Here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, longitude 180 degrees, latitude zero, there is research being conducted into how submarines may be able to utilise the seafaring equivalent of the jet stream for aircraft, and to do so it will take a diving bell containing two scientists and a reporter to survey the conditions for twelve hours, then return to the surface. However, no sooner have they reached the ocean floor than there is a tremendous eruption, and the diving bell is sent careering off course, the cable connecting it to the ship snapping in the process. With the occupants knocked out, things are looking bleak...
But don't worry, for all three men are about to be saved by Captain Nemo! Or his nearest equivalent, which in this case was revealed to be Joseph Cotten as Captain Craig Mackenzie, who pilots his own super-submarine as befitting a man who is something of a superhero himself. If Mr Cotten didn't immediately spring to mind as one of the gallery of superheroes who have graced the screen down the years, then not to worry, as while he may have convinced as a man of great learning, whether you were wholly accepting of this incarnation as an action pioneer was another matter. But then, everything about Latitude Zero went down in cult history as off-kilter.
Or it would have done if it were more widely known, having been unavailable for a long stretch and dropping off the radar, if you'll pardon the pun. Ripe for rediscovery, it demonstrated legendary Japanese sci-fi director Ishirô Honda's flair for the more extravagant examples of his art, as though it was not strictly a giant monster movie of the sort he had made his name with, Godzilla and the like, it illustrated even at this stage in his career he still had what it took to deliver gaudy, somewhat manic, entertainment. And this time around with an international cast, for this was a co-production between Japan and the United States, filmed in English as evinced by the Eastern cast speaking English with heavy accents.
Of course, one of the stars Richard Jaeckel had experience of being an imported actor having appeared in The Green Slime recently, and here he played the reporter who decides he wants a record of his adventures under the sea. This includes a submerged society which exists under a giant dome, complete with its own sun, where everyone wears gold clothes, leaves diamonds around as if they were gravel, eats as if in a five star restaurant day and night, and generally hangs around being very sophisticated as befitting their remarkable intelligence. We can tell they have superior mental powers because they live for centuries and listen to harpsichord music, always a signifier of an incredibly advanced community. Another sign is when you have a megalomaniac as your main antagonist.
He being The Joker himself, Cesar Romero, here playing Dr. Malic and something of a Dr. Moreau figure as we find out later on when he puts the brain of his loyal henchwoman into the body of a lion with the wings of a condor which is then chemically treated to turn absolutely massive, because it was that kind of movie. Malic is too evil to be much of a threat in that you know he's doomed the moment he appears onscreen, trying to blow up Mackenzie's supersub remotely, but seeing how he reaches that downfall is what part of the fun, and it is very amusing in its deranged fashion. Throw in a kidnapped scientist and his daughter, a medical doctor (Linda Haynes) who dresses in a backless gold bra top and miniskirt (when she goes outside she puts on a see-through plastic coat - well, she might have been cold), a bath in unguents which makes you bulletproof, the requisite batmen (not the superhero kind, natch) and further selected lunacies and you had a film which breezed along with nary a thought to how lunatic it might have been. Music by Akira Ifukube.