MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1951)
Article 2652 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-10-2008
Posting Date: 11-16-2008
Directed by Spencer Bennet
Featuring Richard Crane, Marshall Reed, Karen Randle
Five prisoners of the Confederate Army during the Civil War escape in a balloon, but a hurricane carries them to a mysterious island. There they encounter a masked stranger, a wild man, pirates, a tribe of volcano people, and aliens from Mercury.
This isn’t the first serial I’ve seen based on a novel; THE GREEN ARCHER and DRUMS OF FU MANCHU both come to mind. It is, however, the first serial I’ve seen that’s based on a novel I’ve read. This gives me an opportunity to see how serials adapt novels. I was surprised that the serial more or less follows the novel closely… for the first fifteen minutes of episode one, that is. Then the volcano people (who wear nice uniforms and carry lightning-bolt shaped spears) and the space aliens from Mercury show up, and all resemblance to the original novel is gone. Even by serial standards the plot is lame; for ninety percent of the serial, most of the story seems to be a series of enemies turning to allies and back again; after a while, the only real mystery is who is going to end up an ally and who is going to end up an enemy at the end of the serial. All right, there IS the mystery of the identity of the mysterious masked stranger, but anyone remotely familiar with the story knows who that is. The rest is routine serial thrills, and I had more fun recognizing Richard “Rocky Jones” Crane as Captain Harding and Gene Roth as the head of the pirates. However, I do give the movie points for retaining the character of Neb, having him played by a black, and not turning him into a stereotype.