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Saturday, October 26, 2013

20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1916)

An antique, and a bit of mess, this early silent adaptation of Jules Verne’s oft-filmed story adds hunks of the sequel, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, but then uses a freshly minted set-piece to serve as climax & explanatory backstory, sort of an Ali Baba thing which a helpful Title Card tells us was ‘never told by Jules Verne!’ Indeed. Naturally, this ersatz addition is the best thing in here while Verne’s carefully interlaced plotlines are left a hopeless tangle in this confusing picturization. As a historical curiosity, it’s worth a look for some early underwater film work (as enervatingly slow then as it is nowadays) and for a rubbery giant squid attack. (How many rubber trees gave up their lives for this to happen?) Otherwise, feel free to skip to the non-Verne stuff at the end for some decent 1916 action filmmaking. And watch for a sassy overheard shot of war drums during the final build up. Props to Alexander Rannie & Brian Benison whose excellent score, found on the KINO edition, lifts up this scene and the rest of the film.*)

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: There’s always Disney’s likable 1954 version, with James Mason’s commanding Captain Nemo. But a 1961 MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, less interested in Verne than in showing off some Ray Harryhausen pixilated monsters, has a Bernard Herrmann score* that rises far above its surroundings. Try the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4TKbiJa0n4

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