20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954)
Article #136 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 7-30-2001
Posting date: 12-13-2001
A sea monster believed to be responsible for the destruction of several ships in the 19th century turns out to be a submarine called the Nautilus, helmed by the enigmatic Captain Nemo.
One of the fun things about this project is having two movies in a row that link up in some way; in this case, we have another Verne adaptation today.
As for the movie itself, I feel quite ambivalent about it, as I do about the whole Disney machine anyway. The movie is anchored by a solid performance by James Mason as Nemo, and there are definite joys to be found in the production; it’s beautiful to look at, for one thing, the design of th Nautilus is classic, and the fight with the giant squid is amazing. But it’s also inundated with touches that I don’t like. It makes me a bit queasy to see Kirk Douglas trying to give the character of Ned Land these light, cute comic touches, such as his playing with a seal and singing that godawful “Whale of a Tale” song. Nor do I believe for a moment that a seasoned sailor would be disgusted by seafood meals during the dinner sequence. I also think Peter Lorre is wasted in the role of Conseil. I really think the movie would be much better overall if it took itself more seriously, or made the comic aspects less cute; as it is, the movie spends too much time reminding you it came from Disney.