Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1954. Walt Disney Productions. Screenplay by Earl Felton, based on the novel by Jules Verne. Cinematography by Franz Planer. Produced by Walt Disney. Music by Paul J. Smith. Production Design by Harper Goff. Costume Design by Norman Martien. Film Editing by Elmo Williams. Academy Awards 1954.
It’s a whale of a tale as Jules Verne’s exciting adventure story is adapted to the big screen with rich, enjoyable results. Sailor Kirk Douglas and scientists Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre are nearly drowned after their boat is destroyed by the legendary sea monster that has been the talk of the new world. Adrift in the ocean, the three are rescued when they happen upon a (then unheard-of) underwater sailing vessel that turns out to be the secret behind the monster myth: a mad sailor (James Mason) is getting revenge upon humanity for his life’s sorrows by traveling the ocean floor and making life difficult for anyone on the sea. The adventures that this unhappy crew embark upon make for a thrilling ride that has aged extremely well–even the visual effects still look terrific (except perhaps the attack of the giant squid sequence, which while still thrilling does look a bit creaky, technically). The wondrous set design and beautiful underwater photography make it shine like a blue diamond, and the performances are wonderfully energetic. It’s a treat that will frighten the children and possible scare the adults who were terrified of it as kids themselves.