Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jules Verne's Mysterious Island

Jules Verne's Mysterious Island, a 1961 film, is based on the novel of the same name by Jules Verne is a loose sequel to 1954's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea staring Michael Craig, Joan Greenwood, Michael Callan, Gary Merrill and Herbert Lom. The movie was directed by Cy Endfield.

The story is about a group of Union Civil War prisoners who escape prison just as Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army capture Richmond at the end of the war. They take a balloon and capture a Confederate soldier while they make their getaway. Unfortunately they are caught up in a severe storm, which blows them thousands of miles off course, deep into the Pacific Ocean. Yep, all the way from Richmond to the Pacific. Record time. World records broken. When the storm has finally ended, they find themselves on a bizarre island which is inhabited by huge, fearsome creatures, and a mysterious host behind it all.

The Bernard Herrmann score was brilliant, one of his best works. It takes some of the best elements he used in Citizen Kane with cues from North By Northwest. Not at all bad.

But the truly amazing thing about this film is the effects. This is a Ray Harryhausen film. It has all of his trademark stop motion photography, and for the most part it's well done, especially when you consider that they did all of this without the aid of computer technology to assist them. The only downside are the flock of seagulls that for some reason were animated (as in cartoon) instead of just going out and finding a bunch, or going without them altogether. The same issue crops up occasionally in Hitchcock's The Birds so it may be more about the time than anything else.

One striking thing to note about the film is that the explanation behind why the creatures were actually there/made wasn't really explained, well at all. Some make a certain amount of sense in that you would want to experiment with some creatures to see if it was possible, but I would suspect that most people would consider giant bees to be, well, not the best idea. For those who watch the film, you'll catch my drift about two specific creatures near the end of the film. The book may explain this, but somehow I never read this particular movie.

If anyone recognizes the director's name, Cy Endfield, it's the man who who directed Zulu 3 years later.

Verdict *** 1/2 out of *****

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