CAPTAIN NEMO AND THE UNDERWATER CITY (1969)
Article #1704 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-13-2005
Posting Date: 4-12-2006
Directed by James Hill
Featuring Robert Ryan, Chuck Connors, Nanette Newman
The lives of several passengers of a sinking ship are saved from death by Captain Nemo, who takes them to his underwater city. Though they wish to return to dry land, he refuses to let them go for fear that it will destroy the utopia he has created.
What happens when you cross 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA with LOST HORIZON? Here’s the answer; an underwater adventure / utopia thriller which is too busy recalling the glories of the two earlier movies without ever really coming into its own. And that’s the main problem with the movie; even with the utopia element thrown in, it’s just a rehash of LEAGUES; in fact, if it weren’t for the fact that there’s a little more skin on display, this one might as well have been made a couple of years after the Disney movie. It even throws a monster manta ray to serve as an equivalent to the giant squid in that one, but I invite you to compare how the battles with these monsters in their respective movies compare to tell the difference between film-making that is inspired (in one case) and routine (in the other). Probably the person having the most fun in this movie is the art director, and even he goes over the top in certain cases; it’s hard to take the panic and fear seriously when the alarm announcing it is shaped like a lobster, or when Captain Nemo barks urgent orders through a fish-shaped microphone. It’s really hard to gauge Robert Ryan’s performance in the title role here, though he does have something of a thankless task here; how do you make a character like this your own when the production seeks to remind you of the earlier production in which James Mason did a definitive take on the same role?
Still, the movie, predictable as it is, does dredge up one real surprise in the course of events; at the end of the movie, all the main character have either 1) escaped from the underwater city, 2) remained in the underwater city, or 3) died. Usually you can predict who will suffer what fate, but this time, the fates of two characters are the opposite of what you might expect. And overall, despite its air of redundancy, the movie is watchable enough.