SFI-FA print at 97 min with Swedish subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Cinema and Music), 20 Feb 2015
Other film adaptations: Salaperäinen saari (The Mysterious Island, US 1929, D: Lucien Hubbard, [Benjamin Christensen, Maurice Tourneur, n.c.], C: Lionel Barrymore / Captain Nemo = Prince Dakkar), Salaperäinen saari (Tainstvennyi ostrov, SU 1941, D: B. M. Tshelintsev, Eduard Pentslin), serial Salaperäinen saari (Mysterious Island I-XV, US 1951, D: Spencer Gordon Bennet), Mysteerien saari (La isla misteriosa y el capitán Nemo, ES/FR/IT 1973, D: Juan Antonio Bardem, Henri Colpi, C: Omar Sharif / Captain Nemo), tv series Salaperäinen saari (Mysterious Island CA/NZ 1995), Mysterious Island (US 2005, D: Russell Mulcahy, C: Patrick Stewart / Captain Nemo), tv-elokuva Jules Verne's Mysterious Island (US 2012, D: Mark Sheppard), Matka 2: Salainen saari (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, US 2012, D: Brad Peyton).
AA: Jules Verne's novel The Mysterious Island has constantly inspired film-makers since the silent age. This 1961 film adaptation, which belongs to the remarkable fantasy film series created by the team of Charles H. Schneer, Ray Harryhausen and Bernard Herrmann, is a solid, well-made fantasy film. It was screened at Cinema Orion in the context of our Cinema and Music lecture series, and the lecturer, the composer Mr. Pessi Levanto, had selected it for our series as a sample of the work of Bernard Herrmann - as a less obvious showcase of Herrmann's ability to create a unique sound world for each film.
Among Herrmann's main modes were "the sound of mental disturbance" and "the sound of fantasy adventure escape", both brilliantly in evidence for instance in the overture of On Dangerous Ground. Mysterious Island is a delightful example of the latter mode, Herrmann's fantasy inspiration - there are sounds that are thrilling, suspenseful, stormy, exotic, and droll.
Ray Harryhausen's creations provide much of the fascination: - the balloon caught in the biggest storm in American history that brings our Civil War refugees to a lost island in the Pacific - the giant crab, bird, bees and octopus - the pirate ship - Nautilus - and the volcanic eruption that causes the island to perish utterly. The miniatures, the stop motion animation, and the travelling mattes are not photorealistically smooth, but there is an endearing quality in their handcrafted artistry that is charming like in the work of Georges Méliès. My favourite Harryhausen sequence here is the one with the giant honeycomb where the young lovers are trapped. (Honey trap!).
The actors are not of the first rank, but Herbert Lom brings a quality of dignity to his performance as Captain Nemo, as does Joan Greenwood to hers as Lady Fairchild.
Cy Endfield's direction is sober and matter-of-fact which befits a fantasy adventure. We do not need visual and directorial flourishes in a story as outlandish as this. Mysterious Island is a satisfying fantasy adventure: we expect storms, giant monsters, ingenious devices, pirates, and volcanic eruptions from such a fairy-tale. Is there a sense of wonder? Yes, there is.
Mysterious Island is an original Robinsonade. The men and women work together for survival, for creating some comfort, and for building a vessel to escape. Although there is no psychological depth in the characters, there is a sense of team effort. The aspect of young love remains on the level of nice smiles and some cheesecake & beefcake.
At its most profound, Mysterious Island reminds us of Captain Nemo's pessimism about the self-destructive urge of mankind about to destroy itself via war. There is a subtext in Jules Verne's Nemo stories about the death drive. But Mysterious Island also reminds us of Captain Nemo's optimism about more effective nourishment via his incredible inventions. Better technology could be an alternative to a Neo-Darwinian battle of the survival of the strongest, and to a Hobbesian world of bellum omnium contra omnes.
Mysterious Island is both a Dystopian story about the end of the world and a Utopian story about how we can save ourselves via technology.
A worn vintage print with a duped look yet watchable and with a sense of the original colour.
OUR PROGRAMME NOTE BASED ON BARRIE MAXWELL'S REMARKS IN DVD VERDICT BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK