|JULES VERNE'S MYSTERIOUS ISLAND||ILLUSTRATED BYJAMES CLINTON CURRAN|
|COLUMBIA PICTURES / US / UK / 1961 / SCIENCE FICTION / 101 MINUTES / NO RATING / COLOR|
|FILM REVIEWS & SYNOPSIS BY JAMES CLINTON CURRAN / DOCUMENTARY FILM HISTORIAN|
|FILM REVIEWS & STORYBOARDS BELOW|
|MYSTERIOUS ISLAND FILM STORYBOARD BY JAMES CLINTON CURRAN|
NOW LISTENING TO THE STEREO SOUNDTRACK OF
PICTURES 1961 MYSTERIOUS
ISLAND END THEME BY COMPOSER
COLUMBIA PICTURES / US / UK / 1961 / SCIENCE FICTION / 101 MINUTES / NO RATING / COLOR
FILM REVIEWS & SYNOPSIS BY JAMES CLINTON CURRAN / DOCUMENTARY FILM HISTORIAN
CAST AND CREW
Cast: Michael Craig (Captain Cyrus Harding); Joan Greenwood (Lady Mary Fairchild); Michael Callan (Herbert Brown); Gary Merrill (Gideon Spilett); Herbert Lom (Captain Nemo); Beth Rogan (Elena); Percy Herbert (Sergeant Pencroft); Dan Jackson (Neb)
Producer: Charles H. Schneer; Director: Cy Endfield; Screenwriter: John Prebble, Dan Ullman, Crane Wilbur based on the novel L'Ile Mysterieuse by Jules Verne; Editor: Frederick Wilson; Cinematographer: Wilkie Cooper, Egil Woxholt; Music director: Bernard Herrmann; Composer: Bernard Herrmann; Art design: Bill Andrews; Special effects: Ray Harryhausen; Art director: William C. Andrews; Production supervisor: Raymond Anzarut; Sound supervisor: John Cox; Assistant director: René Dupont; Title design: Bob Gill; Sound recordist: Bob Jones; Continuity: Marjorie Lavelly; Camera operator: Jack Mills; Production manager: Bob Sterne; Underwater photography: Egil S. Woxholt.
BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE MAKING OF JULES VERNE'S MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
There were many changes from the original screenplay to the final film for MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. The original screenplay called for the Island to be part of the ruined remains of Atlantis and to have the Island inhabited by prehistoric creatures. Crane Wilbur had written the screenplay as a follow-up to the popular Disney films 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954). When Columbia Pictures decided that this was a perfect follow-up to the successful SINBAD films, Daniel Ullman and John Prebble were called in for a re-write of the script. In place of the prehistoric creatures of the original screenplay, giant creatures genetically mutated by Captain Nemo were used allowing Ray to, once again, stretch his creative talents.
The dramatic opening sequence of the film which highlights an escape in an observation balloon during a storm. Ray once again employed the sodium process for this sequence. Carefully observing this sequence it is very obvious of the detail in which Harryhausen went to achieve this effect by watching the hair of the prisoners as they escape. Virtually every hair is seen as the wind and storm blow it around. The balloon set is a miniature and this sequence is often criticized as having Television antenna on the roof of the houses. This IS NOT the case. Looking a little closer you will see that those TV antenna are actually lightning rods. As stated before, this was a miniature set and Harryhausen wouldn't have constructed miniature TV antenna on the roofs of the houses. Another masterful stroke from Harryhausen comes during a sequence when the balloon travels through a cloud and the sun tints the balloon with a reddish/orange tint.
The look of the island is achieved through matte paintings making the Spanish beach of Costa Brava look like a totally isolated island. A 50 foot mock-up of the cliff containing the cave was constructed but was rarely used in the film. A cave front was created on the beach of Costa Brava. Ray then made a matte painting, added later, to hide the background creating a much different and striking look. The two images below show the difference. The image on the left is the Costa Brava Beach with the larger cliff front and the smaller front used for closer shots. The image on the left shows the larger cave front after it has been altered by Ray's matte painting.
In something of a tribute to KING KONG, Ray includes a sequence of a log creating a bridge across a deep cavern. Ray added an optical effect of a roaring stream though no real water was used, it was actually a a swirling mist optically placed into the set. The volcano of the island was a six-foot miniature shot at 96 frames per second successfully creating the illusion of an ominous threat with smoke rising from it's crater.
The first stop-motion creature encountered in the film is a giant crab. Ray searched for the largest live crab he could find and then dismembered it so that the armatures could be placed inside the actually shell of the crab. During this sequence, the crab grabs Neb (played by Dan Jackson) with the intention of making Neb his supper. The sequence was achieved by creating a giant claw for shots involving Jackson. Ray also created a stop-motion puppet of the Jackson character. The scenes are expertly intercut along with shots of a living crab (in the scenes involving the moving mandibles) creating an exciting sequence.
Another creature in the film is a giant bee. This is one of Ray's finest stop-motion effect sequences. The bee is always a stop-motion model, there are no actual bees used here. There is painstaking detail and the creature moves in such a realistic way that it looks like a real bee. The look of the bee in flight was accomplished by a 5 frame cycle giving the rapid movement of the wings the look of a real bee in flight. In the shot involving three bees, Ray used a perfectly matched split-screen process. Only one model bee was ever constructed. In the sequence where the Bee seals Michael Callan and Beth Rogan in the hive, Ray worked backwards. He started with the cave being sealed and then slowly removed pieces of the wax tomb. The sequence was then reversed and combined with the actors on a full-size set of the honeycomb using the sodium process.
The third creature from the film is often mistaken as a giant baby chicken. It is actually a phororhacos, the only surviving element of the original scripts prehistoric creatures. The shadow of the creature was actually a simple cardboard cutout. A stop-motion creature was intercut with scenes of a live-action Percy Herbert and a stop-motion puppet of Herbert as he leaps on the back of the beast. This scene was intercut with a large mock-up of the creature with Herbert riding him like a bucking bronco. In retrospect, it is easier to accept this creature as a giant chicken since it fits much better into the total concept of the film.
The final creature is a giant mollusk/squid creature. A miniature set of a ruined Atlantis was used as a backdrop for this sequence with underwater photography with the cast shot by Egil Woxhoft. Miniatures of the divers were constructed for sequences of the mollusk grabbing them. Again, skillful editing is used to combine these elements for a well-crafted sequence.
A model of Nautilus was constructed and it has been observed that it is strikingly similar to the Disney submarine. The reason for this is that the effects team at Disney and Ray Harryhausen both used the drawings and engravings from the many illustrated versions of the Jules Verne novel. The Harryhausen model is less Victorian and appears to be much more realistic and functional than the Disney version. The interior sets appear more modern than the Disney version when it comes to the mechanical aspects but the living quarters are plush and beautiful.
Stock footage was used in this film. For the opening Civil War sequence, scenes from TAP ROOTS were blended with the miniature sets shot at Shepperton Studios. Scenes from THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER involving the sailors falling off the ship were also included here. The lava sequences were taken from Paramont's FAIR WIND TO JAVA. The shot of an actual volcano was also used and is the only ineffective scene in the entire film. It simply looks out of place here.
The film is directed by Cy Enfield, a blacklisted directed from the United States. Working with a budget between 21/2 to 3 million, Enfield creates a far superior film than his later works like ZULU DAWN. He helps to develop the characters and adds touches absent from other Schneer/Harryhausen projects. In one sequence of particular note involves the discovery of Merrill on the beach. While the action takes place on the beach, Enfield includes an almost subliminal inclusion of the Nemo character on the top of the cliff. While you have to look quick to spot him, Enfield is telling us that Merril was indeed rescued by someone who built the fire for him and that this island is already inhabited.
Bernard Herrmann creates and excellent score for this film, adding to the grandeur and mythical elements of the film. His themes are fantastic and alien to much of what was accepted as film score of the time. The theme for the giant crab sequence features eight french horns that wail ominously adding to the eerie fantasy elements of the sequence. The entire score is available from Cloud Nine Records. Cloud Nine Records also has an abridged version of the score on their CLASSIC FANTASY FILM SCORES which includes music from THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER, THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.
The myth of Ray's obsession with secrecy during the filming of the stop-motion sequences is shattered by Gary Merrill. He got to watch Ray working first-hand on the effects and commented later that he couldn't believe the absolute patience of Harryhausen stating that he was exhausted just watching him work.
MYSTERIOUS ISLAND was released in December of 1961 in the United States and then the following year in England. Though not as profitable as the previous Schneer/Harryhausen collaborations, Mysterious was successful in the United States and became one of the top 10 moneymakers in England. For their next project, it was decided that they would return to the more mythological type adventure like Sinbad for their next project, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.
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