Mar 24

20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1957) – By Martin Chittenden – DCN Movies Film Expert

20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1957)

When Disney was cool review

By Martin Chittenden

Back in the day, Disney was a powerhouse of family entertainment.  They had the cartoon films and then live action.  They actually dealt with real problems of the human condition instead of cartoon characters that learn a lesson without a skateboarding/snowboarding grandma and the fear of death put in such a way that “bad things” instead of “Die.”

20,000 Leagues under the Sea is a classic film that has everything Disney doesn’t use anymore, death, drinking, smoking, lust, revenge, and awesomeness.  It was adapted from the book by Jules Verne, which are not the kids of Doc Brown in Back to the Future III. Set in the late 1800’s, it is the story of Captain Nemo (James Mason), a mysterious scientist imprisoned by some country for his knowledge of Nuclear power. He escapes and builds the Nautilus, a nuclear submarine that he uses to destroy the machine of war by sinking war boats and supply ships carrying gunpowder and such.  The Nautilus is considered a sea monster by the world because they can’t comprehend the notion of a sub in that time.  Professor Arranax (Paul Lukas) and his apprentice Consiel (Peter Lorre) are marine biologists from France (even though Peter Lorre is German but in those days you had to suspend disbelief) who set out with the US Navy (Insert Patriotic Cheer here) along with Ned Land (Kirk Douglas for some reason) who is a whaler trying to harpoon the monster.

Turns out I’ve already given the plot in a backwards order above so let’s review shall we?  First and foremost James Mason is the only man who makes Captain Nemo the civilized evil genius mastermind murderer that the character is.  Nemo’s wife and children were killed for his secret of nuclear power (They didn’t call it that in the movie but it is heavily implied).  In this story you root for the bad guy more than the hero, who happens to be Kirk Douglas who is a good actor but his idiocy and chin make him laughable.  I personally have grown up with pirate talk spoken with British accents, so Kirk Douglas in his American accent saying “mate” and the like makes my skin crawl.  Paul Lukas plays the same character he plays in all of his movies, the French guy, except in Ghost Breakers (I’ll review that at a later time) where we are led to believe he is Cuban with a French accent hinted with Spanish.  Peter Lorre was in his later years in this movie and died shortly after so the professor calls him his protégé is kind of funny to me.  There is action and even though the giant squid is not as cool as the CGI Kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean, remember this was the 1950’s and computers were the size of houses and did like 1/128th of the job yours does today.  All in all, if you can get past Kirk Douglas being the idiot and the first mate of the Nautilus whose job is to yell out only what Nemo orders.  Seriously, the guy who played him had virtually the same script that James Mason had.  I like this movie because it showed Disney was not a bunch of babies that are afraid of their own shadow. This is an action movie, with manly action, and manly men doing manly things, except Kirk Douglas and his chin, whatever he was doing, I’m guessing something to entertain the kids.  I loved Captain Nemo, but I’m weird in the head.


Chittenden, Martin Chittenden.  I’ll have a Long Island Iced Tea, shaken not stirred


Would you like to argue with me about my movie opinions?  Do you get feelings of dread in your basement or attic?  Are you Eva Green and would like to date me?  If you’ve answered yes to any questions above email me at: martinc@movies.discovercountynetwork.com