The Incredible Petrified World (1960) poster

The Incredible Petrified World (1960)


USA. 1960.


Director/Producer – Jerry Warren, Screenplay – John W. Steiner, Photography (b&w) – Victor Fisher, Underwater Photography – Mel Fisher, Music Director – Josef Zimanich, Art Direction – Marvin Harbert. Production Company – GBM Productions


John Carradine (Professor Millard Wyman), Robert Clarke (Craig Randall), Allen Windsor (Paul Whitmore), Phyllis Coates (Dale Marshall), Sheila Noonan (Lauri Talbot), Maurice Bernard (Old Man in the Caves), George Skaff (Dr J.R. Matheny)


Professor Millard Wyman unveils his new invention of a diving bell that can descend to far greater depths than anything previously built. Two men and two women are selected as volunteers for the maiden journey. However, as they descend, the cable snaps, abandoning them on the ocean floor. They use their scuba gear to enter nearby caves, find them to be filled with air. There they encounter an old man who says he has been lost there for fourteen years and realise that the caverns are an endless maze with no way out.

Jerry Warren (1925-88) was an exploitation producer/director of the 1950s/60s. After some small uncredited bit parts as an actor, Warren became a producer/director beginning with Man-Beast (1956) and went onto a career in which he made eleven films between the 1950s and 1980s. These include Teenage Zombies (1960), Terror of the Blood Hunters (1962), The Wild World of Batwoman (1966) and Frankenstein Island (1981). This also includes four films – Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964), Curse of the Stone Hand (1964), Attack of the Mayan Mummy (1964) and Creature of the Walking Dead (1965) – which, though Warren is credited as director, he has merely edited them together out of a bunch of different films from Mexico and other South American countries.

The other thing about Jerry Warren’s films is that all of them attract plaudits usually reserved for Edward D. Wood Jr and his ilk and end up mentioned on various Worst Films Ever Made lists. Warren made The Incredible Petrified World in 1957 but was unable to find a distributor. The film sat on shelves for three years and was eventually released in 1960 on a double-bill with Warren’s Teenage Zombies.

The Incredible Petrified World is an incredibly dull and uninteresting film. Jerry Warren demonstrates a singular lack of directorial style. Often scenes – like those aboard the ship or with the crew stranded on the ocean floor in the diving bell – seem to have simply involved his pointing the camera in the general direction of the actors and turning it on. Even then, there is little action – the film seems to consist of no more than the four actors standing around in the downed diving bell or the caves talking and occasional cuts back to John Carradine on the ship. There are some underwater-shot scuba diving scenes that go on for a long time – these would no doubt have been of more interest in the late 1950s when the first commercially available aqualung sets were just coming on the market but today are monotonous.

Explorers in the underground - Robert Clarke, Sheila Noonan, Phyllis Coates and Allen Windsor in The Incredible Petrified World (1960)
Explorers in the underground caves – (l to r) Robert Clarke, Sheila Noonan, Phyllis Coates and Allen Windsor

The underground scenes were filmed in the Golden Caves of New Mexico but Warren shoots these in the dullest way imaginable. The film belies its title – there is no petrified world, just a series of caves, and the dreariness of the show is about as far away from being ‘incredible’ as you could imagine. There is no real underground journey as you get in these underground/lost world films – just the characters sitting around in 2-3 different caves.

Most other lost world films pump the adventure aspect up with the discovery of lost cities, vast caverns and geological phenomena, or dinosaurs and primitive tribes. (For a more detailed listing see Lost World Films). The most we get here is the single shot of a komodo dragon – although at least there is the lost world genre’s cliche of an exploding volcano at the end. Indeed, The Incredible Petrified World has the oddity of being promoted as a science-fiction film when in actuality it holds a premise – people descending to the ocean floor and discovering a series of caves – that falls well within the realms of geological possibility.

John Carradine had a horror career during the 1940s but a decade later his alcohol problems meant that he was taking roles in numerous B and Z movies like this. He once laid claim to having made the greatest number of films of any actor alive and his career runs like a checklist of signing on to work with some of the worst directors out there. Here he has a laidback role that gives the impression it was shot in a couple of days – notedly, he does not ever appear in the film’s title location. The film also features Robert Clarke who had a minor career in genre films of the 1950s such as The Man from Planet X (1951), Captive Women (1952), The Astounding She-Monster (1958) and Beyond the Time Barrier (1960), and even directed The Hideous Sun Demon (1959).

There is also Phyllis Coates who was Lois Lane in the first season of the George Reeves Adventures of Superman (1952-8). Coates was replaced later in the series but maintained a small B movie career. When it came to The Incredible Petrified World, she claimed that Warren, a former boyfriend, tricked her into appearing in the film after the original actress quit. (It may be of significance that she plays the bitchy and hostile member of the party). She also manages to spend the entire film, including going scuba diving and exploring the underwater caverns, while wearing a set of pumps.

Trailer here

Full film available online here:-

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