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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Mysterious Island (1929)

Starring Lionel Barrymore, Jacqueline Gadsdon, Lloyd Hughes, Montagu Love, Harry Gribbon
Directed by Lucien Hubbard
(actor & director credits courtesy

After successfully constructing a powerful underwater submarine, the brilliant Count Dakkar is betrayed by a friend who wants to use it to attack the nations of the world. 

Although based on Jules Verne's famed tales of Captain Nemo, there's very little content from his novels included in the film, and Barrymore's character is not even called Nemo, going by his original name of Dakkar here.  Filmed near the dawn of sound in the cinema, the picture incorporates both silent sequences and some limited spoken dialogue and sound effects as well as a full musical underscore.  Although it's not a faithful Verne adaptation, it is a terrific film, full of fantastic visuals and impressive special effects that should have been quite eye-popping at the time.  The sequences in which Barrymore and his crew encounter tiny men living under the sea are extremely striking, expertly composited against the submarine miniatures, and intercut with dynamic shots of hundreds of extras in costume to bring the mer-creatures to life.  Although Hubbard should get a lot of credit, some of the impressive sights may be due to the uncredited work of directors Benjamin Christensen and Maurice Tourneur, who according to Wikipedia, worked briefly on the production.

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