Mysterious Island (1961)

Mysterious Island (1961), directed by Cy Endfield.

Civil War prisoners break out and steal an observation balloon. High winds blow them way out into the Pacific where they crash on an island of giant creatures. They rescue a couple of English castaways, mother and daughter, and begin to realize that someone else is watching and secretly helping them. Wouldn't you know: Captain Nemo has parked the Nautilus there and is using the island to develop another of his Big Ideas (ensure World Peace, end World Hunger, etc).

This film is jam-packed with good stuff, family entertainment like all Harryhausen projects: castaways, monsters, a submarine, retro-scuba gear, lost cities, pirates, and a volcano. They slip in a romantic element: the young couple often go wandering off together. I especially like how young Elena goes from full Victorian regalia to cave-girl leather tunic in a flash: Aunt: "They'll think it's too short!" Niece: "No, they won't".

Not all is easy going among the men: we have a sour war correspondent and a Confederate who didn't ask to go on this expedition. But they're all stout fellows in the end. The final act is a bit rushed: refloating the pirate ship to escape from the volcano.

I had to look up what that balloon might have been inflated with, since helium had not yet been discovered. Civil War balloons used coal gas or hydrogen, both quite flammable.

Tempestuous Bernard Herrmann score, a favorite of his fans. The Blu-ray has an isolated musical track. Filmed in Spain.

Available in a limited-edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time, mastered by Sony. It's expensive; I don't know if there will ever be a general release.

The Blu-ray is well done with fine detail in the brightly lit direct photography scenes, as on the beach and in the rocks. I see no excess sharpening. However: people need to understand that all Harryhausen films are done with a mixture of optical process shots and not all scenes in the film have the detail needed to make a Blu-ray "eye candy" title.