Thursday, May 9, 2013

REVIEW: Mysterious Island

Mysterious Island
Director: Cy Endfield
Year 1961

Mysterious Island is a wonderfully imagined adaption of Jules Verne's outstanding novel, L'lle mysterieuse. Brought to life by the legendary stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen, the film features an abundance of mind-boggling creatures and elaborate effects, which aid in bringing the whole spectacle to life. As fantasy/adventure movies go, Mysterious Island is a classically portrayed gem that truly takes you on a most memorable journey into the unknown. One filled with wonderful marvels, stupendous dangers, and above all a true sense of unabashed wonder.

The film follows a regiment of Union POWs as they escape from a Confederate prison camp in a hot air balloon. Set adrift across the Pacific, the group crashes on the shores of a mysterious island in which giant monsters, blood thirsty pirates, and various other dangers threaten their vary survival. Armed with a few rifles and a handful of courage, the survivors gather their wits in order to figure out a way off of this perilous island, but with the imposing volcano at the center of the island primed to erupt, do they even have a chance?

The motley group of survivors are comprised of an eclectic cast of thespians. The most prominent of the group is the incomparable Herbert Lom, whose film credits span countless genres and a number of personal favorites of mine. Lom takes on the role of Captain Nemo, a recluse intellectual whose genius has spawned one of the most impressive maritime vessels known as the Nautilus. Much like his performances in The Phantom of the Opera, Mark of the Devil, and The Dead Zone, Lom gives a tremendous presence to his character making every ounce of screen time count.

The rest of the cast does an equally good job with their roles, which fit perfectly into the tone of the film. Michael Craig gives a stern performance as Captain Cyrus Harding, while Gary Merrill, Dan Jackson and Percy Herbert do a great job in diversifying the small group of survivors. The inclusion of Joan Greenwood and Beth Rogan as Lady Mary Fairchild and Elena Fairchild are a nice addition, which provides Michael Callan's character, Herbert Brown, to have a love interest in the young Elena. As an ensemble the group does a fine job and they work rather well against the amazing and imaginative monsters that pop up throughout this wild adventure of a film.

If I was to name a main star of this movie though, it would be Ray Harryhausen and his wonderfully crafted creatures. In all honesty this was the main aspect that peaked my interest years ago when I first caught wind of this elaborate production. After viewing Harryhausen's iconic work in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and his last effort Clash of the Titans, I knew that I was in for a treat when finally checking out Mysterious Island. Ultimately established as a showcase for the animators stop-motion effects, the film is jam packed with eye-opening creatures and unbelievable moments, all glossed over with that distinct Harryhausen style. From a giant bird, to an enormous crab, to a frighteningly immense bee, to even an overgrown octopus, Harryhausen injects the production with an atmosphere of magic, which lends greatly to the fantasy feel of the film.

With Harryhausen's effects in action, the film does a marvelous job in blending in some striking matte and miniature work to complement the legendary animators unparalleled creations. The look and feel of both the interior and exterior shots of the Nautilus are richly crafted and look absolutely fabulous, especially during the climax of the film where the ship is being bombarded by the destruction of the island. As for the effects work of the film, they maintain the same quality inherent in the entire production, producing some spectacular moments that literally rock the film's foundation in boisterous awe. For a Jules Verne adaption, Mysterious Island is up there as one of the best of the bunch, and without a doubt that is thanks to the colossal crew behind this iconic production.

Mysterious Island is grandiose in every sense of the word. From its larger than life creatures, its boundless landscape, and its intriguing concept, this Jules Verne adaption is one that is filled to the brim with excitement and fun. The cast does a commendable job with the material, with Herbert Lom giving a mesmerizing and memorable performance as the fabled Captain Nemo. Balanced to perfection, there really isn't a dull moment in this wonderful adventure, making for a brisk romp that never loses its appeal.

The real game-changer of the production is Ray Harryhausen's creature work and the lovingly crafted world that the effects artists provide. Unmistakably robust and highly imaginative, Harryhausen and crew vividly bring this island of mystery to stark and fanciful life, establishing a world that can only exist on the beautifully crafted celluloid plain. Impressively detailed and remarkably unique, the visual appearance of Mysterious Island's world is without a doubt the most appealing aspect of this production and it's safe to say that it is the heart and soul of the film's success. If you're in need of a fantasy/adventure fix and you are a fan of Ray Harryhausen's work, then you owe it to yourself to check out this entertaining gem. Mysterious Island is.....


I sure hope King Kong doesn't show up.

So when the hell do I get my blue shirt?

On this island, hot chicks wash up on the beach. Sweet!

What manner of beast can make a shit this large?

Put the book down nerd and figure a way off of this crazy island.

These chicks are nuts.

What are you looking at bird-brain?

Looks like it's chicken tonight.

Get the hell out of my hive you rat bastards!

Look! I see the end of the movie.

You kids BEE careful. Yep, I said it.

Hello everyone.

What do you mean you don't like my seashell styled outfit?

And on your left is the underwater city of Atlantis.

Do you mind not playing that damn piano right now?!?!

Bring it on you Kraken bastard!

Farewell you mysterious island, you.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review except one glaring omission, Music by Bernard Herrmann and the London Symphony Orchestra!!