Monday, March 29, 2010

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Year 2, Day 87 - 3/29/10 - Movie #452

BEFORE: Continuing with the theme of nautical adventures, this is the 1954 Disney-made live-action version of the Jules Verne classic.

THE PLOT: A ship sent to investigate a wave of mysterious sinkings encounters the advanced submarine, the Nautilus, commanded by Captain Nemo.

AFTER: We now take things like scuba gear and submarines for granted, but someone had to invent them. And before that, someone like Jules Verne had to think of them - such things didn't exist when Verne published this in 1869, but of course they did in 1954 when Disney Studios made this film - so they got the benefit of hindsight, keeping the story set in 1868, but updating the Nautilus to atomic power instead of electric.

This was mostly faithful to the plot of the original novel - though they gave Captain Nemo something of a more direct reason to gain revenge on war-mongering profiteer ships, and not just a general hatred for civilization. It's tough to determine if Nemo is a madman, genius, dictator, outlaw, or all of the above.

Three survivors from a ship destroyed by Nemo are taken aboard the Nautilus - Prof. Arronax from the Paris Museum, his assistant Conseil, and a professional harpoonist, Ned Land (Kirk Douglas). Through their eyes we get to see the enigma that is Capt. Nemo (James Mason) as he travels through international waters, setting his own rules along the way.

The Disney corporation used to make a lot of nature documentaries in the 1950's, I wonder if some of this underwater footage was used twice to cut costs. There are a few technical mistakes here - even I know that a giant squid wouldn't move through the water tentacles first - and that shark that attacks the crew at one point was clearly a nurse shark, which is relatively harmless to divers.

But you don't want to miss seeing Kirk Douglas singing a song called "A Whale of a Tale", which might be the highlight of the film. And later he gets drunk and pals around with the captain's pet female seal, who probably looks somewhat attractive after many months at sea...

Also starring Peter Lorre, who just also happened to star in "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea", which was a terrible, terrible film.

RATING: 5 out of 10 diving helmets

1 comment:

  1. Considering it's time and history, I would have thought this film would rate higher. A pretty decent film.

    I hope that you are not trying to slight Peter Lorre without whom a large number of cartoonist and comedians would wanting for material.

    I thought including "Whale of a Tale" in the film was a pretty big risk of people walking out.