In 1868, ships are being sunk by what appears to be a monster. Investigating scientists PaulLukas and Peter Lorre discover that it is, in fact, a submarine, when their ship is struck. They arepicked up, along with sailor Kirk Douglas, by Captain Nemo (James Mason) of the Nautilus. IsNemo a genius or megalomaniac? Villain or hero? Both? Our heroes wrestle with these questionsover the course of their adventures. The special effects, almost 50 years old, still stand up well(wi…h the attack by the giant squid a highlight). Kirk Douglas’ cocky character seems rather datedand annoying now (as is his song), but James Mason’s Nemo remains impressive, and Masoninhabits the role perfectly.
The film has been remastered to THX-Certified 5.1 sound. All well and good, and the pitfallsof such remastering (surround voices and rear static and hiss) are (generally speaking) avoided.The music too sounds very good, especially given that this is a soundtrack from 1954. There aresome nice instances of left-right separation as well. Overall, though, the sound FX aren’t thatnoticeable in surround terms, with some obvious highlights (explosions, crowd scenes)passed up. The sound generally has a nice, rich feel to it, but does need to have the levelcranked.
This is an early Cinemascope picture, and Disney has rightly preserved the extremewidescreen aspect of 2.55:1. The film would really suffer cropped. The accompanying DonaldDuck cartoon is also presented in this format, and this is the first time I’ve seen the cartoon in itscorrect ratio. The print is in excellent shape, with only very minor grain, and no damage at all.The colours, blacks and contrasts are fine. There is a very slight flicker noticeable once in awhile, and the layer transition is awkwardly timed.
The menu is very elaborate on both discs, almost too much so: some of the transitions areannoyingly long. Lots of animation and music to keep you amused at the first levels, at any rate.Disc 1 contains the aforementioned Donald Duck cartoon (originally released with 20,000Leagues, and containing a cute Cinemascope joke), an armful of Disney trailers, and acommentary. The commentary is in the form of an interview with director Richard Fleischerconducted by film historian Rudy Behlmer, and the emphasis is massively on the technical sideof the production.
Disc 2 is so full of features, it beggars description. The fact that the Making Of documentary,a full hour-and-a-half long and covering (you would think) just about everything about themovie, is tossed off as just another extra should tell you just how packed this disc is. Under the“Production Archives” menu you will find all kinds of featurettes and montages, dealing with themusic, the production design, movie merchandise, unused animation, storyboards, and promotion(the theatrical trailer, an excerpt from the Disney TV show dealing with squid). There is a fair bitof lost footage here, and you will find still more under “Lost Treasures” – here is the originalversion of the squid attack sequence. There are six different galleries (3 on production art, andone each on documents, bios and a screenplay excerpt). The “Audio Archives” are radio spots,organ music, and Lorre looping his dialogue in post-production. Miscellaneous other extras arethe “1954 Disney Studio Album” (a 4-minute montage of the studio’s output that year), 7minutes on the Humboldt squid (the inspiration for the monster in the film), and a quarter-of-an-hour examination of the parallels between Disney and Verne.
One of the most packed double-disc offerings I’ve encountered, this is an utterly first-ratepresentation of a classic adventure movie.
Special Features List
- Audio commentary with director Richard Fleischer
- Animated short: “Grand Canyonscope”
- The Making Of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’
- Jules Verne & Walt Disney: Explorers of the Imagination
- The Humboldt Squid: A Real Sea Monster
- Lost Treasures: The Sunset Squid
- 1954 Disney Studio Album
- Production Gallery
- The Musical Legacy of Paul Smith
- Touring The Nautilus
- Storyboard-to-Scene Comparison
- Monsters Of The Deep
- Unused Animation plus a lot more