The Mysterious Island (1929) Poster

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7/10
Birth of the Hollywood "Jules Verne" Genre
wonderboss5 February 2005
This spectacular but ill-fated film was MGMs entry into the SF/Fantasy mini-boom of the 1920s. Attempting to cash in on the success of blockbusters such as The Lost World (1925) and The Thief of Bagdad (1924) Louis B. Mayer ordered a script fashioned which would be an amalgam of several Verne novels, with plot elements borrowed from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Master of the World, Michael Strogoff, along with the title book itself. As if to signal their hopes for the film to the world, the producers hired Lloyd Hughes, bright-eyed leading man from The Lost World, to play their hero and also retained the services of cameraman J. Ernest Williamson, who had photographed the groundbreaking underwater scenes featured in the 1916 version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The production was an exceptionally troubled one. The Mysterious Island was three years in the making, delayed and delayed, once by a hurricane that completely destroyed Williamson's underwater film laboratory. The decision to make the film in Technicolor (the original two-strip process introduced earlier in 1926 with Fairbanks's Black Pirate) was impeding progress as well. Then, just as the silent version of the film was approaching completion, the Talkie revolution swept the industry. This sent the filmmakers back to the drawing board yet again, where they reconceived the movie as a predominantly silent picture with several lengthy sound sequences. This decision not only necessitated a great deal of re-shooting, but also the replacement of Warner Oland (originally cast as the heavy of the piece, Baron Falon) with character actor Montagu Love. By the time The Mysterious Island was ready to show publicly it had cost the studio over 4 million dollars, an astronomical sum by the standards of the day. It was far and away MGMs most expensive project to date;and the future of science fiction in film was riding on its success. Those who did see The Mysterious Island during its original release certainly got an eyeful. Reclusive Count Dakkar (Captain Nemo's real name, by the way, as revealed by Verne in the 20,000 Leagues sequel) uses a spectacular volcanic island near the Baltic kingdom of Hetvia as home base for his scientific experiments. There he constructs two futuristic submarines with which he intends to investigate his theory of a mysterious race of half-human fish men living at the bottom of the sea. Just as the first of these submarines sets out on its sea-trials, however, Dakkar's old friend Falon betrays him, overruns his island with soldiers, and takes the Count and his sister Sonia hostage. Using them as bait, Falon lures the first submarine, captained by Dakkar's chief engineer Nicolai Roget, back into port and sinks it with cannonballs. As it descends uncontrollably into the depths, the triumphant Falon boards the second boat, which will now become an undreamed-of weapon of destruction in his ruthless and ambitious hands. The Baron hasn't reckoned on the determination of Sonia, however, who is willing to sink the second sub as well, with herself and Falon on board, rather than see her brother's work used for world domination. As Submarine #2 follows the other into the hopeless abyssal depths, The Mysterious Island begins to unleash its impressive array of special effects. Though undoubtedly crude by today's standards, these effects (similar to those seen in Thief of Bagdad) are nonetheless wonderfully imaginative, having something of the appeal of an elaborate puppet show. And the rigid diving suits the aquanauts use during the finale are worthy of mention also; somehow fanciful and yet believable at the same time, they're still impressive today. I think the drama in The Mysterious Island works well, too. Lionel Barrymore's transformation from idealistic, would-be benefactor of humanity into embittered vigilante is quite effective, and the torture scene that brings about this transformation is wrenching. Much has been made of the film's lack of fidelity to the original book;too much, in fact. What the filmmakers seem to have envisioned was an epitome of Verne, an attempt to capture the essence of the Vernian world rather than a literal adaptation of any one book. This being the case, I think it's interesting just how many of the author's themes did make it into The Mysterious Island. In fact, if you stopped the film just before the end it would work as an interesting prequel to Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The traumatic events that ignited Captain Nemo's anti-war crusade, merely alluded to in the Disney version, are vividly depicted here. At any rate, The Mysterious Island was, as you may have guessed by now, an abject failure at the box-office. For reasons that aren't quite clear, audiences of 1929 stayed away in droves and the film recouped less than ten per cent of its negative cost. The impact of this calamity, both on MGM and on the rest of Hollywood, would be difficult to overstate. The Mysterious Island disaster not only frightened producers away from Jules Verne, it cast a stink of failure over the entire concept of science-fiction cinema, a stink that clung to it for nearly 25 years. On the rare occasions when a sci-fi theme or concept did make it to the screen during the Thirties or Forties it was as part of a horror movie or in a cheap serial made for children. The Mysterious Island, in other words, managed to nip the whole burgeoning genre in the bud. The film itself was forgotten by MGM and nearly lost, perhaps on purpose. Even today, it can only be seen in black and white; no Technicolor print is known to exist.
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8/10
Amazing when seen today.
MartinHafer25 April 2006
I am a history teacher and sometimes use films to discuss American history. In particular, we discuss and learn about the earliest films and historically important films. While some of these films are just brief little snippets (like the very early Edison films) and some are extremely dated and dull by today's standards (THE JAZZ SINGER comes to mind), some of the films we discuss have aged very well and are still great entertainment. One such important but still entertaining early films is THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. It was intended as a silent film, but with the success of "talkies", the studio decided to add dialog and very loud sound effects to this very early sci-fi film taken from the Jules Verne novel. At times, the sound works very well--such as in the beginning when there is a lot of dialog (provided the record of the sounds was timed perfectly--fortunately on video and DVD this isn't a problem). At other times, it looks like a silent movie with a few tacked on sounds (similar to what happened with Harold Lloyd's WELCOME DANGER). However, despite this "hybrid" nature of the film, it is still very entertaining--and a lot of fun to see sci-fi done in the old fashioned way. The undersea sequences are of course dated, but not really that bad for 1929--in fact, I found them to be pretty charming. An interesting and entertaining film even today with a good performance from the great Lionel Barrymore.
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Kept me up just to see the sea people
dudeman568524 November 2002
I saw this a one AM last week on a TMC linel Barrymore marathon.C'mon anything thats labeled sci-fi and 1929 you just gotta love.This semi-talkie has the usual Vernian speculation (distant cousins of man living in the sea a la Blacklagoon) combined with twenties class conflict and Ceasarianism. But the real show is the special effects. Forgive me but those old silent FX just seem so much more "special" than the ones we have to day. Their cool if nothing for their age and a unique surreal quality that you don't see in talkies. Don't beleive me just ask the sea people.
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4/10
a real oddity, even when it was new
mjneu5917 December 2010
The first screen version of Jules Verne's undersea adventure was a critical, financial and artistic disaster when first released in 1929, but in retrospect it ranks among the more unusual failures ever made. Poised uncomfortably between silence and sound, it suffers all the drawbacks of both eras while retaining the virtues of neither, mixing outlandish melodrama and painfully awkward dialogue passages into a primitive fantasy set, in large part, at the bottom of the deepest, darkest sea, where a parallel race of strange, aquatic midgets live. There's an odd, anachronistic flavor to the mythical mid-19th century Slavic setting, peopled by characters named Sonia, Nikolai, Dmitri et al. It's as if the technology of the future (circa 1930) was superimposed over the ideas of the past, with dialogue and action set to the romanticized movie standards of Jazz Age Hollywood. As a silent film it would have been unconvincing; as a quasi-sound FX spectacle it's simply ludicrous, and the (loosely) synchronized sound effects only accentuate the silent images.
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7/10
The Undersea Kingdom
bkoganbing4 June 2010
After three years MGM finally completed and released The Mysterious Island in 1929 with sound grafted into the film. Though the grafting is rather evident it doesn't take away from the film itself and the enjoyment thereof.

This could easily have been a disaster for MGM. In their first two years the production costs of Ben-Hur and The Big Parade had the top brass worried. Fortunately both proved to be box office smashes and insured the survival of the studio. The Mysterious Island had that kind of ambition behind it and didn't do as well as those two classics, but by that time MGM's survival was guaranteed.

Apparently just as they were about to release it, sound was gaining more popularity and it was decided to add some dialog and sound effects. In a book about the Barrymore family Louis B. Mayer thanked whatever Gods he worshiped that the hero and villain of his film, Lionel Barrymore and Montagu Love were both theatrically trained players with marvelous speaking voices.

In fact one of the great things about the film is that the longest sequence with dialog is right at the beginning and it's between Barrymore and Love and it sets the stage for the whole film. In 1929 just about every film had overacting in it as players were getting used to sound. But there's not a trace of it in this sequence as both of these veterans by instinct knew how to handle the microphone.

MGM had a lot of shooting problems getting the special effects right, but for their time what came out was pretty darn good.

What they didn't do is use any part of Jules Verne's book other than the title. Barrymore is both a member of the nobility and a scientist who lives and works on his own island off the coast of some Balkan country. His island is a dead volcano the peasants all work for Barrymore in his experiments, but hardly in the same way they did for Dracula or Frankenstein. Montagu Love is another noble who has ambitions to take over the kingdom and would love to get his hands on the prototype deep sea submarine that Barrymore is constructing. He does of course and Barrymore gives chase down to the depths where they encounter a host of underwater marvels including giant sea creatures and a race of men who've developed just as man has in the deep ocean.

This early attempt at science fiction is a landmark film and deserves to be recognized as such. Though Jules Verne wouldn't have recognized his story, the film is still a good one and even the obvious grafting of sound and dialog on the film doesn't hamper it's entertainment value in the least.
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7/10
Amazing science-fiction epic Warning: Spoilers
I truly enjoyed 'The Mysterious Island', even though this film is a mess. It's also the most definitive example (by which I mean the WORST example) of that mongrel genre which haunted Hollywood in the last three years of the 1920s: the part-talkie. Long stretches of 'Mysterious Island' are completely silent: other sections combine sound effects with the actors' dialogue on title cards, while a few sequences are all-sound and all-noisy. The fact that three different directors worked on this movie is another reason why it's a pile of hash ... but it's very enjoyable hash. It's also a splendid example of the science-fiction subgenre known as 'steampunk'.

SLIGHT SPOILERS COMING. Supposedly this 'Mysterious Island' is a film version of Jules Verne's novel, but the only story elements surviving the transition are an island, a submarine, and an embittered patrician who's also a scientific genius. Count Dakkar (Lionel Barrymore, more restrained than usual) is building his super-secret subs on an island off the coast of some Graustarkian nation. Meanwhile, he knows there's a race of weird aquatic creatures living on the ocean floor nearby. He knows this because at regular intervals another bone washes up on his island ... and Barrymore is putting these bones together, one at a time, to form a skeleton. I found this extremely contrived: how convenient that all the bones are in proportion (rather than some being adult specimens and others from children) and none of them are redundant (he doesn't find two right femurs, for instance). Each new piece of jetsam conveniently and neatly fits the specimen-in-progress. Still, it's eerie to see a weird inhuman anatomy slowly taking shape as Barrymore adds one more bone to the jigsaw skeleton.

Count Dakkar's rival is Baron Falon, who is probably annoyed at Dakkar because counts outrank barons. The pair of them (plus the romantic leads and some miscellaneous henchlings) end up in two super-subs on the ocean floor, which is inhabited by these weird little duckbilled aqua-men who look like upright platypuses. There's some splendid photography by Percy Hilburn, simulating the ocean floor. Far away, we see one tiny creature walking towards the camera. When he gets closer, he looks like dwarf actor Angelo Rossitto in a Donald Duck costume ... but the image on screen is still oddly compelling. Later, the aqua-men turn up in droves: some walking, others swimming. It turns out they like to drink human blood ... but how often do they get any? When Baron Falon's diving-helmet shatters, all the little platypuses start licking his blood. An astonishing scene.

There's some rather bad scene continuity. Jacqueline Gadsden (very pretty, but no actress) spends all her early scenes wearing an elaborate crinoline hoop-skirt. She even wears this thing when she gets aboard Barrymore's submarine. (How did she get it through the hatch?) Then, all at once, she's inside a deep-sea diving-suit. Did she cram the entire hoop-skirt and all those petticoats into the diving rig? We find out later that she'd changed into a boiler suit, which she's wearing inside the diving outfit ... but this should have been established in a transition shot.

The directors of part-talkies were usually careful to select WHICH scenes would use recorded dialogue. In 'Mysterious Island', the talkie sequences are quite arbitrary. Gadsden, as Countess Sonia, speaks all her dialogue in the form of silent-film intertitles. Late in the film, she's captured by Baron Falon, who conspires to mislead handsome idiot Nikolai (Lloyd Hughes) by enlisting a henchwoman to imitate Sonia's voice over a crude audio system. The camera shows Hughes reacting while a woman's voice (supposedly Countess Sonia's) emerges from a nearby loudspeaker. As we've never actually heard the real Sonia's voice in any previous scenes, we've no way of judging if the henchwoman's vocal impersonation is accurate.

In spite of its many faults (including a patchwork script), this movie is extremely enjoyable. I'll rate 'Mysterious Island' 7 out of 10. Those duck-men are amazing!
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3/10
The Mysterious Island: Confusing mess
Platypuschow6 February 2019
The Mysterious Island is the first adaptation of the Jules Verne classic follow up to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Trouble is, how much can you change the source material before it's no longer an adaptation?

That is the main issue the movie struggles with, it barely resembles the original story at all and is instead a tale that takes pieces from it, it's predecessor and other random concepts pulled out of thin air.

Both a silent film with placards and a talkie, it's a very odd little film. One moment it's the oddly sped up over the top film you'd expect from the 20's and the next it looks ahead of it's time with the cast vocalizing their script.

If you can get past that muddle and the awful super loose adaptation you'll find there really isn't much else on display. It looks the part for a movie made in 1929 and when we have vocalized dialogue it sounds great, but the actual content itself is really quite bad.

The plot is confusing and very poorly paced, I went in assuming it would at least be better than the 1961 version but alas I was mistaken.

Simply not the Jules Verne tale in any shape or form.

The Good:

Visual and audio is great for its time

The Bad:

Far too loose of an adaptation

Story is just a mess

Silent vs audio incorporation just doesn't work
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8/10
" Once man crawled out from the primordial sea, they began the descent downwards "
thinker16916 June 2010
In the days before the advent of the Talking Picture, few stage performers were destined to succeed in making the transition. Among the more prominent of these thespians was Lionel Barrymore. Few actors ever emerged from Broadway, then to radio and finally up onto the silver screen. In one of the more collectible early films was this adventurous tale called " The Mysterious Island " in which he played the Jules Verne character Count Andre Dakkar, which took audiences to that the incredible Isle. In this early and mostly Silent, Black and White film, Barrymore plays a futurist scientist who builds a Undersea craft with which he plans to visit the incredible city of the Undersea people. Jacqueline Gadsden plays his daughter, Countess Sonia Dakkar (Jane Daly) and Nikolai Roget (Lloyd Hughes) her intended. However, the heavy, Baron Hubert Falcon (Montagu Love) has his own plans for her, but needs to capture the strange craft for world conquest. Despite the film being poorly cut and the primitive 'talkie' is plagued with many 'silent' segments, the story is easily carried by the cast. Further, if an audience is Patience and not overly critical, the viewing is enjoyable. Seeing this movie in the light of it being an early entry in the world of films, one can understand why it became a Classic in 1929. ****
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6/10
THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (Lucien Hubbard and, uncredited, Benjamin Christensen and Maurice Tourneur, 1929) **1/2
Bunuel197628 February 2007
I was looking forward to this one for several reasons: the fact that I've watched and enjoyed the 1961 remake featuring the model work of effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, because of a still of one of the film's sea creatures (found in an old anthology of Sci-Fi cinema belonging to my father) which had always intrigued me, and also due to the uncredited contribution of a couple of (now rather neglected Silent-film stylists) – Benjamin Christensen and Maurice Tourneur.

Still, now that I've caught up with the film, I have to say that it didn't live up to my expectations: the biggest problem is that, for an adventure epic, it's rather dull – perhaps the behind-the-scenes turmoil which saw the production go through three directors, as well as the addition of clumsily-integrated Sound sequences (not bad in themselves, particularly a lengthy conversation near the beginning between Lionel Barrymore and Montagu Love), diffused any momentum the picture might have had! Then again, the plot itself (which probably has little to do with Jules Verne's original) isn't exactly inspired: the Russian-style setting is a mistake and the love triangle/class struggle element really bogs down the proceedings.

What makes the film, therefore, are the submarine/underwater sequences – even if the monster attacks themselves are somewhat lame (featuring nothing more imaginative than an alligator made-up to look like a dinosaur[!] and a rather small octopus). Leading lady Jane Daly – whose last film this was – is lovely but her role has no depth (besides, her ostensible propensity with the sub's gadgetry is hard to take); lamentable but, thankfully, brief injections of comedy are provided by the ubiquitous "Snitz" Edwards – and a thinned-down Gibson Gowland (the imposing star of Erich von Stroheim's GREED [1924]) appears as one of the sub's crew.
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Jules Verne Meets Karl Marx
dougdoepke3 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
So wacky it's hard not to watch. For one, you never know when the sound will come alive or when we'll go back to dead silence. But that fits. On land, there's a Russian revolution going on, while undersea hordes of fish-men creep across a bottom. That is, when an anemic octopus monster or a cardboard lizard monster are not flailing about. Meanwhile, aboard the submarines, lights flash, wheels whirl, and Russian peasants rush around doing something or other, earning their extra's pay. And all the time, someone with a hammer is banging on a pipe, maybe to test out the new-fangled sound technology. No, this is not planet Earth—it's some wacko world an Eisenstein admirer has manufactured out of Jules Verne.

There may even be a plot lurking somewhere beneath all the pointless action and quirky sets. Something about an evil nobleman (Montague Love) using his cossacks to overthrow Dakkar's (Barrymore) peaceable kingdom where everybody is "equal". But he hasn't figured on guys in clunky diving suits who rescue an air compressor along with the girl. The end looks like an attempt to blow-up industrial society so everyone in the last scene can spend the day on Malibu beach, while the last nobleman goes to join the fishes. Looks like a good communist society to me.

What's really memorable are those fish-men. There are hordes of them crawling soundlessly across a bottom in some twilight world. Their dark undulating mass is far creepier than the phony monsters. I don't know how Hollywood did it, but I've seen nothing like it before or since. In my book, it's the stuff of bad dreams and worth the whole crazy 90 minutes. Now, I know special effects make this antique look like the stone age. But I'll bet once you've seen this campy version, it's the one you'll most remember.
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3/10
Early Talkie
synergydesign200330 January 2007
The film is on TCM right now and I started watching it for a few minutes because it starred a fairly young Lionel Barrymore, before he was crippled. I think it was the first time I had seen him without white hair! What struck me was that the usually stellar Barrymore was giving a really bad, hammy performance. In this one long sequence where he's explaining that he believes there are these man-like sea creatures, he rarely looked the other actor in the eye, he kept putting his hand on his chin and rubbing his face. The camera, most likely due to the lack of technology, was very static. No camera movement at all - just cuts. It's a hoot to watch such a youngish Lionel (although he was already 51 at the time) and it is also interesting to note his stronger resemblance to his brother in this movie (more so in this movie than in later films.) During this time of transition, many films were basically silent films with some talking scenes, as studios found it difficult to wholly embrace this new technology. Even the well-known movie, The Jazz Singer, was not an all-talking movie. It is, however, the first feature length movie to have talking in it. On July 6, 1928, the first all-talking feature, Lights of New York, premiered. Our movie is made in 1929, which was at the end of the silent era.

If you want to know more about early talkies, check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_film
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3/10
straddling eras, awkwardly
mukava99122 June 2010
Mysterious island? Well, yes, kind of. There is an island, but it's off the coast of "Hetvia," the kind of make-believe kingdom in which quaint old operettas take place, plus elements of Czarist Russia but with the look of Southern California. A title card informs us that the people are "oppressed"; we then learn that a sort of palace revolution is being prepared by the wicked Baron Falon (Montagu Love), who includes in his power strategy a scheme to seize the island from its resident Count (Lionel Barrymore), an eccentric scientist who has developed a ship that can sail underwater (these were the days when the word "submarine" had yet to become common) to explore the depths of the sea where he believes there is a race of human-like creatures that have evolved parallel to terrestrial homo sapiens; in fact, he has been collecting and assembling their bleached bones for years as they wash up onto the shore.

The Baron finds all of this amusing enough but is most intrigued by the vessel's war-making potential, a usage which the peace-loving Count opposes. Thrown into the mix is the Count's beautiful sister (Jane Daly, who resembles the later and much better known Merle Oberon), dressed and coiffed like a 19th century lady of the manor but perfectly at home in her brother's milieu of hardware and gadgets, and well versed in the nuts and bolts of his scientific enterprises. She is in love with Nikolai (Lloyd Hughes), one of the Count's assistants, much to the displeasure of the Baron who covets her for himself.

While Nikolai is out to sea in a test run of the submarine, the Baron's forces occupy the island and try to torture the Count and his sister into revealing their scientific secrets. They heroically resist. When the submarine resurfaces and encounters gunfire, the crew realizes what's going on and re-submerges so that a small party in underwater suits can sneak into the castle via underground passageways that link to the ocean and rescue the prisoners. They do so, but are pursued underwater by a second, identical submarine that has been commandeered by the wicked Baron.

At the bottom of the sea the adversaries encounter the race of semi-humans who look like black-and-white versions of the proverbial little green men of science fiction. They are photographed through a wavy distorting lens that gives the impression of underwater movement as they hop around the sea floor making swimming motions with their finned arms and swarm around the ships in the manner of the Lilliputians of "Gulliver's Travels." The ships themselves look like bathtub replicas of tuna fish with little propellers on one end. Crawling around on the sea floor is a large reptile that looks like a cross between a beetle and a stegosaurus. And later we are introduced to an octopus that is laboriously combined with shots of the humanoids either fleeing or pursuing it. At one point the tentacles of the octopus reach into one of the submarines and wrap around Lionel Barrymore in a scene so poorly staged that it could well have come from Ed Wood's "Bride of the Monster" with Bela Lugosi.

The décor features the kind of radio era mechanical devices one might find in Universal's "Frankenstein" lab or the factory in "Metropolis" next to clocks with Roman numerals, next to electric lights flashing on control panels; also toy miniatures of boats in a water tank that look exactly like toys in a water tank, and unconvincing painted backdrops standing in for actual mountains and cities.

Nothing of the above is very interesting in itself. But the juxtaposition of elements of the 19th and 20th centuries gives this film a meta-content that it never had in its own time and never knew it could have. We are looking at the baby steps of what would become a full-blown motion picture genre--the science fiction epic adventure with social commentary thrown in, but in this case adding nothing but more footage to increase the running time. We are also straddling two cinematic eras: silent and talkie. So at certain moments dialogue suddenly becomes audible. In the longest talking scene Barrymore gets very hammy, even for him, constantly running his hands through his hair and over his face as he speaks.
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7/10
high adventure
SnoopyStyle26 May 2017
Count Andre Dakkar (Lionel Barrymore) considers himself a scientist and rules his island as a benevolent leader. He creates submarines to search for a suspected underwater civilization. His daughter Sonia falls in love with engineer Nicolai Roget. Despotic ruler Baron Falon disapproves of the mixing of the classes. With revolution brewing in the Kingdom of Hetvia, Falon seizes the island and hopes to use the research submarine vessels as weapons. The Count and Sonia face torture. Nicolai returns with the first submarine to rescue them. Under attack, they are forced deeper and deeper until they discover the sea people.

The Jazz Singer was released two years earlier. This is still mostly silent with a few scenes with sound. It's also an early colored film but I didn't see that print. The TCM showing looks black and white. It is loosely adapted from Jules Verne. It faced a long production as film technology started to change. The story is high adventure. There are miniatures, creatures, and midget sea people. It is the fun of simple thrills.
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Good Version
Michael_Elliott26 February 2008
Mysterious Island, The (1929)

*** (out of 4)

I seemed to enjoy this one a tad bit more than Mario. The film tells the simple story of a scientist (Lionel Barrymore) who creates a submarine so that he can go to the bottom of the ocean to look for life. My main problem with the film is probably its historic nature in the fact that it was started as a silent film but production got pushed back so much that MGM decided to shoot some sound scenes and include them. The start of the film is sound and none of it worked for me. Like most early sound films, the dialogue was badly recorded and it really was boring and make me want to doze off. When the silent section, pretty much the rest of the film, started, I thought the film took off like a rocket. There was plenty of action from start to finish and I also enjoyed the underwater scenes. Hundreds of midgets were hired to play the sea creatures and I thought they looked pretty good. The alligator turned dinosaur was silly but the huge squid was nice. Barrymore, in the sound portion of the film, is all over the place but I thought his silent scenes were a lot better. I've always felt he was better in silents and to see him act here silent and sound was interesting to say the least.
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6/10
Dated but a Tad Amusing
gbheron29 February 2004
Loosely based on a Jules Verne novel, The Mysterious Island is set in a mythical kingdom by the sea where one of its leading royalty (Lionel Barrymore) doubles as cutting-edge scientist who invents the submarine and diving suit. In the course of exploring he and his buds discover a civilization of sea creatures that look like walking frogs and have the sensibilities of a pack of hyenas. There are also above-surface issues of betrayal, palace coups, wars, and young love.

Made on the cusp between silent and sound films, The Mysterious Island is caught somewhere in between; it is part talkie and part silent. Oddly there doesn't seem to be a dramatic or thematic rationale for deciding which scenes have sound and which don't. And why didn't the producers choose one format over the other for the entire movie? But they didn't, and this alone makes the film a novelty. Another reason to watch The Mysterious Island is the 1929-era special effects. They're a hoot. But even when these factors are taken in to account there is not much reason to invest the time in this movie.
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10/10
One of the coolest squid films i ever saw!
val-rogers10 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Wow, so cool. I loved that giant octopus and giant alligator along with the characters. It was short but very cool! Basically, its about count Dakar (real name Capitan nemo) who uses his crew for a underwater adventure while his kingdom is taken over by some guy so when they get there there's a giant alligator which they attack then they land. These fish people want the crew so they realise a giant octopus to capture them. The octopus kills one of the them then attacks the others but fails. They could have done better. I think the fight between the crew and the giant alligator should have lasted along with the octopus scene but it was still good! Was that even a giant alligator or a prehistoric monster/dinosaur. At the end, the kingdom is destroyed and Capitan nemo goes back under sea upset. The giant octopus was ugly and freaky. It was slow and could not swim in the film for some reason but it was cool that the army of fish people were with the octopus and was chasing the people. That octopus was so ugly, man but so cool. That giant alligator just appeared right when they got under the sea then the giant alligator spots them and attacks the sub but the alligator is hit by a torpedo then the giant creature fell off a cliff but was still alive and fled. I did expected this but i didn't expected it to be a short film but anyway it was weird that the begging had sound then the rest of the film had silent, what the hell? I liked how they did the octopus, better than the one in it came from beneath the sea. I cant believe the giant alligator scene, i expected it to be long because the giant alligator attacks the sub by hitting it but 15secs later, Capitan nemo shots the poor dinosaur then he falls off the cliff. Cool film, going under the sea then getting attacked by a giant alligator, giant octopus and little frog fish like people. I guess that place was the mysterious island. But why did count Dakar want to go under the sea if its inhabited by fish people, dinosaur and giant slug (first i was like 'giant slug?') then get one of there mates crusted by the tentacles. I didn't get the ending when count Dakar was like 'i don't have a life now that my island is destroyed' so then he goes back to the sub and gets to the sea, the end???? Did Capitan nemo kill himself by going under the sea by the guardian of the fish people, octopus because his kingdom was destroyed or did he want to go undersea for an adventure. I think he killed himself but couln't he build back his kingdom because he had all his citizens, soldiers and builders. Did the bad guy that got the kingdom blow up the place (well, actually not everything was destroyed)? Thats another question i don't understand, anyway they should improve the monster battles and make the film long. I give this a 10 out of 10 because its so cool. Buy this! Its 35 mins or less but its a good film.
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5/10
The City Beneath the Sea.
rmax3048234 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I can imagine this silent/talkie movie of 1929 having an impact on audiences of the time -- which it apparently did not do -- but the effects are primitive by today's standards and the story itself is not much more than routine.

Lionel Barrymore is Count Dakkar who lives on the Baltic Island of Hetia with his daughter Jacqueline Gadsden. He and his workmen are building two submarines with which he will explore the ocean depths for scientific reasons.

He is betrayed by his ambitious and treacherous friend, Montagu Love as Baron Falon or Felon or something. (Who carries the juice, a Count or a Baron?) He wants to use the submersibles as weapons of war with which to conquer the world. Love takes over one of the submarines, holding Gadsden as hostage, while Barrymore and a few of his subordinates dive in the other.

The two wind up at the bottom of the ocean where they encounter strange creatures such as a horde of hostile humanoids living in cities and a couple of baby alligators with fins glued to their backs. They barely escape with their lives.

Up to the surface again, where Love and his myrmidons are defeated by Barrymore and his workmen. Barrymore is dying. Before he does, he destroys the factory that built the devilish machines so that no one will be tempted to use them as weapons of war again. The audience is permitted a slight chuckle here.

It has a few tense moments. Barrymore and his daughter are both tortured by Love's hussars and they both project intolerable pain reasonably well.

I mentioned that the special effects are primitive by today's standards. I don't mean that I kwell at the sight of CGIs parading across the screen and munching on people. It's just that these effects, as modern as they once might have been, are so crude as to be distracting. It's hard to get into an action scene when you're reminded, every second, that you're looking at miniatures.

It carries a relevant anti-war message, which I thought was fine but which some viewers might find noisome. At any rate some might find it more entertaining than I did.
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4/10
Primitive technology and "talkie" sequences make it impossible to become involved...
Doylenf6 June 2010
Watch this only for curiosity value.

It's a hybrid, between a few poorly performed "talkie" sequences and sound grafted to a basically "silent" film, just when the transition to sound was making it necessary to doctor many a release and give it some talking scenes.

Ironically, the weakest, or worst part of the whole film comes during the first fifteen minutes of expository dialog between two distinguished actors--LIONEL BARRYMORE and MONTAGU LOVE.

Barrymore is the complete ham actor, mopping his brow and running his hand through his hair and avoiding eye contract with Montagu Love, presumably so that he can view the cue cards for all of his dialog. Love at least appears to be paying attention to Barrymore, but you have to wonder what he was thinking. Probably: "Boy, is he overacting all over the place!!" Things don't get much better when the plot about fish people beneath the sea and submarines devised to go below surface--this is Jules Verne remember--well, you have it. It's all comic book stuff ruined by the use of fake miniatures and primitive B&W photography. The only performer who seems to be playing his role with any sense of normalcy is LLOYD HUGHES as the romantic lead.

Summing up: A poor attempt to give this Jules Verne tale a proper transition to the screen--but unable to do so with a crazy blend of "silent" and "talkie" techniques that serve only to destroy all the possibilities of entertainment value. Definitely not a suitable project for anyone to undertake in 1929.
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6/10
Dated, melodramatic fantasy
jamesrupert201410 November 2018
Unlike the eponymous Jules Verne book, which is a sequel to the famous "Twenty thousand Leagues beneath the Sea", the 1929 film "Mysterious Island" is a prequel of sorts, as it dramatizes the backstory of "Captain Nemo". Briefly, Verne's Nemo (Latin for "No one") was an Indian Prince named Dakkar who rejected society after his family was killed in the 1857 "Indian Mutiny". A scientific genius, he secretly designed and built the submarine "Nautilus", on which he sailed seeking revenge against the world that he felt had wronged him. In the book "Mysterious Island", he is found by a group of escaped American soldiers, living as an elderly recluse on the titular island. The film completely changes Verne's story (and IMO not for the better), with Dakkar (Lionel Barrymore) now a nobleman in some fictional Balkan kingdom called Hetvia, betrayed by villainous Count Falon who covets the scientist's armed submersible ships. After the capture of Dakkar's shipyard (on the titular island), the two submersibles end up damaged and stranded in the abyssal deeps, where a civilisation of underwater humanoids has developed. Adventures involving the gill men, dragons and a giant octopus ensue before justice is done and love prevails. Given the survivability of fantasy heroes, the ending could still presage the events in "Twenty thousand Leagues beneath the Sea" but that is not explicit. The film is an odd mix of silent and sound, which does not work very well. The version I watched on TCM was in black and white but apparently a technicolour version exists (with green tinted underwater scenes). The cast is fine although the acting includes the melodramatic flourishes common in silent films but, for an adventure fantasy, the pace of the film is leaden at times. What makes the film worth watching are scenes when the two submarines are stranded in the kingdom of the underwater people, which are entertaining, effective and imaginative.
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5/10
Stiff but not bad
westley346 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a real oddity, the majority of it is silent while the beginning had a sound sequence with a lot of Lionel Barrymore talking. Very oddly, his hair is considerably darker, different styled and he looks almost 10 years younger in the speaking segment than he does in the silent part of the movie. The under water scenes make this movie watchable. Both the underwater gear and the little creatures are well done and interesting.
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