Thursday, December 9, 2010

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Directed by Richard Fleischer.
1954. Not Rated, 170 minutes.
Kirk Douglas
James Mason
Paul Lukas
Peter Lorre

Prof. Arronax (Lukas), Ned (Douglas) and Conseil (Lorre) sail around the world in the world's first submarine, thought by the rest of civilization to be a sea monster, as guests/prisoners of Cpt. Nemo (Mason). Based on the classic Jules Verne novel. Fans of the book will like that its pretty faithful to the source material. That's a major plus as it doesn't try to fix what isn't broken. It just tells the story pretty much the way it was intended to be told. It's also an early 1950s version of a big budget special fx flick. In that regard, its not bad as the fx are excellent for their era and haven't aged nearly as much as you would think going in. That said, the backdrops have. It is so obviously shot in a studio it can be hard to buy into the illusion these people are really sailing around the globe. Admittedy, that's a strange thing to say when this movie won the Oscar that year for Best Art Decoration & Set Decoration. Still, the solidly adapted screenplay and excellent acting keep us invested enough for it not to be a deal-breaker. Kirk Douglas is front and center among the actors, embodying all that is both good and bad about the movie. His actual performance is excellent the way its written. It makes the movie tick. However, the way its written is problematic. If there is one major drawback it's the same one that haunts Disney to this day. Ned and many grimier moments from the novel, including the overall tone, have been sanitized for mass consumption by children. This means while Douglas' work is great when it stands alone, its lacking when compared to its literary counterpart, a much more brooding and seething brute. All of this simply means its a pretty good movie but like most, it pales in comparison to the book.

MY SCORE: 7/10

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