Saturday, February 12, 2011

City Beneath the Sea (1971)

City Beneath The Sea is a 1971 science fiction telemovie and pilot for a proposed series by Irwin Allen. It started as a conceptual 10 minute demo reel as a means to sell the plot and concept to television studios. The concept wasn't bought initially and a few years later Allen produced a two hour telemovie for NBC. Though the two hour movie was again created as a pilot for a series, it failed to garner television episode status but has remained a cult favorite amongst scifi and Irwin Allen fans. In the UK it was shown theatrically in 1972. After years of not having a home video release, it was released on Warner Bros. Archive Collection of DVDs.

The Original Concept
Allen filmed the original concept for City Beneath The Sea as a daring scifi vehicle set in the year 2068 (June 12, 2068 to be exact). The proposed cast consisted of Glenn Corbett, Lloyd Bochner, Lawrence Montaigne, Francine York, Cecile Ozorio and a young but experienced James Brolin. The plot was one of intrigue into the threat of the destruction of a undersea drilling project that would not only destroy the project but possibly the undersea city of Triton. Triton is a thriving underwater city run by General Kevin Matthews (Corbett) with his associates Lia Holmes (York), scientific advisor Dr. Raymond Aguila (Montaigne) who is also a Aquanoid (a amphibian/human hybrid) that can breathe underwater, and his head of security Choo Choo Kino (Ozorio). Their lead engineer Temple (Bochner) is scheming to put an end to an underwater drilling project that is spearheaded by the US government and run by Matthews and his team in Triton. Though an abbreviated story, its finale involves Matthews confronting Temple on the project's surface platform as it is going down in flames. Why this concept failed to make an impression to television producers of the time may seem obvious to us now but back then it seemed to have the right mixture of elements that could at least be a "season" commitment. Still it remained unproduced until 1971 when it debuted as a movie of the week on NBC with a bigger budget, greater and larger storyline and bigger and more noteworthy cast. This production film remained unseen by the public until the release of the DVD The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen in 1995 where it was included as a special feature.

1971 Telemovie
The concept was later revisited by Allen and seasoned TV screenwriter John Meredyth Lucas in the form of a 2 hour movie of the week style outing. The story would combine a natural disaster story with high stakes crime drama and futuristic adventure, all of which Allen was apt at producing and directing. In addition, many props and models from Allen's previous scifi series made appearances too, which often amuses those who see the movie for the first time. The entire cast was replaced as well. Actor Stuart Whitman would play the lead as the city's administrator Admiral Michael Matthews with Rosemary Forsyth, Robert Colbert, Burr DeBenning and Robert Wagner as supporting cast. Lastly musician Richard LaSalle lent his style of music to the film, which of course contained many nods to past Allen efforts. The movie became a cult favorite amongst scifi and Irwin Allen fans but again failed to show the way for a series run.

June 12, 2053! A futuristic oil rig explodes somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Cut to New York City the same day. Admiral Michael Matthews is busy in his office setting up travel for various engineering projects in different parts of the world. He then receives a phone call from the President of the United States (Basehart). After much debate he is forced back into his old rank as Admiral and forced back into his old job as administrator of Pacifica the underwater city, his escort Commander Woody Patterson (Colbert) arrives instantaneously and as Matthews tries to be pleasant, Patterson becomes guarded and brusk. They take off into parts unknown in a flying submarine. The inflight banter has the Admiral unsure of his orders but not happy to be returning to his old job. He assures the Commander, that he was given no choice in the matter and that he is sorry the Commander will now be kicked down to Deputy Commander. The submarine makes a high pitched whine as it begins it's dive phase into the ocean. They submerge and make their approach to Pacifca. Matthews comments on how the view of Pacifica still takes the breath away, Patterson replies "I tried not to change anything". Discussion then moves to Matthew's regrets about returning and the past history (it is implied that a man named Bill Holmes may have died because of something Matthews did or ordered done). They continue onto the cities docking facilities while Patterson rattles of stats on water desalinization and protein processing shipping of which Matthews says that he is doing an excellent job and that whatever his orders are for his recall, it couldn't have anything to do with the Commanders performance. Lastly before they dock, Patterson points out that a docking sub is transferring gold from Fort Knox to Pacifica. The Admiral balks saying that job was started before he left Pacifica, at which Patterson informs him that was just six months ago and done according to his schedule. With the vaults now 2/3 full they have stepped up receiving to 3 subs a day and that the sum total of the wealth of the nation will be secured at Pacifica within 17 days. As they make final approach for docking Patterson radioes in to prepare to receive Admiral Matthews to which Matthews quips "No ceremony". Patterson's reply is "We haven't prepared any."

90 MIN

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