The Flight of the Albatross

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“The Airship Chronicles” has thus far focused on the science of airships and their development, but this series was designed to include fictional airships as well as historical ones . . . so ladies and gentlemen, please behold the almighty Albatross!

the Albatross

This titan of an airship appears in the 1961 film Master of the Worldbased upon the Jules Verne novels Robur the Conqueror (1886) and its sequel, Master of the World (1904). The script combined elements of both Jules Verne’s novels about the genius inventor Robur, creator of powered heavier than air craft Albatross. With his hand picked crew, Robur chooses to use weapons of war to force the governments of the world to lay down their arms and live in peace.

master-of-the-world-movie-poster-1961-1020209879The film begins when Robur (played Vincent Price), shoots down and takes on board his flying ship Prudent (Henry Hull), his daughter Dorothy (Mary Webster), her fiance Evans (David Frankham), all of whom were exploring a volcanic crater in their hot air balloon, along with US government agent Strock (Charles Bronson), who had hired them to look for evidence of an eruption.

The supposed eruption was caused by Robur working on his airship, who had also inadvertently broadcast a biblical passage over a voice amplifier, stirring religious fears among the citizenry of the nearby town. Robur has been traversing the globe in his airship, the Albatross, with a goal of forcing peace on the world by virtue of his superior military capabilities. He has a loyal crew of like-minded, equally fanatical idealists.

The captives learn how his ship operates, and about his technical advances, including generation of electrical power by crossing “lines of magnetic force” (presumably created by the earth’s own magnetic field). The captives wish to escape, but don’t fully trust Strock, who appears at times to side with Robur. After saving Evans’ life, Strock explains that his oath of loyalty to Robur was insincere, and that as a captive, he feels no compunction to behave as a gentleman, and thus the plot thickens.


The Albatross

The Albatross falls into the common science fiction trope of warning how superior technology can lead to tyranny, despite the idealist intent of the tyrant. Despite the title of the film being the same as the Verne’s second book about Robur, the Albatross is mostly featured in Robur the Conqueror, and has a succssor in Master of the World. In the second book, Robur has perfected a new machine, which he has dubbed the Terror. It is ten-meter long vehicle, capable of operating as a speedboat, submarine, automobile, or aircraft. It can travel at the (then) unheard of speed of 150 miles per hour on land and at more than 200 mph when flying.

AlbatrossAt the end of Robur the Conqueror, the Albatross survives, but in the film Master of the World the dramatic ending has the heroes destroying the airship. Despite this fiery ending, there were plans for a sequel to the 1961 film. According to an article in Filmfax magazine, a sequel to Master of the World, to have been called Stratofin, was reportedly considered by American International Pictures, even to the point that a conceptual model of the Terror was reportedly made. (The article included a picture of the model.) However, those plans were never carried out, possibly due to the manner in which Richard Matheson and his cohorts combined Verne’s two original novels, which would have resulted in serious continuity problems from the first film to the second. In any case, the reported conceptual model has not survived.


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