(directors: Lucien Hubbard/Benjamin Christensen & Maurice Tourneur are uncredited; screenwriters: Lucien Hubbard/based on the novel by Jules Verne; cinematographer: Percy Hilburn; editor: Carl Pierson; music: Martin Broones/Arthur Lange; cast: Lionel Barrymore (Count Andre Dakkar), Jacqueline Gadsden (Countess Sonia Dakkar), Lloyd Hughes (Nikolai Roget), Montagu Love (Baron Hubert Falon), Harry Gribbon (Mikhail), Gibson Gowland (Dmitry), Snitz Edwards (Anton); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: J. Ernest Williamson; MGM; 1929-largely silent with some spoken English)

“Remains interesting only as a curio.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This sci-fi adventure is very loosely based on Jules Verne’s 1874 novel Mysterious Island. Credited writer and director Lucien Hubbard brings his own fiction to the Verne undersea adventure and makes it mostly a special effects pic. It’s also inundated with heavy-handed melodramatics that are not as fashionable in modern times as it probably was back in its day. There’s also an odd ambiance because sound is stiffly introduced at times even though most of the film remains a silent.

Kindly scientist inventor Count Dakkar (Lionel Barrymore), Captain Nemo’s real name according to Verne, in the fictional Kingdom of Hetvia, which seems to be Russian, in 1850, builds two submarines on his volcanic island off the mainland, and dedicates his life to going to the bottom of the sea to help mankind discover more about the world. Because the unique nature of his island enables cold water from the bottom to rise to the top bringing the bones of creatures, Dakkar knows that there’s a mysterious civilization at the sea’s bottom that he wishes to explore for the benefit of mankind. Unfortunately the Baron Falon (Montagu Love) wants these submarines to control the world and captures Dakkar, his crew and Dakkar’s lovely sister Countess Sonia (Jacqueline Gadsden) and submits them to torture to reveal their secret formula for building the two submarines. Nikolai (Lloyd Hughes), the faithful assistant to Dakkar and Sonia’s squeeze, has the No. 1 submarine submerged at the time of the coup in a test run and comes up to the shore long enough to rescue Dakkar from torture before descending to the ocean floor. There they witness an underground dwelling populated by creatures who are half-men (dwarfs) and whose favor they win by ridding their place of a dragon by using torpedoes. While Sonia with help from Dakkar’s crew also manages to escape and board submarine No. 2 to submerge underwater. Falon and his Hussar soldiers, however, enter No. 2, and Sonia destroys the air-compressor with a bomb so that the submarine can’t rise to the top again, as she’s willing to give her life so the evil Falon won’t succeed. But the two submarines hook up again and in the battle Falon’s men are overcome, but Dakkar receives a fatal wound from a giant octopus. When everyone is once again safely on land, the dying Dakkar decides to destroy his workplace lab so its secrets will not fall into the hands of evil people when he dies.

The film bears little resemblance to Verne’s novel, and remains interesting only as a curio.

Lionel Barrymore in The Mysterious Island (1929)