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Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, April 14, 2023

Mysterious Island (1961)

Set at the end of the Civil War we watch as some Union prisoners break out of a Confederate prison and make their escape in a balloon. This all happens while a huge storm is blowing in and it carries them all the way across the country. When things finally calm they find themselves far out over the Pacific Ocean. The balloon crashes near an island and after swimming to shore they realize that they are now marooned there. After some exploration they discover survivors from a shipwreck, which introduces our ladies and their love interests. They go about setting up house and trying to survive.

This is complicated by the presence of oversized animals like giant crabs, chickens, and bees. But why are these things so huge? It turns out that Captain Nemo has been experimenting with gigantism to solve the world’s hunger issues. Yes, that Nemo of the Nautilus! For a while he quietly helps the survivors while staying hidden. But when some pirates show up and start blasting away with their cannons, he reveals himself. But it isn’t just the pirates that are a threat as the volcano on the island is about to erupt so they all need to make their escape. Sadly the Nautilus was damaged and can’t go back to sea, but he has a plan. This leads to the finale as they race against time to repair the now sunken pirate ship so they can sail away to safety.

This is a personal favorite of mine. I’ve been watching it since I was a kid as this was always playing on Saturday afternoons or during the summer. This is one of the first adventure movies that I can remember and along with Journey to the Center of the Earth was responsible for my lifelong love of everything Jules Verne. The movie itself holds up pretty well for being over sixty years old. The story is paced quickly and spaces out the good stuff evenly. We get an exciting prison break followed by the tumultuous balloon ride. When they land there is a big fight with a giant crab, some ladies washing up on shore, and then a giant chicken and bees. Hell, we even get some pirates attacking!

Sure, this is probably a bit hokey but imagine a young boy watching this. It checks all the boxes that a seven or eight year old me wanted to see. While I admit that nostalgia might be a big part of my love for Mysterious Island, I still think that it is fun. There is nothing wrong with a simple old school adventure story and this is certainly that.

If that doesn’t make you want to watch this one then how about some awesome stop motion effects work from the master Ray Harryhausen? As I’ve already mentioned we get a giant crab, chicken, and some bees all of which are brought to life with the magic of stop motion and composite shots. I especially loved the first gag with the crab. It turns out that instead of building the model from scratch with clay Harryhausen deviated from his normal process and built his armature inside and actual crab shell! I thought that was cool, so I had to mention it. Damn I almost forgot the giant octopus! Can’t have a Captain Nemo story without a giant octopus.

There are also some green screen shots with the balloon that were shot on a soundstage as well as some cool composite shots of them working underwater. There is even a model ruined city that I think was done just to show it tumbling down when the volcano erupts. I appreciate that. Toss in some neat sets with the interior of the Nautilus as well as the model work of the sunken pirate ship and you have more than enough cool visuals to keep anyone entertained.

In case it isn’t clear yet let me just come out and tell you that I love this movie. I could keep going on, but I think that I’ve made my point. I highly recommend everyone go look for a copy of Mysterious Island. As of the writing of this review the movie can be found on Amazon Prime as well as YouTube. It is well worth the three or four dollar rental.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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