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Mistress of the World
(a.k.a Herrin der Welt - Teil I)
(1959)

Director: William Dieterle 
Cast:
Sabu, Gino Cervi, Wolfgang Preiss, Micheline Presle


Times were tough for Sabu once he reached adulthood; though he kept working up to his death at age 39, work started to become more infrequent. As a result, he sometimes had to do what stars like Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance, and others did in the 70 - work in Europe. This was one of several films he made in Europe, and it's a big disappointment both for Sabu fans and people who want a minimum amount of entertainment in their movies.

This was obviously a co-production of several European countries, though I found it hard to pinpoint which countries they were. With the names of the cast, it's safe to say France, Germany, and Italy were involved. I would also venture to say a Scandinavian country was involved, because the story is initially set there, and the cinematography looks exactly like the kind in the Danish monster flick Reptilicus.

Without further ado, the story: Our hero, Peter, narrates over some stock footage of Stockholm, preparing us for the events we are about to witness. Next, we meet the three other important people of the story, preparing for the execution of a big experiment: Dr. Johanson, his daughter Karin, and the doctor's assistant (played by Sabu) Dr. Lin-Chor - described as a "brilliant scientist" and "Buddhist monk" and "[Cambodian] Oriental". (Actually, scientists classify people of Indian heritage as Caucasian - but never mind.)

The experiment goes badly, with a big underwater explosion at a miniature lakeside set that's up to snuff with Godzilla sets. Europe is caught in a large magnetic field that disrupts power. At a press conference the next day (sans Johanson and Lin-Chor, who are wisely hiding in Nice), reporter "Charles, from Montreal" asks persistently of the whereabouts of the doctor. He later confronts Karin alone and asks her to call someone for him. Well, I would be suspicious about that, too! The housekeeper then makes her own suspicious phone call to a "Madam LaTout", and shortly after, he gets knifed by some shadowy people.

Karin eventually calls the person, and discovers that he's actually involved with the International Police. A meeting with her and the police (where she meets our hero Peter), we discover that the two doctors have been kidnapped. And Charles, an undercover policeman, had been stabbed by "a large pointy instrument". Didn't the coroner know about knives? Apparently not, because a second stabbing victim later in the movie is classified the same way! (Though to be charitable, the coroner makes the right diagnosis the third time)

Peter and Karin team up and fly on SAS airlines (with an unusually wide aisle) to Nice. During the investigation, several policemen get caught in a car with no brakes, after a shadowy person severs the brake line running on top of the engine. I don't know much about cars, but....? Anyway, the police find a Chinese firm mixed up in the matter, and Karin and Peter fly the same airplane to Naples to investigate the ship that supposedly took the doctors there. During the investigation, Karin gets kidnapped by the Madam's agents. Not to worry, for Peter and another fellow use some good old-fashioned police brutality on a reluctant witness to find that the three kidnapees have been taken to Bangkok.

Our Madam has been unsuccessful in persuading the two doctors to help her in her diabolical plans (the typical take over the world kind), and hopes to use the threat of torture to Karin to convince Dr. Johanson. The doctor gives the formula to Lin-Chor, who manages to escape to a Buddhist temple and gets his head shaved. It's more than halfway through the movie, and Sabu has only had about five minutes of screen time so far!

Peter shortly arrives with the cavalry, and saves Karin (though the Mistress escapes and Johanson is killed). In a hilarious scene, one of the good guys wiggles his hand violently repeatedly to indicate he fired his gun! Karin and Peter decide to fly to the temple (pay attention to the wiggling back-projected plane wing out of the window) to find Lin-Chor and retrieve the formula before the Mistress and her troops arrive.

The remainder of the movie is just as Sabu-free and dry as what happened before, save for a surprise twist involving the Mistress. With the filmmakers trying to please as big of an international audience as possible (globe-hopping, characters of many nationalities), they forgot to include a zippy pace, action and intrigue. Even the location shooting is put to waste by most of the footage being shot on a sound stage. The few minutes of hilarity are not worth slogging through 100 minutes or so of utter boredom. Sabu seems to have received the best of the whole enterprise, appearing for only a few minutes and not appearing in the sequel (!) Herrin der Welt - Teil II, (though fortunately it never seems to have gone out of  Europe.)

Check for availability on Amazon.

See also: Dinosaur Island, Raw Force, The Lost Empire

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