THE SECRET KINGDOM is a strange, off-kilter children's feature that dwindles into a state of ennui.
New Orleans teen Mark (Billy O') is followed home one day by a mysterious old lightning-rod salesman (Gueyden T. Verret). His sister Callie (Tricia Dickson) is minding their little brother Zak (Andrew Ducote) during their parents' absence. Zak's toy walkie-talkie picks up a distress-call
originating from beneath their home's kitchen sink. There sits a tiny, thriving city, surrounded by other tiny lands and bodies of water. Zak shows Mark the marvel, and the older boy is suddenly teleported into the place--called Relkin--by technician Chartwell (Gerald S. O'Laughlin). He explains
that Relkin has been cut off from the outside world for a long time, and that with Mark's help Chartwell and his rebels hope to overthrow their tyrant Regent (Jamieson K. Price). Mark doesn't trust Chartwell, but when he escapes he finds Relkin filled with eyeless or otherwise mutilated serfs, all
products of the Regent's "Ministry of Perfection," intended to keep everyone in their place. Captured by the Regent, Mark is threatened with the surgery, but he's rescued from the operating table by Chartwell. The Regent locates Chartwell's apparatus and uses it to bring in another human: Callie,
who falls for the Regent's promises of instant beauty in the Ministry of Perfection. To save his sister, Mark contacts Zak in the kitchen and has the boy fling a food tin into Relkin during a battle with the rebels. The colossal can falling into their sea scares the Regent's men into surrendering.
A grateful Chartwell returns Mark and Callie back to their world, where they notice for the first time a long-forgotten lightning-rod terminus also under the sink. Using it, the siblings release a flash of energy that takes Relkin back to its original realm. Outside the house the lightning-rod man
THE SECRET KINGDOM is a product of busy producer Charles Band's Full Moon company, which itself has been transported from Los Angeles to Italy to Bucharest--not because of freak energy bolts, but rather bad debts and the low cost of movie production in Romania. As with many a feature ground out
under the prolific low-budget mogul, it's often difficult to tell whether the film's scattered virtues arise via design or sheer accident. Opening footage (shot on location in Louisiana) is full of lyrical juxtapositions and curt dialogue that recalls the surreal fantasy fiction of Ray Bradbury
and Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone." Even though the realm under the kitchen sink is a painfully obvious model, the Relkin scenes take advantage of impressive Eastern European palaces and grandiose socialist public-building interiors to evoke a mild Terry Gilliam (BRAZIL) vibe. But the
low-energy plot never gets in gear, and even the principle actors sleepwalk through mannered performances as though indifferent to their characters' plights.
At 82 minutes THE SECRET KINGDOM is padded by pointless sequences of young Zak surrounding the kitchen cabinet with toy soldiers for some kind of invasion that never happens, surely a letdown for the younger viewers at whom this material was aimed. The movie arrived directly on home video at much
the same time as the same producers' THE SHRUNKEN CITY, another juvenile fantasy concerning a miniaturized civilization, although in terms of content the films themselves bear little resemblance to one another except for the fact that both are not very good. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: PG
- Review: THE SECRET KINGDOM is a strange, off-kilter children's feature that dwindles into a state of ennui. New Orleans teen Mark (Billy O') is followed home one day by a mysterious old lightning-rod salesman (Gueyden T. Verret). His sister Callie (Tricia Dickson… (more)