Transatlantic Tunnel (1935) – A Science Fiction Movie Review

This is such an awful movie that I thought I should start off with a clear statement to that effect.  The script is unbelievably bad.  And with a script this bad it wouldn’t really help if the cast were first rate because even Lawrence Olivier would sound like an idiot saying idiotic things.  But this is not a first-rate cast.

Richard Dix “stars” as Richard McAllan a brilliant engineer who has already built a tunnel under the English Channel.  Not satisfied with that he’s now going to build a tunnel under the Atlantic Ocean from England to the United States.  Well, good for him.  But his wife is unhappy because the daughter of one of the financial backers has the hots for her husband and has blonde hair that’s blonder than hers.  And blondie keeps dragging her husband away to publicity shoots in New York.  So somehow this convinces her to go work in the tunnel as a nurse without her husband knowing.  And she ends up with “tunnel fever” and goes blind.  So, for reasons that don’t make any sense to the audience she leaves her husband and raises their son up alone until he’s old enough to get killed “working in the tunnel.”  Apparently, the tunnel designers picked a route that had an active volcano directly in the path of the drill.  And in order to contain the destruction caused by the raging volcano McAllan is forced to shut the isolation doors trapping McAllan Jr. and sending him to a fiery death.  When McAllan explains this death to his blind wife it sounds like he’s trying to find the bright side of this unfortunate situation.  It’s really quite extraordinary.  It’s as if the dialog were written by someone who had never met humans and had been raised by google-bots.

Finally, when the tunnel is somehow completed the President of the United States and the British Prime Minister announce it to their respective nations as if it were the second coming of the Lord.  Somehow the tunnel would bring on world peace and defense budgets would be slashed to nothing and prosperity would engulf humanity.  I’m really not sure why shipping things from Europe to America somewhat faster would achieve all that.  But there was a lot of cheering.  Go Anglosphere!  Next, I guess a tunnel between Australia and California would really make the world a greater place.  I think I’m really feeling that tunnel fever now.

And there are problems beyond just a bad plot and dialog.  The tunnel sets and the props like the pressure suits they wear are quite silly looking.  And the investors and the public gyrate between giddy elation and stark terror on an almost constant basis.    There’s even a murder plot going on between two of the venture capitalists funding the project.  It all seems to have been strung together from odds and ends out of a bucket of spare ideas for movie plot devices.  I would say, unless you really enjoy bad old sci-fi movies skip this turkey.

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TomD
6 days ago

An unnoticed volcano mid-Atlantic? You don’t say

Trying to think of any Sci-Fi movies from the 30’s that wasn’t ridiculous and drawing a blank. Come to think of it, most Sci-Fi from the 2000’s is ridiculous.

TomD
5 days ago
Reply to  photog

I’m waiting for a good hard sci-fi movie take on, say, a Larry Niven novel. Any of the Puppeteer novels or Ringworld or maybe the Mote in God’s Eye. Now that would would be worth waiting for. How about Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle? What a visual splendor that would be! How about any of the Hyperion novels?

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