A group of escaped prisoners, traveling in a hot air balloon, have to land on a remote islands and must try to survive there. They encounter a castaway, pirates, and captain Nemo with his array of scientific gadgets to keep strangers off his island.
Directed by: Juan Antonio Bardem
, Henri Colpi
. Starring: Omar Sharif
, Ambroise Bia
, Jess Hahn
, Philippe Nicaud
, Gérard Tichy
, Gabriele Tinti
, Rafael Bardem Jr.
, Mariano Vidal Molina
, Rik Battaglia
, Alfonso de la Vega
, Miguel del Castillo
, Luis Induni
, Víctor Israel
. Music by: Gianni Ferrio
Here's the infamous European miniseries of the classic Verne tale, which was produced in no less than three countries - France, Spain, and last of all Italy. THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND OF CAPTAIN NEMO has acquired the status of a "lost classic" these days due to the unavailability of it, with international video prints few and far between. The film has something magical about it and seemingly entranced a nation of children who caught it when it was first shown on television back in the mid '70s. Unfortunately, the entire miniseries is missing presumed lost, so all we are currently left with is a feature length version.
This production sticks fairly closely to the original tale by Jules Verne, while adding in a few choice elements of its own, namely the science fiction angle. The film is leisurely paced and focuses far more on atmosphere and suspense rather than all-out thrills and action, although it is not without the latter. The location filming is excellent, with authentic-looking scenery for the actors to explore, and the barren landscape really adds a level of mystery and suspense to the entire movie. It's certainly very watchable and gripping in a "what happens next?" type sense, and being a character-focused story also gives the viewer a sense of "being there" as events take place.
The acting is pretty good from the mainly Spanish cast, with the only big name really being Omar Sharif, who takes the minor role of Captain Nemo who appears towards the end of the movie. Sharif keeps a straight face throughout and is deadly serious in the role, and in my opinion is perfectly cast as the man I would imagine Nemo to be (forget Herbert Lom). Euro-fans will no doubt spot a number of familiar faces and names appearing in the cast, a list which includes the like of Gabriele Tinti, Rik Battaglia, and Gerard Tichy. In regards to the characters, the film seems to be rooted in realism and there are no over-the-top scenes of people losing it and turning on their companions. Instead it opts for an approach similar to that of Tom Hanks in CASTAWAY, with the shipwrecked victims being ordinary folk forced to adapt as best they can to island life and learning to fend for themselves.
One of the big questions I guess is how does it compare with the '61 MYSTERIOUS ISLAND with effects by Ray Harryhausen. The biggest difference is in the budget. In the previous feature, the film was packed with weird and wonderful giant creatures and excellent special effects. Here, the budget appears to be a lot smaller, so there are no monsters or fantastic creatures whatsoever. Instead, the movie goes for a sci-fi approach, and in the case of the special effects, the imagination overcomes the problems of the low budget with ease. Chiefly of interest are some remote weapons which glitter and flash from a mountaintop and zap any intruders with invisible lightning bolts. Ignore the fact that these are cheaply-made constructions on sticks and you may well feel the odd chill or two at the sight of these weird devices. Certainly the sight of them protruding from the top of the mountain evokes fear of the unknown.
A lot of imagination also goes into the film's set design, with some pretty (but briefly seen) exterior shots of the underground Nautilus and some interestingly-designed interior corridors which definitely go for the futuristic sci-fi approach. The costumes of Nemo's crew are also very weird, with elaborate (almost aboriginal-looking) masks and brightly coloured suits. Being a production aimed at kids there is no real violence, although the scene in which Jupiter (the chimp) gets gunned down is enough to annoy any animal lover.
As well as these factors, THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND OF CAPTAIN NEMO offers us an extremely cheesy model balloon; a wild-eyed brute man who runs around like in a bad jungle movie; cute animals in the form of the chimp and a dog; an annoyingly cute Spanish kid; a shoot-out with a brutal gang of pirates which is expertly-handled and pretty tense; a cool ship explosion; a cheesy electrocution of one of the major bad guys; some murky underwater action; and an exciting climatic volcano eruption. For me, the production is worth watching for the atmosphere and atmospheric scenery alone, but it's also an interesting and involving adventure yarn to boot.
Review by Leofwine_draca from the Internet Movie Database.