Captain Robur (Price), shoots down and takes on board his flying ship Prudent (Hull), his daughter Dorothy (Webster), her fiance Evans (Frankham), all of whom were exploring a volcanic crater in their hot air balloon, along with US government agent Strock (Bronson), who had hired them to investigate evidence of an eruption. The eruption was Robur working on his airship, who had also inadvertently broadcast a biblical passage over a voice amplifier, stirring religious fears among the citizenry of the nearby town. Robur has been traversing globe in his ship, the Albatross, with a goal of forcing peace on the world by virtue of his superior military position. He has a loyal crew of like minded idealists. The captives learn how his ship operates, and his technical advances, including generation of electrical power by crossing "lines of magnetic force". The captives wish to escape, but don't fully trust Strock, who appears at times to side with the Captain. After saving Evans' life, he explains that his oath of loyalty to the Captain was insincere, and that as a captive he feels no compunction to behave as a gentleman. The captives manage to rig the armory to explode, while the ship is tethered to the shoreline. All escape down the tether except Strock, who follows while being shot at by the crew. First Strock, then Evans, work at cutting the tether, finally releasing the airship, which cannot navigate due to prior damage, and which is unsalvageable after the explosion. Robur orders his crew to abandon ship, but they choose to ignore his final order, and gather in his captains quarters while he reads from Isaiah 2:4 ("Swords into Plowshares"), reminding them of their pledge to try to rid the world of war. The ship crashes into the ocean, along with Robur and crew, while the captives watch, injured but alive, from the shore.
The film was an attempt by American International Pictures to create a prestigious epic adventure along the lines of 1956's Around the World in 80 Days. While it boasted a larger cast and more location work than was then the norm for AIP, it still utilised stock footage, including the opening miniature shot of Elizabethan London from Laurence Olivier's Henry V as a stand-in for Victorian London, with the skyship Albatross superimposed over the top. Additional scenes of the Albatross destroying both sides in a naval engagement are created in the same manner, with stock footage borrowed from model shoots of Napoleonic sea battles. The script combined elements of both Jules Verne's novels, Master of the World, and Robur the Conqueror. Robur, genius, inventor and in this instance, creator of powered heavier than air craft Albatross, with his hand picked crew chooses to use weapons of war to force the governments of the world to lay down their arms and live in peace.
The special effects crew included Wah Chang and Gene Warren.
MASTER OF THE WORLD
WILLIAM WITNEY (1961)
AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES