By Brandon Adamson
This is a highly creative movie, that is underrated in my opinion. You know that old saying “are you trying to dig a hole to China?” Well, the central plot of the film is that the Chinese have advanced technology and are secretly tunneling to the US to detonate nuclear bombs under America’s cities in order to take over the country. The US military figures out the plot after they are alerted by one of their own ex soldiers who is thought to be crazy. Anyway, there ends up being a huge battle in these tunnels to determine the fate of the country.
The reason this movie is considered to be “bad” by most is that many of the Chinese are played by white British actors who are made up to look Asian. The PC busybodies of today would probably ban this film if they actually had any curiosity that would lead them to be aware of the existence of obscure classics like this. Anyway, the actors being made to look Asian is a little bizarre and distracting, but it makes sense given that this film was made in 1967. At that time, China was mostly cut off from the western world and Western countries did not have good relations with China, especially after the Korean War. Britain in particular(where the film was made) had bad relations with China because of the dispute over Hong Kong. In fact, China had secret plans to invade Hong Kong the very year that this film was made but opted not to. So it follows then, that the film makers would not have had access to a pool of popular or known Chinese performers to fill these leading roles.
Since China was so isolated, it left a lot of room for the story to speculate on China having some kind of advanced technological capabilities, since the nation was such a mystery. Who knew what sort of secret weapons the Chinese might have or what they could be up to?
If you can get past the casting choices and makeup, Battle Beneath the Earth is actually an imaginative and fun little movie. I’ve probably seen it over 30 times. It never really gets boring, and it offers a unique glimpse of how the Chinese were perceived by the West at a tumultuous period in history, just before they began to open themselves up to the world.
Brandon Adamson is the author of “Beatnik Fascism“