Thursday, 16 May 2013

Mysterious Island (1961)

Another great adventure movie featuring the work of Ray Harryhausen, Mysterious Island is yet another movie that I can't view without a warm cloak of nostalgia draping itself around me. These movies make up the main threads, the strongest ones, that hold together the patchwork of movie memories from my childhood. Even after trying to wipe the rose tinting from my glasses, figuratively speaking, I can't help but still view these as really good films. People may accuse me of being unable to look at the films subjectively nowadays. Or there's a chance that, y'know, maybe many of these films that made use of Harryhausen's creations are just really good films.

Set during the American Civil War, the plot sees some POWs grabbing hostages and escaping from their prison in a hot air balloon. They then find themselves at the mercy of the elements until eventually landing near to the titular island. Working together to survive, the men find themselves in unexpected danger from a giant crab, some huge bees, pirates and more. Thankfully, they also welcome a couple of women into their group after they are washed up on the shore, and they seem to receive a helping hand from someone else who chooses not to show himself.

Based (VERY loosely) on the novel by Jules Verne, Mysterious Island has a decent script from John Prebble, Daniel B. Ullman and Crane Wilbur, and solid direction from Cy Endfield. The cast - Michael Craig, Joan Greenwood, Michael Callan, Gary Merrill, Herbert Lom et al - also do a good job. Whether they're battling that aforementioned giant crab or being terrified by a huge chicken monster beastie (to use the technical term), they react appropriately and somewhat convincingly. They may also, for the most part, be a group of people rather than memorable individuals, but one or two main characters (including, of course, a certain Captain Nemo) just manage to do enough to stand out. Just.

While this is, obviously, a better movie for those wanting to see some more work from Harryhausen, the fact that it has many enjoyable moments without any creatures involved makes it a more wholly satisfying experience than some of his other outings. Lovers of the book may take offence at the numerous changes, but they work well in terms of making the whole tale more exciting and cinematic.

Not one of the absolute classics, but a very, very good film.


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