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MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961)

Sequel to "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" , this Jules Verne classic tells the exciting tale of Union Civil War prisoners, who find themselves jumping from the frying pan into the fire. After escaping terrible conditions in their P.O.W.  Camp in a Confederate hot air balloon, they end up on an uncharted South Pacific Island, in the middle of nowhere, far from civilization. It isn't long before they meet the island's giant plants and beasties, which inspires their human ingenuity to survive the real dangers of being eaten for a snack.  Enter, the mysterious Captain Nemo who comes to their aid.

This film could be compared to "Food of the Gods". Herbert Lom brings dignity to the role of Captain Nemo. "Mysterious Island" features action and FX. Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion work, including a huge bird, giant crab, and jumbo bees, is terrific. The musical score, by Bernard Herrmann, is great!

The cast includes: Michael Craig, Joan Greenwood, Michael Callan, Gary Merrill, and Herbert Lom.

Directed by: Cy Endfield.

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SYNOPSIS...

Union soldiers escape from a Confederate prison in a hot air balloon. They end up on an isolated island in the Pacific.

The castaways encounter natural beauty, as well as giant animals, which they kill and feast on. The men establish a secure base in a cave high up a cliff. Two women wash up on the beach, bringing a welcome feminine touch to the island.

Our heroes discover that Captain Nemo (thought to be dead) is alive and on the island. Nemo helps them raise a ship from the ocean bottom to escape the island in. The island's volcano blows its top, killing Nemo and destroying his sub the Nautilus. Our heroes escape to safety aboard the newly raised ship.

Review:

Director Cy Endfield's MYSTERIOUS ISLAND is a thoroughly entertaining Sci-Fi adventure classic.

On a raining night in 1865, Union soldiers, a journalist, and a rebel stowaway exit a Confederate prison camp in a hot air balloon. After drifting for days, they crash in a storm and end up on an isolated island in the Pacific.

Michael Craig (Vault of Horror) is a bit of a stick in the lead role of the head of the shipwrecked group. He comes across like Fess Parker, minus the folksy charm.

Michael Callan (Cat Ballou) plays the standard 1950's/60's teen dream character, who finds romance and adventure on the island. He doesn't sing, however, so I'm not complaining.

Ray Harryhausen's justly acclaimed stop motion photographic/model work (Jason and the Argonauts) is put to great use here. Scenes in involving a giant crab, huge bird, and a jumbo-size swarm of bees are a delight to behold. My favorite scene is a battle between our heroes and the giant bird, resulting in a huge dinner feast.

The Screenplay, by John Prebble, Daniel Ullman, and Crane Wilbur, based on the novel by Jules Verne, contains some good dialogue. When young Callan asks how a crab could have grown so huge, cynical newspaper man Gary Merrill (All About Eve) retorts, "From eating those giant oysters, obviously."

Although Captain Nemo doesn't show up until rather late in the picture, he's worth waiting for. With white hair and beard, and a cultured yet dramatic manner, Herbert Lom (The Dead Zone) is a worthy successor to James Mason's famous Nemo from "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea".

Director of Photography, Wilkie Cooper, ably captures Harryhausen's stop motion creations, the natural beauty of the island locations, and the film's various beautiful matte paintings of mountains, cliffs, and a volcano.

The Music, by the great Bernard Herrmann, is rousing, stirring, and dramatic. It doesn't hurt that the London Symphony Orchestra performs it.

MYSTERIOUS ISLAND will be highly watchable for most Sci-Fi viewers. Ray Harryhausen fans will have a field day. MYSTERIOUS ISLAND is a destination worth seeing.

If you enjoyed MYSTERIOUS ISLAND your best bets include: JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH and 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.

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