Wednesday, September 7, 2016
The Fabulous World of Jules Verne
Brilliant Professor Roch and his assistant Hart are kidnapped one night from their mansion by pirates led by gangster Count Artigas, who sends them inside the crater of an empty island volcano in order to force the Professor to make a deadly weapon, a giant cannon. A lost woman on the sea, Jana, is also sent to the island. Hart sends a letter in a balloon which reaches the authorities who send their ships to arrest Artigas. Hart and Jana escape in a balloon, while Roch deliberately throws the shell of the cannon downhill, causing a giant explosion that destroys the island and Artigas with him.
Karel Zeman's 3rd film, "The Fabulous World of Jules Verne", sometimes also alternatively titled "The Deadly Invention", is a pure escapist fantasy adventure flick that seizes the most of attention from its ultra-stylized sets and cutout-special effects - aligned to form a feel of illustrations from Jules Vernes' novel put on celluloid - some of which remind of hyper art-worlds of W. Anderson or T. Burton, and was thus a small sensation during its premiere for being one of rare fantasy films outside the English language speaking world in cinema. Zeman's audacity and sixth sense for special and visual effects is remarkable, giving it a feel as if the human characters are walking inside a comic-book (cutout stairs, pillars or even the whole engine room; the stop-motion animation of fish, with the "shy highlight" of a giant octopus attacking aquanauts under the sea, even though its "appearance" lasts for only 60 seconds...), yet he puts far less effort into creating lively characters or a versatile story, which ends up heavily overstretched and thin, with bland, stiff characters, leaving the viewers with the impression that it all might have worked probably much better as a short film. Despite its lack of a soul, "The Fabulous World" confirmed or at least announced Zeman as a Czech 'Wunderkind', and he would give his imagination a run for its money in later films as well.