The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)
The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)

Genre: Adventure and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 39 min.

Release Date: December 16th, 1960 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Jack Sher Actors: Kerwin Mathews, Jo Morrow, June Thorburn, Lee Patterson, Gregoire Aslan, Basil Sydney, Martin Benson, Peter Bull




n Wapping, England in 1699, pale-eyed Elizabeth (June Thorburn) is furious at salty Captain Pritchard (Noel Purcell) for continuing to prod physician Dr. Lemuel Gulliver (Kerwin Mathews) into becoming a ship’s surgeon – a more adventurous and prosperous life than slaving away in the tiny town for paltry trades rather than good fortunes. She’s in love and wants to take care of Lemuel, rather than lose him to cannibals on the East Indies, but he’s perpetually concerned about how to give her a better life and not to worry about debts. “Money! Is that all you can think of?”

Almost immediately, he sets sail, but falls overboard during a gale, washing ashore on a strange island called Lilliput. Before Gulliver regains consciousness, he’s bound and staked to the ground by an army of tiny people, about the size of his thumb (or equal to approximately 1,728 of their citizens). The Emperor of Lilliput (Basil Sydney) arrives to negotiate, soon realizing that the “giant” doctor isn’t a threat – and might actually be useful as a worker and weapon. But when the Emperor demands that Gulliver crush their enemies at Blefuscu, located across a shallow stretch of water, the physician must decide how best to manage warring factions, ludicrous internal politics, and an ally – Reldresal (Lee Patterson) – who comparably just wants to get back to his lover (Jo Morrow as Gwendolyn).

Based on the Jonathan Swift story, Gulliver must contend with plenty of comical, childish little predicaments, trying the patience of the audience alongside the giant, who could solve all his problems if he was only willing to squash a few pesky, ant-sized Lilliputians. In a family-friendly way, Lemuel attempts to reason with the vengeful, narcissistic leader, settling egg-related war instigations with casualty-free options – and with a blithe song or two. Eventually, he becomes a god of sorts, with his awesome size and might, but as a result he’s an easy target for both worship and blame.

Brilliantly, there’s more to the picture than Gulliver sorting out disputes between bite-sized persons. Across the Atlantic, the land of Brobdingnag poses the opposite conflict: here, Gulliver is itty-bitty – and a prisoner and plaything of even more enormous humans. But even in this new world, the dilemmas feel trivial; it’s a grand adventure with rather frivolous escapades. “Grown-ups are silly!”

Yet with special visual effects by Ray Harryhausen (including a monstrous, trampling squirrel), and incredibly fitting music by Bernard Herrmann (boasting playful tunes alternated with horror-movie notes), the film demonstrates a classic fantasy premise (perhaps reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland) full of worthwhile lessons about morality and human nature. And the gigantic props and sets are likewise amusing. Plus, the finale is thoroughly satisfying, despite its efforts to present Gulliver’s travels as something less than an actual odyssey through fantastic realms and satirical kingdoms – and the fact that it only covers the first two voyages, leaving plenty of opportunities for follow-ups that sadly never came to be.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10

The Complete Ray Harryhausen

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)

Mysterious Island (1961)

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

First Men in the Moon (1964)

One Million Years B.C. (1967)

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

Clash of the Titans (1981)