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TRANSATLANTIC TUNNEL (aka: THE TUNNEL) (director: Maurice Elvey; screenwriters: from the book by H. Kellermann/L. Du Garde Peach/Curt Siodmak/Clemence Dane; cinematographer: Gunther Krampf; editor: Charles Frend; music: Hubert Bath; cast: Richard Dix (Richard ‘Mack’ McAllan), Leslie Banks (Frederick ‘Robbie’ Robbins), Madge Evans (Ruth McAllan), Helen Vinson (Varlia Lloyd), C. Aubrey Smith (Lloyd), Basil Sydney (Mostyn), Henry Oscar (Grellier), Hilda Trevelyan (Mary), Walter Huston (President of the United States), Cyril Raymond (Harriman), George Arliss (Prime Minister of Great Britain), Jimmy Hanley (Geoffrey McAllan); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Balcon; Gaumont; 1935-UK/USA)

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Similar versions of this futuristic sci-fi film first appeared in Germany and later in France. It’s a fine example of the League of Nations brand of pacifism afoot at the time to counter the rise of fascism in Europe. Based on the book by H. Kellermann and soberly scripted by L. Du Garde Peach, Curt Siodmak, and Clemence Dane, director Maurice Elvey does a workmanlike job but is less successful with the shrill dramatics or cardboard characterizations than with presenting visions of future technology such as two-way televisions, radium drills, fancy airships and self-propelled automobiles. Though slow-moving, it eventually gets to a series of complexities that heighten the dramatic tensions and give this interesting but seemingly impossible fictional concept a chance to fully play out as a lesson in political history.

Richard McAllan (Richard Dix) is a noted engineer who envisions building an undersea tunnel across the 2,000 mile stretch of the Atlantic Ocean to connect England with America. The tunnel represents a lasting peace between the two English speaking countries that is viewed by the idealistic engineer as better than any treaty. To do this McAllan gets the support of some millionaires, led by Mr. Lloyd (C. Aubrey Smith), who buy shares in the patriotic business venture. With Mr. Lloyd in control of the business aspect, the dedicated McAllan puts all his energy into building the tunnel. But he spends so much time away from his wife Ruth (Madge Evans) and young son Geoffrey, this causes tension at home. The building of the tunnel comes with a high price tag both personally and professionally. McAllan’s personal setbacks include his wife becoming jealous because for publicity reasons he’s forced to spend time with Lloyd’s attractive single daughter Varlia (Helen Vinson), who has a crush on him; Ruth going blind from Tunnel Syndrome and not telling hubby about it; Ruth separating from her husband without telling him she’s blind because she doesn’t want his pity; McAllan’s innocent best friend Robbie (Leslie Banks) takes the blame for Ruth leaving and the two tunnel workers are no longer on talking terms; and when Geoffrey is a young man he dies the first day on the job in a tunnel accident caused by a subterranean volcano. The professional setbacks involve money problems and treacherous business schemes.

At the end of the day, as the light at the end of the tunnel is reached, McAllan reunites with his wife and declares he would still go through with the project despite the heavy toll it took on him and his family, further stating “I believe my work will bring peace to the world.”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”