20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), directed by Richard Fleischer.


Giant squid astern, Sir!

Captain Nemo is an early Evil Overlord, precursor to Ming and Blofeld. Note:

It's a linear two-hour story. A US military vessel investigating ship sinkings by a "sea monster" is itself sunk. Three survivors go aboard the Nautilus (great steam-punk design before there was such a thing) and travel with it for a while, having assorted adventures. They are the only passengers to escape The End.

The casting ranges from the inspired: James Mason, born to play Nemo, to the adequate: Paul Lukas as the ineffectually decent scientist, to the very strange: Peter Lorre as the prof's mordantly witty "apprentice".

Kirk Douglas co-stars with Mason, as rebellious as the Captain is disciplined. The character is certainly personality-plus, more than the role requires. I confess I fast forwarded through his singing bits.

I want to mention two other character actors in a strange new setting: Ted de Corsia, usually a gangster, is here the captain of the naval vessel. Nemo's loyal First Mate is played by Robert J. Wilke, almost always a western villain, as when waiting at the station with Lee Van Cleef in High Noon (1952) and when he brought a gun to James Coburn's knife fight in The Magnificent Seven (1960).

The effects are pretty decent, with two really great parts: walking on the ocean floor and the fight with the giant squid. The actors spend a lot of time in the water.


Available on Blu-ray if you can pry it away from Disney. Image quality is just fair.

I no longer have the Blu-ray and my notes don't indicate if it has a commentary track, but the old DVD did and I listened to that: Rudy Behlmer interviewing the director, a pleasant chat about the production.