Family / Children’s
1960 / 99 minutes
The film manages one upgrade on the book. In the original Gulliver’s Travels, Dr. Lemuel Gulliver is all on his lonesome, but in this 1960s film version, he now has a love interest. And she’s got spunk; when Gulliver decides to sail away to find his fortune, his fiancee Elizabeth stows away to go too! By the time she’s discovered, the ship is already underway, and a storm ensures they can’t just turn around. Still, Gulliver wants to send Elizabeth back to England, so the two go topside to argue it out. That’s when a wave sweeps Gulliver right off the ship, and into his first adventure.
When next we see Gulliver, he’s clawing his way up a beach, calling for help from the people he sees further up the shore. He collapses, only to wake up with his arms and legs all tied down. It turns out those people down the beach weren’t so far away – they were quite close, but also quite tiny, and very scared of him. Gulliver has arrived in Liiliput, a land where the people are only 6 inches tall!
Gulliver quickly charms the Lilliputian emperor into letting him loose and shows his value to the ruler when he promises to help him win his war. But when Gulliver won’t kill the enemy, the emperor conspires against him, and Gullliver has to flee. He’s back on the water again. If you know the story, you know what happens next. And if you don’t, I won’t spoil it for you, but I will assure you that the second chapter is every bit as good as the first.
A big part of the fun here is trying to figure out how they managed to have an enormous Gulliver interact with the tiny people around him. There was nothing computer generated back then, so this had to be done with rear screen projection, claymation, gigantic props, and I can’t even imagine what else.
There’s just a smidge of adult sexuality here. When Gulliver finds his fiancee, he kisses her quite passionately. She interrupts, noting that “We aren’t married yet,” and runs off to her room and locks the door. To answer her objection, Gulliver arranges with the ruler for a lightening quick marriage ceremony! That’s it – nothing untoward shown – but Gulliver’s ardour did strike me as a bit PG-ish.
The action scenes are generally tame, but children under 8 might be frightened when Gulliver is unexpectantly grabbed by a giant squirrel. The squirrel’s weird screech also adds to the tension.
Parents familiar with Jonathan Swift’s book may notice just a bit of his satire still evident in some of the dialogue. But for the most part this is a children’s film, enjoyable for the spectacle of seeing a giant man interact with a pixie-sized nation.
There have been more recent movie versions of Swift’s classic, but this is the very best one for young children. Even if the special effects aren’t as slick as the new CGI stuff, there’s something very appealing about the 1960s movie magic too. Overall The 3 Worlds of Gulliver rates as a fun, fairly tame film for kids ten and under, but it’s also one that mom or dad might enjoy for the old-school effects.