Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sea Minus

As kids, Ms. Spenser and I were big fans of adventure movies - and we still are. We revisit the oldies from time to time, and see how they hold up. Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) doesn't do so well.

Back in the 19th century, it seems that a scary sea-monster was threatening shipping in the largest tank on the Disney lot - I mean, in the South Pacific. Professor Paul Lukas and his assistant Peter Lorre are on their way to Saigon, and join a government expedition to hunt the monster. Seaman Kirk Douglas comes along to add some manly manliness and sing some pop sea chanties.

Douglas' song confirmed the fear that had been growing in our hearts - this movie was going to be a bit of a trial. It picks up a but when the monster sinks the expedition with all hands except the above. It is the Nautilus, Captain Nemo's (James Mason) submersible, a lovely set that I remember fondly from childhood viewings. Mason is good as the tortured, civilized yet vicious Nemo, so is Peter Lorre as the voice of reason against him. The special effects are .., interesting, I suppose, from a historical perspective. The giant squid fight was a lot sillier and less exciting than I remember.

But I'd say the worst offense this movie commits is Kirk Douglas' agressive cheesiness. His character is supposed to be somewhat obnoxious, I guess - the brash working-class American among the intellectuals - but he comes off as just a prick to me.

The best thing about it is Nemo's pet seal, who seems to love everyone and everyone loves her. So there's always that.

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