This movie must have looked great back in 1961, though the special effects today look pretty dated. Now I am not trying to be nasty--I can respect the work Ray Harryhausen did with the film but in this age of incredible CGI work, his stop-motion work does look pretty quaint. Plus, the superimposed backgrounds and other effects just seem to have aged poorly. HOWEVER, the film still looks good and is entertaining--making it sort of a 'turn off your brain and enjoy' sort of film.
It begins at a Confederate prison camp during the US Civil War. A group of Union soldiers have a remarkably easy time escaping and seizing an observation balloon. But, once in the balloon they hit a huge storm that takes them way out over the Pacific Ocean. After many days, they arrive at an odd island--odd because there are some HUGE creatures there and also because oddly fortuitous things keep happening. First, some ladies conveniently land there as well (yet the island is supposedly in the middle of no where). Second, when pirates or giant animals attack, Captain Nemo suddenly appears and saves the day. Third, when the island decides to explode and kill them all, they manage to create a means of escape.
Now you might think this would make for a silly film, but the overall effect was actually pretty cool. The acting, while most of the actors are relative unknowns, was quite good. The only really familiar faces I saw were Herbert Lom (who played a nice Captain Nemo) and Gary Merrill (one of Bette Davis' many husbands and a very underrated actor). I think kids, fantasy and Harryhausen fans will enjoy this. However, if you are a person who only watches DVDs from the Criterion Collection or the latest and most up to date films, you probably won't enjoy this film nearly as much. I liked it because it was charming for its kitsch value--plus it was pretty fun.
By the way, although there are several silly effects in the film, the one that made me laugh is one I see all the time. At one point the folks find a skeleton and it is fully articulated--in other words, all the bones are connected like you'd see in a skeleton in a science classroom. Well, despite seeing these all the time in movies, once the flesh is removed from a skeleton, the ligaments and tendons become disconnected from the bones and the whole thing falls apart. In other words, you'd just find a pile of bones.
Review by planktonrules from the Internet Movie Database.