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20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA(director/writer/producer: Stuart Paton; screenwriter: from the book by Jules Verne; cinematographers: Eugene Gaudio/J. Ernest Williamson; music: Brian Benison&Alexander Rannie-new score; cast: Matt Moore (Lt. Bond), Allen Holubar (Capt. Nemo), Jane Gail (Princess Dasker); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Carl Laemmle; Universal; 1916-silent)
“A visually beautiful tale.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director-writer Stuart Paton shot 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea during WW 1, in the Bahamas. A silent film noted for its special effects, serving as a precursor to the modern adventure film. The marvelous camera work was done by the Williamson brothers, using an underwater camera they invented–which results in a lot of underwater shots including ones of a mechanical octopus and a frightening shark. The opening ten minutes gives the inventors credit for making this film possible.

This Jules Verne story places a heavy emphasis on the preparations for war, as it reflects the troubling times when it was filmed. It’s the familiar tale from the sci-fi book about Captain Nemo searching for his long-lost daughter, but it strangely combines pieces from both 20,000 Leagues and another Verne novel, Mysterious Island–which adds some unneeded complications to an original tight story.

It is the story about a submarine that Verne envisioned about 50-years before it was invented. Naturally, his futuristic submarine is really the film’s star.

The power-hungry Captain Nemo has become a misanthrope, and why he has is seen through his adventures. In a flashback the story moves to, of all places, India, and we begin to understand what changed Nemo into being filled with hatred for mankind and their constant need for war.

This is a visually beautiful tale, in some ways better than Disney’s 1954 superstar version directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Kirk Douglas. This excellent quality tinted black-and-white version which was restored from an archive print in an abridged form as the film stock became damaged, will probably not please a modern audience except as a curio because its style is so outdated. The high-budget prevented the film from making a profit, though it was well-received at the time by the public.

REVIEWED ON 1/14/2004 GRADE: B +

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”