This is the story of the events leading up to that date and what ACTUALLY HAPPENED to the World on that day. It is also a look at the only two motion pictures Hollywood made using Krakatoa as a plot device.
Above is a famous Lithograph of the 1883 eruption made in 1888.
HISTORY AND EVENTS PRIOR TO 1883
Hollywood was wrong! KRAKATOA was WEST of the island of Java and not East of it. That being said. I will discuss the motion picture with the wrong direction later and start this article with a history of the volcanic island that caused all the fuss.
Apparently the above lithograph gave the impression that there was only one large volcanic cone on Krakatoa. Actually there were three volcanic peaks and all three exploded in 1883.
Krakatoa is located in the Sunda Straight between Java and Sumatra.
Looking at the above map my reader will see a grouping of what appears to be four small volcanic islands and the name KRAKATAU. The three of the four are all that is left of the original volcano and the fourth is Anak Krakatu (Child of Krakatoa). A small volcanic island that emerged in 1927 from the 1883 Caldera. Caldera is a large cauldron like depression formed after the evacuation of a magma chamber. It should be noted that currently Indonesia has over 130 active volcanoes like Anak Krakatu.
If Anak Krakatu is the "Child". What did Mommy look like?
Geologists have determined that sometime in Pre-History there was another massive caldera eruption leaving four original small volcanic islands:
Verlaten (In Dutch), or Sertung (In Modern Indonesian)
Lang (Dutch for "Long), or Krakatau Kecil aka Panjang (In Modern Indonesian)
Poolsche Hoed (Dutch for "Polish Hat")
Rakata, or Krakatau (Modern Indonesian)
Later two more volcanic cones Perboerwatan (Malay name) and Danan (No record of where the name came from ) were both formed. These last two volcanic cones eventually joined with Rakata to form the Island of Krakatoa. From either geological plate movement, or the hardening of their own lava flows.
So What's in a Name?
Prior to 1611 sailors and explorers mentioned only the "Pointed Mountain" in the Sunda Strait, but never by a name. The first mention of the name of the volcanic island was by Dutch cartographer Lucas Janzoon Waghenaer on one of his maps of the area. There is a problem that I discovered researching Waghenaer with the map's dating. While most historians date this map as 1611. Waghenaer died in 1606 five years earlier.
Using the Sundanese language the cartographer labeled the island "Pulo Carcata (Carcata Island)". This led to spellings such as "Crackatouw" and "Cracatoa". The later changed by the Portuguese into a more familiar "Krakatao".
For those of my readers who want to know the correct name for the island. According to the "Smithsonian Institute's Global Volcanism Program". The island should actually be called "Krakatu", but no one knows where that variation of the name came from. However, they do acknowledge the more popular "Krakatoa" as an alternate. That name came into popular use in 1883 in relation to that eruption.
1883 Wasn't the First Eruption
The earliest written report is found in the "Pararaton (Books of Kings)". This is a 32 page Javanese chronicle in the Kawi language of the islands of Java, Bali and Lombok and is a form of Sanskirt. The "Book of Kings" documents the history of two Kingdoms, the Singhasari, 1222 to 1292, and the Majapahgit, 1293 to 1500.
According to the "Book of Kings" in the year 338 of the Saka Era, (416 A.D.). The following translated event occurred. The translator added notes to clarify:
A thundering sound was heard from the mountain Batuwara [now called Pulosari an extinct volcano in Bantam, the nearest to the Sunda Strait] which was answered by a similar noise from Kapi, lying westward of the modern Bantam (Banten is the westernmost province in Java, so this seems to indicate that Krakatoa is meant]. A great glowing fire, which reached the sky, came out of the last-named mountain; the whole world was greatly shaken and violent thundering, accompanied by heavy rain and storms took place, but not only did not this heavy rain extinguish the eruption of the fire of the mountain Kapi, but augmented the fire; the noise was fearful, at last the mountain Kapi with a tremendous roar burst into pieces and sank into the deepest of the earth. The water of the sea rose and inundated the land, the country to the east of the mountain Batuwara, to the mountain Rajabasa [the most southerly volcano in Sumatra], was inundated by the sea; the inhabitants of the northern part of the Sunda country to the mountain Rajabasa were drowned and swept away with all property[ The water subsided but the land on which Kapi stood became sea, and Java and Sumatra were divided into two parts.According to geologists there is no evidence of "Krakatoa", itself, having had an eruption in 416 A.D. There is some geological evidence of an eruption in 535 A.D. and perhaps the date mentioned in the "Book of Kings" is wrong. Remembering that this chronicle was written probably after the Majapahgit Kingdom ended and was based primarily on an oral history.
However, there are records indicating that during the Shailendra Dynasty, on Sumatra, 8th Century into the 16th, of eruptions of "The Fire Mountain". Which is believed to be Krakatoa. These occurred in an initial 100 year cycle in 850, 950, 1050, 1150. Apparently there was a 170 year period without major activity, or it just wasn't recorded. As the last two recorded eruptions by the island of Sumatra were in 1320 and 1420
So what happened in 535 A.D.?
Speculation is that Krakatoa erupted causing major Global Climate Changes between 535 and 536. A report filed with the "American Geophysical Union", in 2008, by researchers D.H. Abbott, P. Biscaye, J. Cole-Dai and D. Breger. Came to the conclusion that the 535 eruption of Krakatoa must be considered the most severe and lengthy cooling of the Northern Hemisphere of the last 2000 years.
In another article on the eruption three researchers: George Ochoa, Jennifer Hoffman and Tina Tin, in 2005, quoted a Byzantine historian named "Procopius of Caesarea". He lived between 500 and 550 A.D. and described what the 535 eruption looked like to him:
----during this year a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness... and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear.
In 1680 Krakatoa erupted once more and here are two passages from accounts given by Dutch passengers on a ship passing near the island not in 1680, BUT ONE YEAR LATER!
In February 1681 mining engineer Johann Wilhelm Vogel wrote:
..I saw with amazement that the island of Krakatoa, on my first trip to Sumatra [June 1679] completely green and healthy with trees, lay completely burnt and barren in front of our eyes and that at four locations was throwing up large chunks of fire. And when I asked the ship's Captain when the aforementioned island had erupted, he told me that this had happened in May 1680 ... He showed me a piece of pumice as big as his fist.While in November of 1681 Elias Hesse, a writer, wrote in his diary:
...on the 19th we again lifted anchor and proceeded first to the north of us to the island of Sleepzie (Sebesi), uninhabited, ... and then still north of the island of Krakatou, which erupted about a year ago and also is uninhabited. The rising smoke column of this island can be seen from miles away; we were with our ship very close to shore and we could see the trees sticking out high on the mountain, and which looked completely burned, but we could not see the fire itself.YET, this was nothing like what would happen in 1883!
THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE MAIN ERUPTION!
There were warnings that began in May of 1883 that concerned geologists, but not one of them dreamed of what would happen in August.
Seismic activity was observed around the island and Earthquakes were felt as far away as Australia. Beginning on May 20, 1883 Steam Venting began on a regular basis on Perboewatan. The Northern most of Krakatoa's three volcanic cones. This was followed by eruptions of Ash up to a height of 20,000 feet. At New Batavia, present day Jakarta, located 99 miles from Krakatoa. the sound of explosions were heard, but before the end of May all of this activity just stopped.
Just as suddenly on June 16, 1883 the eruptions began again creating a Black Cloud. The cloud covered the entire island to such an extant that the land mass was almost totally invisible to those passing. Then on June 24th a prevailing east wind blew the cloud out to sea and cleared the air. However, two ash columns could be seen caused by another eruption on Krakatoa. Additionally, it was believed that these new eruptions were caused by One or Two Newly Created Volcanic Vents located between the cones of Pereboewatan and Danan.
The signs that something might be about to happen continued. As Extremely High Tides began to appear around the island. Ships moored at anchor, not only on Krakatoa, but Java and Sumatra, needed to be Chained to docks as their sea anchors would not have kept them from breaking away.
Earthquakes were felt at Anyer, a coastal town, located on West Java, and Banten the Western most province on Java. Additionally, masses of Pumice were being observed floating on the Indian Ocean miles away from Krakatoa to the west.
On August 11, 1883, Captain H.J.G. Ferzenaar, a Dutch topographical engineer, actually visited Krakatoa. Captain Ferzenaar reported seeing Three Columns of Ash coming out of the three major cones. The ash was obscuring the Western portion of the island, but even more disturbing was his observation of Steam coming out of Eleven Previously Unrecorded Vents. The vents were located between Danan and Rakata. He also noted that the vegetation was covered by an estimated One Foot Eight Inches of Ash over the entire island.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 25, 1883
A series of eruptions began on Krakatoa that started the countdown to the destruction of most of the volcanic island.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 26, 1883
At approximately 1 PM, local time. The volcano known as Krakatoa entered the Paroxysmal Phase.
Parosysm is the base word and for our purpose is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:
A sudden violent action, a convulsion, or a fitKrakatoa had suddenly started violent uncontrolled eruptions.
By 2 PM, local time a Black Cloud 17 Miles High was being seen by ships within 12 miles of the volcanic island. Ship Captain's started reporting Hearing Explosions About Every Ten Minutes. These reports jointly indicated that Heavy Ash and Four Inch in Diameter Pieces of Pumice were falling on the decks of ships and hitting crew members.
Between 6 PM and 7 PM, local time, a Small Tsunami washed upon the coast line of Java and Sumatra located 25 Miles from Krakatoa.
MONDAY, AUGUST 27, 1883 (5:30 AM until approximately 10:40 AM)
The end of the World started at 5:30 AM, local time, with the First Massive Explosion on the Volcanic Cone Perboewatan. That Explosion Created A Tsunami that headed straight for the city of Telok Beton (today Bandar Lampung) on the Southern Tip of Sumatra.
At 6:44 AM, local time, a Second Explosion this time from the Danan Volcanic Cone. Resulted in another Tsunami moving out both Eastward and Westward from the Krakatoa.
At 10:02 AM, local time, the Third Explosion Occurred. The sound from it was heard in Perth, Western Australia Located 1,930 Miles Away and in the Indian Ocean on the islands of Rodriques and Mauritius Located 3,000 Miles Away.
That sound from the third blast heard on ships and small land masses 100 Miles Away. Has been calculated to have been at 180 decibels. It has also been calculated the the Tsunami's contained Waves up to 98 Feet Tall in sections.
A large sea area in the Sundra Straight and the Sumatran Coast was affected by Pyroclastic Flows from Krakatoa. This is a fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter. Below is a picture of such a flow taken of the Mayon Volcano in the Philippines in 1984.
The energy released from that third explosion was estimated to have had the force of 200 Megatons of TNT. That equates to approximately Four Times the Power of the "Tsar Bomba". The largest Nuclear Weapon ever exploded.
The above photo is the detonation of the "Tsar Bomba" as seen from 100 Miles Away.
10:41 AM AND THE FINAL EXPLOSION
At 10:AM, local time, a Landslide brought down Half of Rakata and triggered the Fourth and Final Explosion of KRAKATOA!
That final explosion's power radiated outward from the island at an estimated 675 Miles Per Hour. The final explosion was estimated to have reached 310 Decibels and to have been CLEARLY HEARD 3,100 Miles Away from Krakatoa. The sound was so powerful that it Ruptured the Ear Drums on Sailors 40 Miles Away. Based upon calculations of the Pressure Wave. It circled the Earth Three and a Half Times. Ash was sent into the air to a height of 50 Miles.
At approximately 12 NOON Hot Ash fell on Ketibang (today Lampung providence) in Sumatra and 1,000 People Died. The island of Sebesi had a population of 3,000 people. The Hot Ash rained down upon the island and No One Survived. A full year later skeletons were still being reported washing ashore in Eastern Africa.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 28, 1883 and AFTERWARDS
The World woke up to silence from Krakatoa. Small eruptions mostly of mud would continue into October, but 70 Percent of Krakota No Longer Existed!
Ships in South Africa felt the Tsunami waves. The bodies of sailors who had been washed overboard were discovered months later along the African coast line.
As far away as England tidal gauges recorded increased water heights.
For the next five years the temperatures around the World were effected by the destruction of Krakatoa and fell. There were record rainfalls in Southern California for the "Water Year July 1883 to June 1884". Los Angles received 38.18 inches of rain and San Diego 25.97 inches of rainfall.
The sky around the World was darkened for years following the final eruption.
Below Krakatoa today.
HOLLYWOOD USES KRAKATOA AS A BACK DROP
One would think that the eruption of Krakatoa would have been used many times by Hollywood. Look at all the adventure serials and motion pictures made going back to Thomas Edison, but to date only two films used the volcanic island as a plot device.
A FAIR WIND TO JAVA (Released March 30, 1953)
The subject matter of Garland Roak's novel was a perfect fit for Republic Pictures. Roak, a writer of nautical based stories, already had his "Wake of the Red Witch" turned into a 1948 motion picture starring John Wayne and Gail Russell. Now Republic had Fred MacMurray and Vera Ralston.
Writing the screenplay was the World War 2 Combat Correspondent Richard Tregaskis .Who after the invasion of Guadalcanal, he was only one of two journalists on the island during that action, wrote the book "Guadalcanal Diary".
The special effects for the motion picture were by the Lydecker Brothers, Howard and Theodore. The two did most of the Special Effects for Republic Pictures.
Howard had started in the field with Mascot's 1935's serial "The Phantom Empire". Where first time movie Cowboy Gene Autry fought to save the world from the Mu Empire locate under his "Melody Ranch".
Theodore also started in 1935 with another Mascot serial "The Miracle Rider" starring Tom Mix. Mix fights Charles Middleton, "Ming the Merciless" in Universal Studio's "Flash Gordon" serials, who wants to drive the Indians off the Reservation. So he can get the rare explosive "X-94".
The brothers would win an Emmy for their special effects on the television series "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea".
Before I walk about the two main stars there are some interesting, at the time, Republic Pictures contract players in "A Fair Wind to Java".
Robert Douglas who played "Saint Ebenezar", but is actually the pirate leader "Pulo Besar", Appeared in many motion pictures including 1948's "The Adventures of Don Juan" starring Errol Flynn, 1949's "The Fountainhead" starring Gary Cooper and the year before this picture "Ivanhoe" starring Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor. He would also portray "Agamemnon" in Robert Wise's 1956 epic "Helen of Troy". Along with directing on television.
On the above poster are the names Victor McLaglen, who played "O'Brien", and Claude Jarman, Jr., who played "Chess". Both actors were part of the "John Ford Stock Company" and had appeared in his 1950 movie "Rio Grande" starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. While McLaglen also appeared in Ford's 1952 "The Quiet Man" and Jarman, Jr. would next appear in Walt Disney's 1956 "The Great Locomotive Chase".
John Russell, who played "First Mate Flint", would be seen as "Lieutenant Dickson" in Republic's version of the Alamo story, 1955's "The Last Command". He would become a major Western television star with "Lawman" from `1958 through 1962.
Buddy Baer,"King" was known for playing giants in such pictures as 1951's "Quo Vadis", 1952's "Abbott and Costello Meets Jack and the Beanstalk" and on television in "The Adventures of Superman" and several episodes of the forgotten "Tales of the Vikings" in 1959.
The last name to appear on the above poster was Grant Withers. Withers played "Jason Blue". At the age of 26 he had eloped with 17 year old actress Loretta Young. The marriage lasted 1 year. He portrayed "Captain William 'Bill' Street" in the "Mr. Wong Detective" series starring Boris Karloff. He was a good friend of both John Ford and John Wayne. Withers appeared in "The Fighting Seabees", "My Darling Clementine", "Tycoon", "Fort Apache", "Wake of the Red Witch" and "Rio Grande". All,. but one with Wayne.
In the above picture Victor McLagen is talking to Fred MacMurray. The other two crew members in the white caps are Claude Jarman, Jr. and Paul Fix as "Wilson". Fix was a recognizable character actor and the man that taught John Wayne how to do his signature walk. He was also in many of Wayne's features including "Angel and the Badman", "Wake of the Red Witch", after this role, "Island in the Sky", "The High and the Mighty", "Hondo" and my favorite "Blood Alley", Most 1950's television watchers know Paul Fix as the town marshal on "The Rifleman".
So now let me look at the two stars of the picture.
Fred MacMurray, "Captain Boll", actually started out as a singer for the Gus Arnheim Orchestra in 1930, but it was his motion picture career that people remember. MacMurray was best known for Billy Wilder's 1944 'Double Indemnity" were he worked an insurance scam with Barbara Stanwyck. In 1960 he was with Wilder once more in "The Apartment" starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. He portrayed "Professor Ned Brainard" in Walt Disney's original versions of "The Nutty Professor" and "The Son of Flubber". The actor was "Wilson Daniels" whose son turns into Disney's "The Shaggy Dog" in 1959. Television fans knew Fred MacMurray as "Steven Douglas" the father of "My Three Sons".
Vera Ralston was born Vera Helena Hruba in Czechoslovakia. She represented the nation in ice skating at both the 1936 and 1937 European Skating Championships. When Hruba came to the United States, became Ralston, and appeared in motion pictures. Her lack of English language skills kept her in immigrant roles. As opposite John Wayne in "Dakota" for Republic Pictures. Her short 27 film career was mainly because she had married Republic Pictures owner Herbert J. Yates. In "A Fair Wind to Java" Ralston was cast as a Java dancer/slave named "Kim Kim".
The plot for "A Fair Wind to Java" was basically a treasure hunt for a fortune in diamonds. Fred MacMurray's "Captain Boll" is given six months to show a profit from his ship the "Gerrymander", or the ship will be taken from him, by the owners, and he loses his job. "Boll" heads for the East Indies and arrives on Java. Where he again meets a man whose life he once saved. The man tells "Boll" of a sunken ship and the treasure of diamonds.
This leads the "Captain" to a Chinese junk and a man who knows the diamonds location. At the same time "Kim Kim" appears as a slave of the junk's owner. "Boll" buys her and smuggles the girl on board his ship, but "Flint", discovers her and attempts to blackmail "Boll" into giving him half the diamonds.
Enter "Saint Ebenezer" who is actually the Pirate "Pulo Besar". He is of course after the diamonds.
Meanwhile "Flint" decides to take over the ship and convinces the crew that "Captain Boll" is mentally unbalanced over his love for "Kim Kim". The mutiny fails when "Boll" offers the crew "Flint's" half of the diamonds to split among themselves.
"Kim Kim" tells "Boll" that she is concerned that her god, Vishnu, will become mad, if the diamonds are taken from his Temple. "Besar" and his pirates attack the "Gerrymander", take the ship. and make the crew prisoners. The Pirate leader knows that "Kim Kim" has the location of the diamonds. Afterward "Besar's" sets sail to his stronghold with both ships.
"Besar" attempts to get "Kim Kim" to reveal were the diamonds are and has her whipped. As that does not break the girl. He then shows the girl her mother who has been broken under torture. Finally he threatens "Kim Kim" with the death of "Captain Boll", if she will not reveal the diamonds location. Out of her love for "Boll" the girl gives in and "Besar", "Kim Kim", "Flint" and two of the Gerrymander's sailors leave for Vishnu's island and the Temple.
The other members of "Boll's" crew manage to get loose and free their "Captain". Now they're also off to stop the Pirate, save the girl and get the diamonds. The crew retake the Gerrymander and set sail, The Gerrymander starts to close in on the Pirate ship, but as they don't know were its going. "Boll" decides to follow as a distance.
On a Moonless night "Captain Boll" and some crewmen enter a row boat to lead the Gerrymander to avoid hitting reefs, or other obstructions. Suddenly Wilson appears swimming toward them and is pulled out of the water.
"Wilson" overheard "Besar" and "Flint" talking. He knows were they're going, If the viewer hasn't guessed by now, or my reader. "Kim Kim's" God's Temple is of course on the volcano Krakatoa.
Both crew's need to claim to the Temple to find the diamonds. There is a race to the stop as Krakatoa's eruptions become fiercer.
"Captain Bolls" glances downward during the climb and notices "Kim Kim". She is a prisoner of "Besar's" pirates at the base of the volcano. Krakatoa's eruptions are getting worse and "Boll" makes a decision. He speaks to his crew and they decide to go back down the volcano, forget the diamonds, as their lives are more precious to them.
"Besar" and his pirate crew make the same decision and both crews head for their respective ships. "Captain Bolls" now also with "Kim Kim".
Now two choices are made. Both "Bolls" and "Besar" know a tsunami is coming once Krakatoa finally blows up. "Bolls" decides to turn the Gerrymander towards the island and drop his sea anchor and ride out the tsunami.
While "Besar" decides to out run the tidal wave. "Besar's" ship is overturned by the wave and the Pirate leader along with his crew drown.
While everyone on board the Gerrymander survives of course and the film ends.
The Lydecker Brother's built their Krakatoa on Mono Lake, located in the East Central Portion of California.
The skeleton remains of the volcano model are still there, as of this writing, and a tourist attraction.
The tsunami was created on a Southern California beach in Los Angeles. The brothers just placed the models in the surf and left it create the look.
KRAKATOA EAST OF JAVA (Released May 14, 1969)
This was an odd feature film to be released in 1969. The attitudes in the United States were changing drastically, because of our involvement in the Vietnam War. Some of the features the previous year reflected social and political issues. These were the original "Planet of the Apes", "Wild in the Streets", "The Green Berets" and even "Ice Station Zebra". In 1969, in the month this picture was released, movie goers went to see "Midnight Cowboy" and "Che". The reminder of 1969 saw other socially conscious films such as "Easy Rider", "Alice's Restaurant" and "Medium Cool".
My point is the type of Old Fashion Adventure Story that "Krakatoa, East of Java" was just didn't fit. It was a throw back to another time. When films like "A Fair Wind to Java" and "King Solomon's Mines" starring Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr were common.
Then there was the screenplay.
During production Associate Producer Phillip Yordan left and was replaced by Lester A. Sansom. Sansom did not like the "Family Oriented" tone of Clifford Newton Gould and Bernard Gordon's screenplay and he added adult elements that seemed out of place in the story. I will mention two specific examples during my discussion of the plot.
While filming the motion picture. Producer William R. Forman and Associate Producer Sansom, became aware of the inaccuracy of saying "Krakatoa" was "East" of Java. When it was actually "West" of that Island. However, they felt "Krakatoa, West of Java" wasn't as strong sounding a title as "Krakatoa, East of Java". So the incorrect one was left in place.
The feature was filmed in "Super Panavision 70" with portions in "Todd A-O". The purpose was to be able to project the picture using the one projector "Cinerama Process". The process was originally shot with three cameras and then shown, at limited theaters, by three projectors. "Cinerama" covered the 180 degree range of a person's eyesight and gave your brain the feeling you were actually there. The "Cinerama" process was closely connected to Merian C. Cooper the Producer/Director of 1933's "King Kong". My article on this remarkable man's life can be read at:
The entire period look of the motion picture was by Eugene Lourie in the role of Production Designer. He laid out every sequence on a storyboard and supervised the model building and costume design. He was also the director of the Special Effects. As a result of all of these contributions to the making of the motion picture. Eugene Lourie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visuals.
For Science Fiction film lovers his name may seem very familiar. His pictures include "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms", "Behemoth the Sea Monster" aka: "The Giant Behemoth" and "Gorgo". You can read about Eugene Lourie on my blog at:
The special effects for pre-CGI 1969 were outstanding and as I said directed by Eugene Lourie. His assistant on the production was Basilo Cortijo. Prior to this picture Cortijo was a special effects technician on two 1965 motion pictures. The British film "Crack in the World" and the big budgeted "Battle of the Bulge". The other special effects technician was Alex Weldon. His work included 1959's "Solomon and Sheba" starring Yul Brynner and Gina Lollobrigida and five motion pictures for producer Samuel Bronson. These films were 1961's "El Cid", 1963's "55 Days at Peking", 1964's "Fall of the Roman Empire" and 1964's "Circus World". Spanish model maker Francisco Prosper created the models used in the picture.
For those interested in Eugene Lourie. He appears in a short sequence, before the tsunami hits land as the lighthouse keeper sending out a message about Krakatoa's destruction.
I will talk of the rest of the cast while explaining the motion pictures plot.
The obvious tie to "A Fair Wind in Java", besides Krakatoa, is that the film revolves around a treasure hunt, but not for diamonds. In this case the treasure are very large pearls in a safe on a sunken ship the Arianna.
The film opens with two boys at a Missionary School in Palembang, on Sumatra, observing Krakatoa through a paper tube.
Cut to the docks at Anyer (aka: Anjer, or Angier) where the audience sees the steamer/sailing ship the Batavia Queen. The crew are working on loading a diving bell built by Marine Geologist "Douglas Rigby", John Leyton. Who was both a singer and actor. He appeared in "The Great Escape" and "Von Ryan's Express".
Below Leyton is speaking to Maximillian Schell as "Captain Chris Hanson". Schell won the Best Supporting Oscar for 1961's "Judgement At Nuremberg" and was known also to American audiences for 1958's "The Young Lions". A film that starred Marlon Brando, Dean Martin and Montgomery Clift. among his other international features.
As the audience watches the other treasure hunters board the Batavia Queen as way of introduction of the characters.
They include an Italian father and son team of balloonists. The father "Giovanni Borghese" is portrayed by Rossano Brazzi. He co-starred in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "South Pacific", with a dubbed singing voice, and other romantic films. Portraying his son ""Leoncavallo Borghese" was Sal Mineo. The Blu-Ray copy of the movie just mentions his role in 1955's "Rebel Without A Cause", but Mineo was in many major films. Such as "Somebody Up There Loves Me" starring Paul Newman, George Steven's production of "Giant" starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. Along with 1960's "Exodus" and John Ford's "Cheyenne Autumn".
Brian Keith portrays the deep sea diver "Harry Connerly" who has a secret. His girlfriend "Charlie" was portrayed by Barbara Werle. Keith was known for Westerns, but he also had appeared in Walt Disney's 1960 "Ten Who Dared", the original 1961 "The Parent Trap" opposite Maureen O'Hara and Hayley Mills, 1962's "Moon Pilot" 1963's "Johnny Shiloh", 1963 "Savage Sam" and 1965's "Those Calloways". Werle was a singer/actress. She had appeared with Elvis Presley in two 1965 features "Tickle Me" and "Harum Scarum", but is best known for John Frankenheimer's 1966 Science Fiction/Horror film "Seconds" starring Rock Hudson.
Also involved in the treasure hunt are a group of Ama Japanese Pearl Divers. They are lead by "Toshi" played by Jacqui Chan. The pronunciation of her name led many people to think that Martial Artist/Comedian Jackie Chan was in this picture,if he had been. His age would have been 15.
The last person to board the Batavia Queen is "Laura Travis". She and "Captain Hanson's" also have a secret and that's the reason for the search for the pearls. "Laura" is portrayed by Diane Baker. Baker had been in "Journey to the Center of the Earth' starring James Mason and Singer Pat Boone, "The Diary of Anne Frank" playing the older daughter, "The Best of Everything" starring Joan Crawford, Stephen Boyd and Louis Jordan, all in 1959. Then her career stopped and she mainly appeared on television with an occasional motion picture such as 1962's "The 300 Spartans" and William Castle's "Straight Jacket" once again with Joan Crawford.
After "Laura" goes up the ramp to the deck of the Batavia Queen and starts to speak with "Hanson". The audience sees a long shot from above the diving bell being hoisted across the deck, before lowering it into the open hold. On top of the bell is a sailor controlling the lowering. Suddenly in a perfectly windless sky the bell starts to swing and the man falls off into the open hold to his death. "Douglas Rigby" considers the event, but doesn't mention it to anyone else.
Next "Captain Hanson" observes police with armed guards bringing chained convicts towards the Batavia Queen. "Hanson" is forced to take them on board to be transferred to a prison island. These convicts are placed in one of the ships very hot holds without water. A police guard will remain on board the steamer/sailing ship.
As the convicts are being brought on board. "Captain Hanson" notices that one of them is "Lester Danzig" his old engine room chief. The role is played by J.D. Canon who would be known to television audiences from 1970 through 1977 as "Police Chief Peter Clifford" on the Dennis Weaver series "McCloud".
With all the players in place the Batavia Queen puts to sea.
Each of the treasure hunters is part of a plan "Chris Hanson" has put together to locate the Arianna and retrieve the pearls. The "Borhese's" will search from the air the area the "Captain" knows the ship went down. However, not knowing the depth it might be at. He will use either the Ama divers led by "Toshi", or "Harry Connerly" to deep sea dive. Another option, if presented at the time, is a combination of the two. The location of the Arianna is off of Krakatoa.
"Hanson" has "Danzig" brought from the hold and the two talk. It is decided to permit the one time "Engine Room Chief" the liberty of the deck rather than saying in the hold. "Danzig's" leg irons remain.
While sitting on deck "Danzig" notices "Connerly" drinking from a little green bottle. The bottle contains Laudanum which is made from Opium. "Danzig" realizes that the deep sea diver's lungs are damaged and he's using the drug to kill his pain. His secret.
The audience has also been told of the affair between "Laura" and "Chris" which resulted in her husband taking their son, "Peter", with him and both have perished with the Arianna. This is one of those "Adult" story lines the Second Associate Producer Lester A. Sansom added to the screenplay.
An addition to this adultery theme is that after the original affair and her husband and son's death. "Laura Travis" spent a year in a mental institution from a nervous breakdown. That fact was known to "Danzig", although how he knew is never mentioned, and he informs "Harry Connerly" about it. Again how and when this happened is not mentioned in the film. "Connerly" tells the others and they want proof that the pearls exist. This leads to a meeting with "Chris" and "Laura". Where the history of the pearls are revealed. Also 'Hanson" has her produce one for "Toshi" to appraise.
"Toshi" states that the value would be priceless. On deck "Leoncavallo" watches the Ama divers doing an game of skill and co-ordination. "Toshi" comes over and gets him and the two, together, do the Ama divers game.
During that First day the everyone observes birds seeming to swarm and run into each other in the sky. That night the sound of stream escaping is heard. It is determined that the engines are all right. Once again "Douglas Rigby" seems concerned as if a pattern is developing.
The following evening around the Batavia Queen explosions of gas, becoming streams of fire start occurring on the sea. Once again "Rigby" makes notes.
Also that Second "Adult" added sequence I wanted to mention takes place.
The audience first sees "Harry Connerly" below decks still taking the Laudanum. One of the Ama divers appears without seeing him. She goes to a tub of water and starts washing her face to cool off, because of the extreme heat the ship is now experiencing. "Harry" starts hallucinating and then attacks her. Three crewman come to the girl's rescue and subdue the deep sea diver.
"Captain Hanson" orders "Harry Connerly" placed in a rectangular wooded cell. It is made of slats that air can get through and he can see out of easily, but he can only stand up in place. The cell is then hoisted up on a wench and "Connerly" is left there swinging in the wind. The Cinerama camera now becomes the deep sea diver and the audience gets the feeling they're the one inside this wooden prison cell swinging around. He is released the following day, but "Hanson" doesn't really know what caused the incident.
Yes, too much Laudanum can cause hallucinations, but the attack on the Ama diver just doesn't fit the tone of the adventure film or "Harry Connerly". It happens and then all mention of it is dropped by every character as if it never happened. A perfect example of Associate Producer Lester A. Sansom just adding a scene he thinks will get more adults to want to see the movie.
As "Laura" passes "Rigby's" cabin. She makes a comment about how cluttered it is and he asks her, if she would like to know whats happening? This is were the audience gets a brief lesson on what is about to happen to Krakatoa and an explanation of all the phenomena the treasure hunters and the crew have been experiencing.
The Batavia Queen move into thick yellow fog coming from Krakatoa.
It clears and the island is finally seen. The "Borghese's" balloon is broken out, filled with air, and they begin their search for the Adrianna's final resting place.
The father and son locate the wreck and signal the ship. Just then the propeller on the balloon stops and they loose directional control. Again the Cinerama affect kicks in as the audience, at times, feels they're in it as it moves out of control over Krakatoa and into the crater. From inside the crater small fire balls start being spit out. The propeller is started and as the two men escape the balloon is hit. They jump into the water and the crew in a long boat goes to their rescue.
"Douglas Rigby" enters his diving bell and is lowered into the sea. When he spoke to "Laura" he revealed that he actually suffers from claustrophobia. This immediately becomes apparent when the hatch is closed.
Meanwhile "Danzig" has again struck by informing "Captain Hansom" that "Harry Connerly's" lungs are shot and it was the Laudanum he was taking that caused him to hallucinate and attack the Ama diver.
"Chris" tells "Harry" what he knows about his lungs and is suiting up to do the dive himself. As the two argue word comes that the diving bell's air hose has snagged on the ocean bottom. The Ama divers jump in to see what they can do. "Chris" and "Harry" forget their argument and both suit up to go rescue "Rigby" in his bell.
While this is happening "Danzig" enters a cabin and locates a pistol that he places behind his belt and leaves. Everyone is now involved with the rescue of the bell. "Danzig" comes up behind the convicts police guard and knocks him out. Then tosses the unconscious guard overboard. Next he throws the keys to the chains and leg irons down to the other 29 convicts.
The bell is freed and it starts up. The Ama divers are accompanying it. While "Chris" and "Harry" head for the sunken Arianna. The two locate the safe and get it sent up to the Batavia Queen. When the two men enter the diving cage and are brought to the surface. They discover the ship has been taken over by the convicts.
"Danzig" wants "Chris" left on deck and "Harry" still in his diving suit is hoisted into the hold with the other treasure hunters and the ship's crew. "Danzig" shows "Hanson' that there are no pearls in the safe. Just a cheap pocket watch. Just then an explosion from Krakatoa occurs distracting "Danzig". "Hanson" pushes the heavy safe over on to the convict killing him. He immediately moves for the steam hose and turns it on the other convicts. Who are forced off the Batavia Queen and swim to Krakatoa. Next "Hanson" frees everyone from the hold.
A logbook is found within the safe and "Laura" takes it down to the main salon to read. She cannot find anything about the peals, or what happened to her son "Peter". "Chris Hanson" asks to take a look at the logbook.
He finds a letter to "Laura" from "Peter"/ Which leads to the discovery that the young boy we saw at the start of the story is, of course, "Peter" and that he is going to the Mission school at Palembang. When "Chris" mentions that's were they're now going to head. "Douglas Rigby" reacts knowing that the town is too close to Krakatoa to survive, but will not tell "Laura".
Now "Captain Hanson" has no choice but to move around the exploding volcano.
Unlike "A Fair Wind to Java" the volcano in this film does show multiple cones. However, while moving through this area of lava, steam and fire. Krakatoa starts sending out large lava balls that are causing fires on the Batavia Queen. One of these kills "Toshi" as she runs to the young man the Ama diver was falling in love with "Leoncavallo".
Arriving at Palembang, as "Rigby" expected but dd not want to mention, they find the town burning from Krakatoa. Then a lone Chinese Junk is seen coming their way. As it passes they learn the children and teachers left the school before the town was destroyed.
The boat is found, but its taking on water. "Chris" spots "Peter" and points him out to "Laura".
The children and teachers are saved including a chest with "Peter" belonging to his father.
That is taken below decks to the main salon. Upon opening the chest it is found to contain bags full of pearls, but before they can be divided "Hanson" starts giving orders to his crew about the hatches and water tightening the ship. It is at this point that a division occurs with the treasure hunters.
"Harry Connerly" is a "Man of the Sea" and knows that when Krakatoa finally blows up there will be a tremendous tidal wave. Hearing the talk between "Hanson" and "Connerly" an Ama diver tells the others "Tsunami!" Now "Harry" wants to take the long boat to Anjer to what he perceives is safety on land. "Hanson" says otherwise and wants to ride out the wave at sea.
In the end "Harry", "Charlie", "Giovanni", after an argument with his son who will stay on the Batavia Queen, and the Ama divers leave the ship for the town of Anjer.
On board the Batavia Queen the wave hits Everyone on board is safe and the film ends with "Chris", "Laura" and "Peter" together.
Both motion pictures "A Fair Wind to Java" and "Krakatoa, East of Java" have taken license with the real events. The reason is for dramatic effect. The volcano alone in the former film, as I mentioned, was anything but accurate. It was the perfect Hollywood style volcano. While the volcano in the later was very close to actuality.
However, "Krakatoa, East of Java", title aside, does have two major inaccuracies pertaining to locations in relation to the volcano. The film opens with "Peter" and another boy looking at Krakatoa a short distance away, In reality Palembang was 228 miles from the island.
The voyage from Anjer to Krakatoa appears to take three days. Problem here is the distance between the two points was actually only 31 miles.
On the positive side is the entire sequence about the Batavia Queen riding out the tsunami. It seems to be based upon the real ship Gouverneur-Generaal Loudon. Which actually rode out a tsunami on August 27, 1883.
One last thought about "Krakatoa, East of Java". The motion picture didn't do well at the box office and I mentioned that among other factors it was the wrong film for the time. In 1974 Universal Studio's released an all star disaster movie entitled "Earthquake". When I first saw the film it was in a process called Sensurround. It was a special speaker system that created a louder sound that when used during the Earthquake scenes made them sound real.
To attempt to get in on the Sensurround craze and recoup more money on "Krakatoa, East of Java". The studio edited the film down to 101 minutes from 131 and changed the name to "Volcano". Then released it in a remixed sound track called, are you ready for this FEELARAMA.
My answer to the critics of "Krakatoa, East of Java" is the film was meant as escapism and for the running time. I was able to escape the realities of the Vietnam War. So maybe it wasn't made at the wrong time after all.