Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1916)

Article #1068 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-16-2004
Posting Date: 7-15-2004
Directed by Stuart Paton
Featuring Allen Holubar, Dan Hanlon, Curtis Benton

A scientist goes on a voyage to investigate a sea monster; it turns out to be a submarine helmed by the mysterious Captain Nemo.

When I checked IMDB for some information about this movie, I discovered a rather interesting fact; the entire cast of the movie is uncredited. Jules Verne’s name is mentioned repeatedly, producer Carl Laemmle gets a credit, and most of the attention goes to George and Ernest Williamson, who developed the first underwater photography that was used in this movie; in fact, these two are featured in the opening of the movie. In some ways, this is certainly appropriate; this movie could not have been made without the work of these two, though you would think that the actor who played Nemo would at least get a credit (by the way, he’s Allen Holubar).

In a sense, the movie undertakes a daunting task; not only does it take on the Verne novel of the title, but “Mysterious Island” as well. Furthermore, it comes up with an elaborate backstory about the history of Captain Nemo (and the credits tell us that Verne didn’t tell us this part), and in some ways, that sequence is the most exciting in the movie. The structure of the movie is somewhat bizarre; in some ways, it only glosses over the two Verne novels and spends more time and energy on the characters in the backstory, plus it only tells the backstory after the most of the rest of the movie has ended. Still, it’s the spectacle that rules this one, and the underwater scenes are fascinating to watch, even if things are a little hard to see in them. In particular, the scenes of the divers walking against the undertow are very memorable. However, I do feel the need to point out that as far as squids and octopi go, you’re better off with the squid fight in the Disney version than you are with the rather lame and obviously fake octopus that pops up in this one. Incidentally, one of the many uncredited cast members is none other than Noble Johnson.

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