy there. To break through the outer shell, he proposes firing a nuclear missile. Dead against the scheme is Dr.Ted Rampion ( Keiron Moore ) who believes said missile will in fact shatter the shell, causing red-hot magma to pour into the sea. Rampion attempts to get the British Government to withdraw support, but it is too late – the missile is launched.
Initially it appears that the project is a success, but then tremors and other disturbances are reported. Rampion’s worst fears are confirmed – the explosion has opened a fissure in the Earth’s crust, meaning it is only a matter of time before it widens sufficiently to literally break the entire world in half…
This is a disaster movie before the term was coined; the special effects are good ( for the time ), particularly the volcano sequence and the train crash. Andrews turns in his usual block of wood performance, but then disaster movies are not about great acting in any case. Keiron Moore and Janette Scott ( Thora Hird’s daughter, incidentally ) previously worked together in the 1963 film of ‘Day Of The Triffids’ ( they were that young couple trapped in the lighthouse ). Again neither turn in Oscar-worthy performances ( Scott seeming to have strayed out of another movie ). What bogs the film down is the soppy sub plot involving Scott and Moore; their characters had once been an item apparently and events give them an excuse to get together again. Luckily for them Dr.Sorenson is terminally ill and so won’t pose much of a threat to their happiness.
For most of the time, ‘Crack In The World’ is tense, frightening stuff. Director Andrew Marton was partly responsible for ‘The Longest Day’. When the missile goes down the bore hole you will finding yourself shouting at the screen: “You stupid idiots! You’ve just destroyed the world!”. The film was made before the ‘tectonics plates’ theory was formed, meaning that a crack like the one here could never in fact destroy the world, they are continually appearing in the Earth’s surface. The ending – in which a chunk of the Earth defies the laws of gravity and becomes a new Moon – does not bear close scrutiny. Five years after it was made, the plot was ripped off by ‘Dr.Who’ for the seven-part story ‘Inferno’, starring Jon Pertwee, which threw in werewolves and parallel universes for good measure.
The ‘Project Inner Space’ scheme is so mad, so monstrously insane that one day I expect someone will attempt to do if for real. I hope I won’t be around then.