Thursday, November 15, 2012
The Mysterious Island (1929)
I have several favourite genres, but the one I care the most for is the "unknown civilization"-style adventures, preferably from the 70's and directed by the great Kevin Connor and starring Doug McClure. Can't get better than that. But I love all of them, except the new ones who's a bit to family-friendly for me. One I've missed all my life and actually didn't know existed until a couple of weeks ago is Lucien Hubbard's The Mysterious Island, one of the earliest examples of "talkies". According to Famous Monsters of Filmland they started shooting the movie in 1926, as silent movie. Budget problems, weather and all sorts of problems delayed the movie and it wasn't released until 1926 - now with new scenes added, with sound! But is it any fun? We'll see...
Lionel Barrymore plays Count Dakkar (Nemo's real name) who with his submarine seeks vengeance on those he don't like, for example the evil Falon (Montagu Love), who just taken over Dakkar's peace-loving, slightly socialist-wannabe island, with his army. Dakkar and the traditional handsome hero and traditionally beautiful heroine escapes with the submarine. Falon won't accept this and goes after them in his sub until there's no turning back and they have to face the... terrifying underwater people!
The long production time, reshoots and change from silent to sound is very visible in the finished result. The talkie-scenes looks stiff and very "on-the-nose", with long and complicated exposition. The main bulk of these is also placed at the beginning of the film, which makes it odd when it slowly becomes more of a silent movie the longer it goes. On the good side here, the acting is a lot better and more realistic than I've seen before - both in the sound and the silent-parts.
has some deep flaws, which might
be the result of the above mentioned problems. It stays way to long focusing on
politics and talking and some drama and some more talking. It's until the last
half hour we're getting some monster-action and adventures without soldiers and
war, but that half hour instead is just fantastic. Both subs get problem and
they're sinking deeper and deeper until they lands in the middle of an
underwater city, inhabited by creatures of short stature who looks like a mix
between Donald Duck and the 1967 version of Son of Godzilla! Creepy fuckers,
really creepy. They're like aggressive little zombies! But life isn't easy down
in creepy fucker-town, because they're attacked by a dinosaur (a crocodile
dressed like a dinosaur) and also a big octopus (played by a real octopus) and
this is problems our submarine-crew need to deal with to! Mysterious Island
The effects here is well-made and sometimes very, very good. The simple, but effective effect, with thousands of these creatures running from and to and beside the giant octopus looks good in a surrealistic way. We see how they've done it, but it still works so well.
The legend also says that both Benjamin Christensen and Maurice Tourneur also worked as directors on the production, during the years. I don't know if there's any truth in this, but why not? It's not impossible and it's talented and interesting enough to have people like this involved on different stages of the production. Despite its flaws and being way to focused on drama and less on monsters and adventures, this is a damn fine little movie and I'm very happy I found it on DVD in Germany, in a good transfer and very English-friendly - and in black & white, the colour version is since long lost.
You can find it easy on Amazon.de and if you're a fan of oldies like this - get it!