Saturday, May 5, 2007

Mysterious Island

Mysterious Island; fantasy, USA, 1961; D: Cy Endfield, S: Michael Craig, Joan Greenwood, Michael Callan, Gary Merrill, Herbert Lom, Beth Rogan

USA during the Civil War. A group of Union soldiers led by Cyrus Harding escapes from a Confederate prison in a hot air balloon and crash during a storm in the Pacific Ocean. Luckily, they manage to get to a local, uninhabited island. They are attacked by a giant crab, but manage to beat him. There are also giant bees and a giant featherless bird. One day, two women, Mary and Elena Fairchild, from a sunk ship wash to the shore and join them. They discover Captain Nemo and his submarine are also on the island. With his help they bring a sunk ship to the surface of the sea and manage to escape from the island just as the local volcano erupts, while Nemo dies in his submarine.

Apparently, the original concept for the film was that it was going to be shot as a straight survival "Robinson Crusoe" story without the monsters, but the producers felt that concept was too boring and decided to include them in the plot. That way it became slightly more interesting, serving as a "guilty pleasure", but that didn't help much in raising its quality. The whole thing is an incredibly monotone, naive, stiff and thin trash, written without any care or passion, full of one dimensional characters and lifeless events. Cy Endfield's directing skills are completely average, and the too serious tone stripped of any kind of humor is also problematic. Not even Herebrt Lom as Nemo managed to bring some kind of charisma into his weak role. As always, the only the only thing noteworthy are Ray Harryhausen's fascinating special effects. Actually, the four sequences where he with the help of Stop motion animation created a giant crab, a giant featherless bird, giant bees and a giant squid are the only ones that will stay in the viewer's memory. Everything else is simply too tame and stiff to stay, as much as some nostalgic viewers praised it. If at least the director and the screenwriter were as equally skillful and put as much effort as Harryhausen and his effects, "Mysterious Island" would have been a great adventure.


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