Mysterious Island (1961)

MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961)
Article #1726 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-5-2005
Posting Date: 5-4-2006
Directed by Cy Endfield
Featuring Michael Craig, Joan Greenwood, Michael Callan

Several Union soldiers escape from a Confederate prison camp in a balloon. They are swept out to sea by a storm and land on a deserted island populated by strange vegetation and giant creatures.

I’ve always preferred Ray Harryhausen’s color movies from the late fifties and early sixties to his black and white movies from the fifites. This was because I found that in his earlier films, my interest level went way down when the Harryhausen creations weren’t on the rampage, and I never had these problems with his later color films. Still, there’s another factor involved, and that was that my local Creature Feature never showed any Harryhausen movies, and the only ones that popped up in my regular viewing elsewhere were his color movies on prime time. As a result, I just don’t quite have the same nostalgic fondness for EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS or IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA that I do for JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, and this one.

If anything, this is the one I remember best from my childhood. Four of the scenes have stayed with me for years; the battle with the giant crab, the somewhat humorous encounter with the giant chicken (my favorite scene), two of the castaways being sealed up in a honeycomb by a giant bee (which was pretty merciful if you consider just what other thing a giant bee could have done to them), and the scene where Captain Nemo rises out of the sea in his shell-shaped diving gear. This was my real first encounter with the character of Nemo, and, despite James Mason’s excellent portrayal of the character in 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, I retain a strong fondness for Herbert Lom in the role. The movie actually sticks a little closer to the book than it might have; outside of the addition of the giant beasties (which is more of a touch I’d expect from H.G. Wells than Jules Verne) and the addition of two women to the plot, it retains the basic story of the Verne novel. I was glad to see that it still held my interest even when the monsters aren’t on the loose; in particular, I like the exciting escape sequence in the balloon at the beginning of the movie. There are a few problems; in particular, I don’t see any woman from nineteenth century England feeling quite at ease with a skirt of as short a length as the one worn by Beth Rogan in the second half of this movie (and it certainly doesn’t look like it or her visible panties were made with goat skin). Still, this will always be a welcome favorite, and I could watch that chicken sequence a hundred times and not get tired of it.

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