Underground

King Solomon’s Mines

The first sound adaptation of H. Rider Haggards lost world novel benefits from location shooting in Africa, a faithful script and good acting. Paul Robeson shines, even though his out-of-place song numbers strain the picture’s credibility. Despite a somewhat rushed plot and thin characters, this is a fun Sunday afternoon adventure yarn. 6/10

Things to Come

H.G. Wells and  William Cameron Menzies take us on an epic journey through the future in this pompous 1936 social prophesy, the last big SF film before the 1950s. The most expensive film made in Britain at the time, Things to Come boasts incredible sets and effects, but the script is stiff, the acting wooden and the viewer bludgeoned to boredom with the message. 6/10

She

Based on H. Rider Haggard’s novel, this 1935 production from the creators of King Kong is as old-fashioned an adventure story as they come, as our intrepid heroes seek the secret to immortal life in a lost city ruled by an evil queen. It’s a creaky bag of hokum, but childishly entertaining, and the massive Art Deco sets are deliriously wonderful. 5/10

The Phantom Empire

Not even the worst serial acting in the history of bad serial acting is able to completely sink this brilliantly delirious sci-fi western musical comedy starring western and country legend Gene Autry. The film combines wild west adventure, lost Atlantis-type fantasy, Flash Gordon tropes and country singing in one of he most bizarre train wrecks of film history. 4/10

Gold

This smart, well filmed and very successful 1934 film marked the beginning of the end for German science fiction before the Nazis banned the genre. Best remembered for its impressive futuristic sets and superb effects, this film is on the talkier side. It’s secret weapons are German superstars Hans Albers and Brigitte Helm. 7/10.

The Tunnel

An American engineer masterminds a Transatlantic tunnel in this German 1933 production, based on Bernhard Kellermann’s 1913 novel. Made in the spirit of international unity, it is today often seen through the lens of the Nazi rise to power. While well acted and sporting impressive set design, the film’s pacing is off and the first half is bogged down by sluggish melodrama. 5/10.

High Treason

This 1929 film was Britain’s attempt to create its own Metropolis. The stunning art deco visuals are counteracted by a clumsy and overtly naive script. Maurice Elvey’s direction is fluid and competent, but the actors are stuck with paper-thin characters who lack motivation. Modern viewers of this pacifist yarn set in 1940 will marvel at the accurate predictions of things like TV and Skype. (5/10)