The Mysterious Island of Captain Nemo (1973)

THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND OF CAPTAIN NEMO (1973)
aka La isla misteriosa
Article 3882 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-22-2012
Posting Date: 3-31-2012
Directed by Juan Antonio Bardem and Henri Colpi
Featuring Omar Sharif, Ambroise Bia, Jess Hahn
Country: Spain / France /Italy / Cameroon
What it is: Verne adaptation

A group of POWs escape from the confederate army in a hot air balloon, but a storm blows them to a deserted island where they must fend for themselves. But they have an unexpected if secretive ally. Could it be Captain Nemo of the Nautilus…?

I’m cheating a little on this one. My first reaction as I started watching this that was that the movie was dwelling much longer on the civil war sequence at the beginning than was strictly necessary, and I was a good forty minutes into it before they even reached the island. It was at this point that I became curious, and checked the stats on it from IMDB. The movie clocks in at 96 minutes, but there is a two-hour Spanish version. And then I discovered that it had all been edited from a 6-episode TV series, with each episode 52 minutes long. After a while, it finally dawned on me that I had netted a version that seemed to have almost all of the TV episodes in their entirety; the beginning and ending credits are missing, but the whole thing ran about 4 1/2 hours for me. Well, seeing that I was already about ninety minutes into it at that point (and that I had no other source for it that I knew of), I decided to sit through the whole thing and review it.

This turned out to be a bit of a chore; the pacing is very deliberate, and there were a few times I just had to take a break from it. It took me two days to get through it. Now I don’t know what the 96 minute version must have been like, but I suspect that it would have been rough and rather fragmented. This version more or less follows the novel, and I think I actually liked the bits where deals with the Robinson Crusoe-like survival tactics of the castaways; despite it’s slowness, I liked the sequence where a scientist builds a makeshift lens from a couple of clock faces, a process which is shown in thorough detail. The story gives away the presence of Captain Nemo early on, most likely due to the fact that the big name here is Omar Sharif, and they probably wanted to feature him in every episode in some capacity, though he doesn’t really take a major part in the action until the final part of the story. Still, the story is sorely lacking in energy, and this is never more apparent in the disappointing climax, which is mostly talk when it should be emphasizing action. Sharif looks good in the role, but his performance lacks pizzazz (or as much of it that I could tell, given that my copy was dubbed into German with English subtitles). All in all, it was sporadically interesting, but it would probably be best enjoyed an episode at a time over a few weeks.

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