In 1699, Doctor Lemuel Gulliver intends to seek his fortune as a ship’s doctor. His intended, Elizabeth (June Thorburn), unable to talk him out of it, stows away on the ship. He is swept overboard in a gale and washes ashore in Lilliput, inhabited by tiny humans. At first, they fear him, but he does them services and they dragoon him into towing away the warships of their enemy, Blefuscu. But he refuses to slaughter the enemy as directed and stoops to scoffing at the cause of the long war—which end of the egg to break first—and they turn on him. He escapes in a boat of his own construction and ends up in Brobdingnag, which is a Land of Giants.
A 40-foot-tall girl named Glumdalclitch (Sherry Alberoni) takes him to King Brob (Gregoire Aslan) because all tiny people are to be brought to him. There, he finds Elizabeth, who was washed ashore herself there. They are placed in the King’s collection of tiny animals and live in a dollhouse, with Glumdalclitch taking care of them. The King performs their marriage ceremony. When they steal away for a short honeymoon in the woods, a squirrel drags Gulliver away and Glumdalclitch helps him climb out of its burrow on her pigtail.
Gulliver defeats the King at chess and cures the Queen’s (Mary Ellis) bellyache, which causes the Doctor/Prime Minister Makovan (Charles Lloyd Pack) to accuse him of witchcraft. The King sends his pet crocodile after him and he kills it with a needle-sized sword. Sentenced to be burned alive, he and Elizabeth are saved by Glumdalclitch again, who sends them down the river and into the sea in a sewing-basket. They awaken on a beach which turns out to be near their hometown.
This is only based on the first and second parts of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. It was shot in Spain and used 150 trick sequences, mostly on travelling mats, but involving only two Harryhausen stop-motion creatures. Jack Lemmon turned down the role of Gulliver and it was given to Kerwin Matthews, who had played Sinbad in The Seventh Voyage. He looked right in period dress and had the skill of acting opposite things that were not there. Director Jack Sher was not up to the job of directing because of his lack of experience, but cameraman Willkie Cooper, producer Charles Schneer, and Ray Harryhausen were old hats at this kind of movie and carried him. A Spanish beach that appeared here was also in Seventh Voyage and Mysterious Island.
The humor is childlike, and the satire is much milder than the rather dark and cynical original by Swift. Gulliver does not put out the Lilliput Palace fire by urinating on it and does not ride on the Brobdingnagian court-ladies’ nipples. He does not visit the idiot scientists of the floating Island of Laputa or meet the noble equine Houyhnhnms and the disgusting human Yahoos. He does not end up hanging out in the stables with the horses because he despises the entire human race.