The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960) starring Kerwin Mathews, June Thorburn, Grégoire Aslan, Mary Ellis, Charles Lloyd Pack, Jo Morrow, Lee Patterson directed by Jack Sher Movie Review

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Kerwin Mathews and June Thorburn in The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)


Putting things into immediate context "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver" is not the best adaptation of Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels", although a whole lot better than the more recent adaptation starring Jack Black. And at the same time it is not the best example of effects genius Ray Harryhausen's work with only a few scenes highlighting his stop motion action although both are good. Yet there is no denying that "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver" is entertaining and is one of those movies which works for both children and adults with a mix of visual and verbal humour.

Dr Lemuel Gulliver (Kerwin Mathews - The Devil at 4 O'Clock) is tired of being poor and whilst his fiancee Elizabeth (June Thorburn) is happy with their life Gulliver wants more and agrees to go to sea as a ship's doctor initially unaware that Elizabeth has stowed aboard to be near him. As they quarrel over her being there a storm hits and Gulliver ends up overboard and when he comes to finds himself washed ashore in Lilliput surrounded by tiny people who have tied him down. Initially fearful of Gulliver who is a giant to them he proves his worth by helping out including trying to stop the war between them and nearby Blefuscu. But when Gulliver criticizes the Lilliputians for having a desire to kill their enemies he is forced to flee and when he comes to having fallen asleep in his boat he finds himself in Brobdingnag a land of giants where he is tiny and is suspected of being a witch because of his knowledge of science.

Lee Patterson and Jo Morrow in The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)

I don't know how accurate "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver" is to Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels", it maybe quite a poor adaptation but it has a feel of authenticity. But in truth that brings me to what is the movies one problem and that is that it is very uneven. The first half of the movie where Gulliver is in Lilliput is actually quite boring and only offers up the humour of a stupid war over how to eat eggs. Maybe it is because the story of Gulliver and the Lilliputians is so well known that the familiarity makes it that little bit ordinary.

Now it is a shame that the first half ends up a bit dull because the second half when Gulliver finds himself in Brobdingnag and labelled a tiny witch is far more entertaining. The visuals are much more interesting not just because we get Ray Harryhausen's stop motion work featuring a squirrel and an alligator but the whole look of the sets look more impressive such as when Gulliver takes on the King in a game of chess. It's not just visually better because the script is sharper with funnier lines so that whilst children will enjoy the visual humour adults have some sly adult jokes and some wonderfully amusing flirting from the Queen with Dr. Gulliver when he soothes her of her stomach ache. If only the first half could have been as entertaining as the second half it would have pushed "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver" towards classic status.

As for the acting well to be honest it is again a movie of two halves with those playing Lilliputians being quite forgettable whilst those such as Mary Ellis who plays the Queen and Charles Lloyd Pack who plays the King's adviser Makovan doing a much better job of making their characters entertaining. Thankfully Kerwin Mathews as Gulliver and June Thorburn as Elizabeth are good through out and there is a naturalness to the way they interact.

What this all boils down to is that "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver" is an uneven movie where the second half surrounding Brobdingnag being much more entertaining than the first half focussing on Lilliput. But overall it is entertaining delivering fun for both children and adults.