Doctor Lemuel Gulliver (Kerwin Mathews) is strapped for cash, and plans to leave his hometown of Wapping to seek his fortune on the seven seas, but there is one thing preventing him. That something is his fiancée Elizabeth (June Thorburn), who is determined that he does not leave her and stays to marry her and set up a home instead. However, when Gulliver investigates the house she has marked out for them, he finds it is little more than a dilapitated hovel and this makes up his mind. On setting sail as a ship's doctor, he has a surprise waiting: Elizabeth has stowed away onboard...
The 3 Worlds of Gulliver was a one of the special effects-packed adventures brought to the screen by Ray Harryhausen, although this was slightly different as it did not feature quite so many of his trademark special effects of the stop motion variety. In fact, there are only two brief instances of model animation here, one a crocodile which is giant for Gulliver but tiny for his captors, and another a huge squirrel which is much the same in proportions to the other characters. This means the effects work is mainly confined to making things very big or very small.
This was, of course, an adaptation of Jonathan Swift's famously imaginative satire, yet here much of the inspiration has been dampened down to make a rather humdrum version. And don't get too excited if you're a fan of the book: despite the title, the film only translates two of the worlds of Gulliver from the original, the third presumably being the cinematically underwhelming world he has hailed from, so, sorry, no talking horses here (even though it would have been nice to see what Harryhausen did with them). This leaves the usual Lilliput and Brobdingnag to be getting on with.
Lilliput, as you probably know, is where our hero washes up first having fallen overboard in a storm, and everyone there is tiny compared to the size he is. This is not the biggest complication, though, as what really proves a problem is the cultural differences, here as in Swift the source of much "do you see?" criticism of politics and the needlessness of warfare. After being persuaded not to keep Gulliver tied down when he can show he is able to help them, the Lilliputians put him to work, but what their Emperor (Basil Sydney) really wants is to win his conflict with their neighbours.
The dispute centres around the supposed correct way to open an egg, from the narrow end or the other, here neatly summing up that if both sides were to put aside their unnecessary differences, they would see that they had far more in common than they did to separate them. A note of despair is sounded when Gulliver is unable to make either of them see sense, something that could be applied to the next place his newly-built boat takes him to, a land of giants whose King (Grégoire Aslan) is happy to keep Gulliver - and Elizabeth, who washed up there too - as pets. Here the dispute is not between warlike nations, but between science and superstition, so Gulliver has to fight the corner of rationality. How odd then, and unconvincing to boot, that the conclusion he arrives at by the end is that love is what will save the world and not his hard-fought-for science and intelligence. Music by Bernard Herrmann.