Mysterious Island (1961 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Cy Endfield|
|Produced by||Charles H. Schneer|
|Screenplay by||John Prebble
Daniel B. Ullman
|Based on||the novel L'Île mystérieuse
by Jules Verne
|Music by||Bernard Herrmann|
|Edited by||Frederick Wilson|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|December 20, 1961|
Mysterious Island (UK: Jules Verne's Mysterious Island) is a 1961 science fiction adventure film. Based very loosely upon the novel The Mysterious Island (L'Île mystérieuse) by Jules Verne, the film was produced by Charles H. Schneer and directed by Cy Endfield. Shot in Spain and at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, England, the film serves as a showcase for Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion animation effects. Like several of Harryhausen's classic productions, the musical score was composed by Bernard Herrmann.
In 1865 during the American Civil War, a massive storm sweeps through a Confederate prison camp. Union soldiers Cyrus Harding (Michael Craig), Herbert (Michael Callan), Neb (Dan Jackson), and a war correspondent, Spillet (Gary Merrill), are planning an escape. They spot a tethered gas balloon. After explaining their plan, they knock out the guard and escape from the prison house. Once they arrive at the balloon, they overpower some more guards and drag another named Pencroft (Percy Herbert) aboard. After he explains that he knows how to pilot the balloon, they let him join the group.
The balloon carries them across the US and it isn't long before they discover that they are over the Pacific Ocean. A storm arises; the balloon tears open and leaks a significant amount of gas, forcing the passengers to toss everything overboard. One of the guys spots land dead ahead, everyone climbs up onto the supporting ring and cut the basket loose. The severely deflated balloon descends to the sea anyway, bumping and skimming the tops of the waves, washing a few people out of the balloon's rigging, until finally running aground. The following morning the men reunite and begin to explore the strange island they find themselves upon. They discover that the island has lush tropical jungles, harsh plains, and many volcanoes which frequently erupt.
When they reach the other side of the island, they encounter a monstrous crab. After Neb is nearly killed, the castaways are able to push it into a boiling geyser and have crab meat for dinner. Strengthened by their unusual meal, the men continue exploring and find a herd of wild goats which they try to catch. They find the unconscious English ladies Lady Mary Fairchild (Joan Greenwood) and her niece, Elena (Beth Rogan), who were shipwecked here by the same storm. The ladies are soon revived and Herbert falls in love with Elena. Working together the castaways find cover and protection in a cave which they call "Granite House". A treasure chest later washes ashore and in it the men find a variety of useful items, including rifles, nautical charts, ammunition, hammers, nails, saws, cookware, personal grooming items, and books such as Robinson Crusoe. Markings upon one of the rifles found in the chest indicate that it came from the Nautilus, upon which Spillitt gives to Lady Faiirchid, unfamiliar with the tale, a brief summation of the Nautilus, its creator, Captain Nemo, and its supposed destruction off the coast of Mexico some eight years earlier. Spillitt expresses a sense of respect and admiration for Nemo's genius and principles against war while Harding derides him for being a madman and a murderer, condemning him for the deaths of numerous sailors during his crusade. Making use of the charts, they're able to determine their location and proceed with the construction of a boat from which they can escape the island.
While Mary and Elena are tending to the goats, Spillet encounters a giant flightless bird (a prehistoric species called a Phorusrhacos) while fishing. The girls retreat, but the bird gets through the gate and terrorizes them. As it tries to eat Elena, Herbert is alerted and jumps onto the creature, knifing it until he apparently kills it. Later they eat it like a big chicken, during which they discover it was actually killed by a bullet none of them had fired.
A few weeks later, Herbert and Elena are sunning outside when they notice honey. They climb up the rocky bluff and come across an enormous hive inhabited by giant bees. They are forced to burn plants and make a fire to escape after being sealed inside the honeycomb by beeswax. Meanwhile Mary, Harding, Spillet and Pencroft spot a ship. It is a pirate ship and a fight with pirates ensues. The castaways win only after an explosion mysteriously sinks the ship. As Herbert and Elena escape from the hive, they spot the submarine Nautilus. They go inside but, knowing that it belongs to someone else, retreat, swimming out of the cave.
Once outside, they are reunited with the others and later meet Captain Nemo (Herbert Lom), who is living aboard his disabled submarine, the Nautilus. Nemo has been watching the castaways, and secretly assisting them by sending the chest, shooting the giant bird, and sinking the pirate ship. Nemo tells them that a volcano on the island will soon erupt, exploding the island and sinking it into the deep. He invites them to dinner aboard the Nautilus, where they discover that Nemo has invented an air-filled raising system which can refloat the pirate ship, and help them escape. Nemo teaches them to breathe underwater using his special "shell" air tanks, and they begin trying to raise the ship. As the men are working underwater trying to raise the ship, they encounter the last "monster," a giant cephalopod resembling a prehistoric ammonite. They are able to kill it with Nemo's electrical gun, after Pencroft is nearly killed by its tentacle. With the pirate ship raised and seaworthy, the castaways climb aboard. The volcano erupts and Nemo is killed, but the rest escape and begin the journey home.
- Michael Craig as Captain Cyrus Harding
- Joan Greenwood as Lady Mary Fairchild
- Michael Callan as Herbert Brown
- Gary Merrill as Gideon Spilitt
- Herbert Lom as Captain Nemo
- Beth Rogan as Elena Fairchild
- Percy Herbert as Sergeant Pencroft
- Dan Jackson as Corporal Neb Nugent
The novel on which the film is based is a sequel to two other novels by Jules Verne, In Search of the Castaways (1867) and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870). The first book featured the island, the pirates and a character Tom Ayrton who was marooned on a nearby island. The second book featured Captain Nemo and the Nautilus presumed lost in the maelstrom at the end of that novel. In The Mysterious Island (1874) after the escapees' balloon landed on the island, among many adventures, they encountered Ayrton alive, fought the pirates and discovered that Captain Nemo was their benefactor and the island the base for the Nautilus.
The beach scenes in Mysterious Island were shot on location at Sa Conca Bay, Castell-Platja d'Aro in Catalonia, Spain. The escape from the Confederate prison - using an observation balloon - were filmed in Church Square, Shepperton, England. Interiors were completed at Shepperton Studios.
The stop-motion animation effects were created by Ray Harryhausen. All the model creatures except the giant bird (which was cannibalized for use as the Ornithomimus in The Valley of Gwangi in 1969) still exist.
The film's music was composed by Bernard Herrmann who had already scored several of Harryhausen's productions.
ALL America - Twilight Time - The Limited Edition Series
- Picture Format: 1.66:1 (1080p 24fps) [AVC MPEG-4]
- Soundtrack(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0
- Subtitles: English
- Isolated Score (presented in 2.0 Stereo)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2:31)
- TV Trailer Spot #1 (1:03)
- Case type: Keep Case
- Note: Limited as in only 3000 copies were made (non are numbered)
R1 America - Columbia/Tri-star Home Entertainment
- Picture Format: 1.78:1 (Anamorphic) [NTSC]
- Soundtrack(s): English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
- Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
- "The Making Of Mysterious Island" featurette
- "The Harryhausen Chronicles" featurette
- "This Is Dynamation" featurette
- Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
- Bonus trailers for "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" and "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger"
- Case type: Keep Case
- Notes: Also available in The Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen: Legendary Science Fiction Series 5-disc box set, with Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 20 Million Miles to Earth, It Came from Beneath the Sea, and H.G. Wells' First Men in the Moon (1964 film).
- Mysterious Island at the Internet Movie Database
- Mysterious Island at the TCM Movie Database
- Mysterious Island at AllMovie
- Mysterious Island at DBCult Film Institute
- Mysterious Island film trailer on YouTube