(director: Richard Fleischer; screenwriters: Earl Feltor/from the novel by Jules Verne; cinematographer: Franz Planer; editor: Elmo Williams; music: Paul Smith; cast: Kirk Douglas (Ned Land), James Mason (Captain Nemo), Paul Lukas (Prof. Pierre Arronax), Peter Lorre (Conseil), Robert J. Wilke (First Mate), Ted de Corsia (Capt. Farragut), Carleton Young (John Howard); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Walt Disney; Walt Disney Home Video; 1954)

“A good one that could have been better with a little less Kirk Douglas and more scientific things to gawk at in wonder.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Entertaining fantasy adventure version of the classic Jules Verne novel, directed with the skill of a craftsman by Richard Fleischer (“The Narrow Margin”/”Violent Saturday”/”Doctor Dolittle”) and finely written by Earl Feltor to be lively, comical and fiddling around with a political agenda that can’t quite say out loud it’s against colonialism by the major powers but gives the madman scientist a motivation for why he’s so pissed off at the world–something not found in the novel. Great art designs, colorful underwater shots and amazing technical skill fashioning the ultra-modern submarine, plus robust battle scenes, a superbly dark performance by James Mason and imaginative story-telling, make this sci-fi sea yarn a good one that could have been better with a little less Kirk Douglas and more scientific things to gawk at in wonder.

In 1868, in San Francisco, there’s fears of a sea monster destroying vessels in the South Seas which has sailors afraid of signing onto ships heading in that direction. When a US Naval warship under the arrogant Capt. Farragut (Ted de Corsia) sails to the South Seas to either destroy the monster or prove no such a thing exists, gentle humanitarian visiting top-notch French marine scientist from the National Museum of Paris, Prof. Pierre Arronax (Paul Lukas), his toddy apprentice Conseil (Peter Lorre) and the brutish randy American adventurer harpoonist Ned Lands (Kirk Douglas) are invited to go on the expedition. In the water near Saigon, Farragut’s vessel is destroyed by the so-called monster, which turns out to be a futuristic submarine named the Nautilus, that’s been built and is steered by power-hungry idealistic madman genius Captain Nemo (James Mason) and the crew consists of a dedicated band of robotic-like sailors. The three survivors–Ned, the Professor and Conseil– are taken on board as captives, and are wowed by all the advanced technology but dismayed at how ruthless Nemo is in killing innocent sailors because he believes the world powers are transporting war goods on the sea.

When the demonic Nemo, oddly enough fighting the forces of evil, is finally ambushed by a fleet of warships, he and his crew choose suicide and to blow up with an A-bomb like explosion his home-based island of Vulcania–where he built the Nautilus and invented all of its futuristic machinery–claiming the world is not ready for his secrets.