Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 12/12/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Mysterious Island was always a favorite Harryhausen film of mine as a kid. The screenplay and direction (like those for The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and The Argonauts)is top notch. Director Cy Endfield has a solid cast and the pacing along with Bernard Herrmann's classic score creates an eerie and, well, mysterious feeling for most of the movie. The stand out in the cast is, of course, the marvelous and under rated Herbert Lom as Captain Nemo. If you haven't seen the film, I'd rather not spoil the third act of the film for you so won't go into too much detail.
The Civil War is tearing America apart. A small group of Union soldiers and a reporter escape a military prison during the seige of Richmond, Virginia. They also have a There's a scouting balloon just outside the prison walls. As the attack rages, the prisoners escape in the balloon. They are washed up ashore on an uncharted island with a brewing volcano.
It's not ordinary island (no surprise)though as they discover a giant crab and later, giant bees, chickens and other creatures. They're joined in their Robinson Crusoe adventure by a couple of women who are later washed ashore from a shipwreck. They soon discover the origin of the giant beasts and some nasty news about the volcano as well.
The cast gives a good performance. Gary Merrill (best known for All About Eve and former husband of Betty Davis) and Michael Callan are the most recognizable faces. Callan was a regular in a number of movies and television shows as a supporting actor. Joan Greenwood also gives a convincing performance as well. Still, the stand out here is the brooding performance as Herbert Lom. Lom always managed to raise the bar in any film he appeared in.
The screenplay (for those that are interested)isn't all that faithful to Verne's novel. The basic premise is drawn from his novel.
The transfer is pretty good. I doubt with the multiple exposures used as part of the visual effects that the film could look much better than this. Given the use of traveling mattes, matte paintings and other optical effects the image is occasionally grainy and indistinct. There are also some minor issues with digital grain that crop up on occasion. This is usually due to compression issues. It's not a big distraction though and you probably won't notice it all that much in most cases.
There's also some analog artifacts as well but these are mostly in the war sequence at the beginning which were clearly drawn from stock footage in the Columbia library (much as Jason used stock footage for the attack at the beginning and Sinbad for the longshot of the ship passing in the fog. In the latter film its pretty clear as the crew can be seen wearing 18 century sailor garb if one looks carefully).
As it has been noted in previous reviews the soundtrack is in mono and sounds a bit flat. My guess is that, perhaps, Columbia used a different master for the video version of Mysterious Island or just compressed the heck out of it and boosted the bass to make it sound acceptable for video. The sound is quite good but Herrmann's score is in mono here. It would be nice if Columbia could go back to the original orchestral masters to remix and master this but I'm not sure if the original elements are event available.
The extras are quite nice. The Making of Mysterious Island is quite informative as is the vintage "This is Dynamation" featurette included. The photo gallery and theatrical trailers are an improvement over previously issued Harryhausen DVDs. While this isn't quite up to the quality of, say, the Criterion Jason and The Argonauts laserdisc released a decade ago, it's an improvement over many of the vintage films being dumped onto the market for DVD.
All told this is a pretty good (although not perfect) package from Columbia and a noble effort to release vintage films with extras on DVD."
One of Harryhausen's BEST!!!
Wayne Klein | 11/02/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After "JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS", this has always been one of my favorite pictures by special effects guru RAY HARRYHAUSEN. The story is great, the monsters (especially the giant crab) look fantastic and HERBERT LOM is wonderful as CAPTAIN NEMO ("Contact with my species has always disappointed me"). The picture and sound on the DVD is most pleasing. My only complaint (and its a minor one), is I'm tired of seeing the hour long special "THE HARRYHAUSEN CHRONICLES" as a bonus feature. I think its on every Harryhausen disc except "JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS". Its a nice feature (don't get me wrong) but does it have to be on EVERY DISC? But the movie is what's most important and this is a very enjoyable film given a nice presentation on this DVD. Buy it and enjoy!!!"
JULES VERNES' CLASSIC TALE....
Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 11/20/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Entertaining fantasy-adventure based on Jules Vernes' story about escapees from a Civil War prison who hijack a hot air observation balloon during a thunderstorm and get blown off course. They crash land on a strange island and discover it's inhabited by giant creatures. They are joined by two female survivors of a British ship wreck and forge together for survival. They battle a giant crab, a giant bird and a giant honeybee before they encounter the islands' oddest inhabitant---the infamous Capt.Nemo who has invented a submarine and learned to move about underwater with special equipment fashioned from giant sea shells. They are soon set upon by pirates whom Nemo dispatches when he sinks their ship. Nemo agrees to help them escape before a huge local volcano erupts. Great score by Bernard Herrmann and imaginatively filmed with a spirited cast. Only problem is the DVD transfer---it's not very good. Kind of a disappointment since this is a very colorful and stylish film. But since this is the best we can do for now I'll have to recommend it for lovers of escapist fare and Ray Harryhausen fans. The creatures are wonderful and the individual set pieces involving them are great. There's a marvelous underwater encounter with a giant tentacled shell creature near the end of the film that's mostly done in silence to great effect. The film is grand entertainment even if it's not the best quality DVD it should be."
Michael Butts | Martinsburg, WV USA | 10/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From its opening raindrenched hot air balloon sequence to its catastrophic volcanic eruption, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND is one of Ray Harryhausen's most brilliantly realized films. The master special effects wizard who long before CGI defined stop motion animation brings us fantastic sequences, including the giant crab, bees, chicken (or whatever) and squid. By 1961, Harryhausen had honed his art to where one can only marvel at how much a single man and his team could do. Herbert Lom (Phantom of the Opera, the Pink Panther series) is remarkable as the gentlemanly Captain Nemo, whose only goal is to rid the world of war; Gary Merrill is the crusty newspaper correspondent who admires Nemo; Michael Craig is the dashing leader of the Union soldiers; teen hearthrob Michael Callan is the somewhat cowardly young man who achieves his manhood after rescuring the fair Beth Rogan from the aforementioned giant chicken; Joan Greenwood is the snooty but earthly Lady; Percy Herbert, one of Britain's finest character actors, shows up as a confederate stowaway; and Dan Jackson is the black naval officer who helps everyone out. The revered Bernard Hermann offers one of his bombastic, but brilliant, scores, and the movie just sails along on its own energetic level. Children should be delighted to watch this movie, simply because it doesn't rely on gore, and one can show them what movies were like before computers."
A. M. Smith | Eugene,OR | 08/08/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Warning before you buy!! This particular "Widescreen" version appears to be nothing more than 4:3 "Zoomed" (not the best term I agree) to 16:9, which results , for me anyway, in a terrible picture of, giant heads, and half bodies w/ most of the original movie chopped off...it DOES fill the screen however,...which seems to be the most important thing to 90% of viewers... "