20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA


20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA
   Film (1954). Walt Disney. Dir Richard Fleischer, starring James Mason, Kirk Douglas, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre. Screenplay Earl Felton, based on Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (1870; trans as Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas 1872 UK) by Jules VERNE. 127 mins. Colour.
   This early Walt Disney live-action film was one of his best and most lavish. Fleischer has since returned to sf themes with FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966) and SOYLENT GREEN (1973), but not so successfully. Nemo is an anarchist scientist who hateswar; he uses his submarine, the Nautilus (here nuclear powered), to sink warships. The script is rather lame, though James Mason gives a stirring performance as the obsessed Nemo, who fights a lone battle against the world before being betrayed by 3 shipwreck survivors (including a displeasing harpoonist played hammily by Kirk Douglas) whom he has taken on board. He expires in style, at the centre of a self-made holocaust that envelops both his private island and the Nautilus before, significantly, forming a mushroom-shaped cloud. The special effects are good (and won an Oscar), especially notable being Bob Mattey's mechanically operated giantsquid; the Nautilus itself with its ornate Victoriana is beautifully designed by Harper Goff.There had been 3 previous film versions of Verne's novel: a mysterious 1905 Biograph production (18 mins) that does not appear in Biograph records, a French one made by George MELIES in 1907 (18 mins) and a US one, with fine underwater photography, written/dir Stuart Paton in 1916 (113 mins).
   JB

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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