Sunday, March 18, 2007

More Jules Verne

We're having a Jules Verne fit here, after the article on the subterranean body of water (see my post, Jules Verne was right!). So we thought we'd rent 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea from Netflix. Well, the search on Netflix turned up a treasure which I highly recommend. Did you know that in 1916, there was a blockbuster movie version of 20,000 Leagues, containing the first underwater photography sequences in movie history?? They're fabulous - it's too bad they aren't in color but you can't have everything, and they are clearly live underwater sequences of coral reefs.

The movie is a total hoot. Apparently Verne's plot wasn't enough for the filmmakers, so they incorporated another whole story, about an evil ship captain, a bereaved Indian prince (not Native American), a Child of Nature (female of course, and wearing a
sort of leopardskin dress) living on a Mysterious Island, and four American Navy men in a balloon, also marooned on the Mysterious Island when the balloon blows off course. I spent about half the movie asking, "Who are these people??" They tie it all together in the last reel, sort of.

And the submarine! The submarine looks amazingly like a modern submarine. I guess form follows function
, although Captain Nemo's cabin seems to have more wood paneling and hangings than the U.S. Navy would provide. They even have diving suits, and "self contained oxygen tanks" which allow them to stay under the sea "indefinitely" (they look about the size of a small propane tank). You scuba divers, quit giggling. This was 1916. There are a number of sequences of people in diving suits with lead shoes, walking around on the sea bottom, and one where a couple of guys suit up, climb down to the bottom, and walk ashore, and then help each other take the suits off. It's obviously quite real, this was much too early for trick photography, and I have no idea how they did this with a hand-cranked camera. They have wonderful footage of circling sharks and barracuda, shot from below.

The best of it is - you don't have to listen to Kirk Douglas singing "A Whale of a Tale."


  1. Anonymous11:53 AM

    Every time you mention that song I get it stuck in my head...

  2. Anonymous6:03 PM

    OK, hedera, sounds like you hit Vernsian paydirt. Gotta get this one.

    Anonymous David

    stephen, hey, dude.

  3. Anonymous6:05 PM

    Where did that s come from?

    Anonymous David

  4. Anonymous10:32 PM

    Didn't he write The Mysterious Island? Seems I remember reading that as a kid. Good story.