Random Film of the Day*: Mysterious Island

(Thanks, bttfportugal!)
*For the next week or so, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

Mysterious Island PosterYet another Charles H. Schneer/Ray Harryhausen production featuring a brilliant Bernard Herrmann soundtrack, 1961’s Mysterious Island is another classic fans of the master stop motion animator cite as some of his best work of the decade as well as a pretty solid genre entry. It’s certainly got a nicely varied cast of creatures going for it from a giant crab, an very angry and huge prehistoric bird, a few huge bees in their cliffside hive and a majorly over-sized cephalopod near the end. You also get a nice balloon escape at the beginning that gets most of the cast to that titular island, a few ladies tossed into the mix courtesy of a shipwreck and a surprise appearance by Captain Nemo that adds another layer of the fantastic to the film…

While the cast is OK, it’s Herbert Lom’s portrayal of Nemo that steals the film. He comes off as a genius with a bit of an arrogant side, but ends up a likable character because he welcomes the stranded survivors once he realizes they can help him with a few problems he can’t solve on his own. Unlike Vincent Price in Master of the World, Lom shows Nemo’s “softer” side in a funny scene where he states that he needs to finally leave the island he’s hidden his fancy submarine on because he’s down to his last bottle of good wine. I recall that line making me laugh as a kid even though I had no idea what wine was and once I did, I’ve tossed that line out once in a while to see in someone knows where it came from.

Sure, it’s not EXACTLY like the Jules Verne books much of its story comes from, but combining elements of a few of his stories helps keep the film from being boring. Harryhausen’s work here is excellent and like the effects in First Men in the Moon, there’s a certain quaintness to the work that fits the 1860’s setting. Then again, given the quality of visual effects in sci-fi and fantasy films in the pre-2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes days, what’s here still beats anything but Ray’s other work of the decade. Yeah, yeah, that underwater sequence at then end does drag a wee bit, but I can imagine 1961 audiences believing that they were underwater with those shell gear-wearing islanders trying to re-float that boat with inflatable bladders so they could finally leave the island.

The movie breezes along at around an hour and 41 minutes and is another cool one to get the kids into Ray’s work. Double this one up with the aforementioned First Men in the Moon or the non-Harryhausen flick Journey to the Center of the Earth (which also has a great Herrmann score) and watch their eyes light up if they’re in the right mood. You, of course, will already be smiling along with what’s here, so be sure to share the wealth with someone you want to catch the Harryhausen fever with…

1 thought on “Random Film of the Day*: Mysterious Island

  1. Pingback: Random Film of the Week: Master of the World | "DESTROY ALL FANBOYS!"

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