Monday, October 29, 2012

Movie Monday: Captain Nemo and the Underwater City

This week's Movie Monday selection is the 1959 fantasy adventure Captain Nemo and The Underwater City!

A few days ago I went to a screening of one of my all-time favorite movies, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, part of a series of classic films shown every week at the Cinemark theater chain. I had never seen the movie on the big screen before, and I just loved it. I'm a sucker for any Jules Verne-esque story of underwater monsters, amazing machines, secret cities, etc. Of course, the Disney version of Leagues remains the gold standard for all such adaptations, but the 1954 film was neither the first or nor last appearance of Captain Nemo in the movies.

Case in point: the ungainly-titled Captain Nemo and the Underwater City, a British production with a unusual tough-guy cast: the two main leads are Robert Ryan and Chuck Connors!

The film opens with a ship being violently tossed by a massive storm. It gets so bad that the lifeboats are deployed and everyone is ordered off. Unfortunately, a handful of passengers end up in the drink, where they are sure to die. Except--they are rescued by a team of people in high-tech scuba suits! Six people are brought on board an amazing underwater craft. One of them, Senator Robert Fraser (Connors), is introduced to the ship's commander: Captain Nemo (Ryan):
Nemo explains to Fraser that he and the others are aboard the Nautilus, a ship of enormous power and technology, build by Nemo and his people, many of whom reside in an underewater domed city known as Templemir:
Templemir seems like a paradise its filled with peaceful people who read, play, eat, and frolic:
Two of the surface dwellers, a young woman named Helena (Nanette Newman) and her young son Phillip (Christopher Hartstone) seem to take to their new surroundings immediately. Two brothers, Barnaby and Swallow Bath (Bill Fraser and Kenneth Connor) also like Templemir, but for an entirely different reason: the city is filled with gold! Gold is a natural by-product of the food mining that the citizens of Templemir do to feed themselves, so them gold is essentially worthless. But the Bath Brothers see an opportunity. 

The one person not happy with all this is Lomax (Allen Cuthbertson), who finds living under the water a claustrophobic nightmare and desperately wants to return to the surface.
We get to see some of the daily operations of Templemir (featuring some unfortunately silly costumes, as you can see above). Nemo is a gruff but essentially kind host; he offers his visitors the opportunity to stay in perpetuity.

Lomax is having none of it--he decides to try and steal some scuba gear and escape, which fails. He then goes a little bughouse by trying to sabotage Templemir's life-support system, which only ends up flooding the room Lomax is in. Nemo, having had enough, seals off the room, which saves Templemir and also consigns Lomax to a watery death:
The Bath Brothers, also determined to escape, attempt to steal a second sub, the Nautilus II. They are not trusted by Nemo or his second in command Joab (John Turner), so they rope in Fraser in their plan. Fraser wants to leave as well, so he befriends Nemo and learns how to pilot the Nautilus. Its during this training we meet Mobula, a manta-like creature accidentally created during the building of Templemir.

Fraser tells Nemo he wants to leave, but Nemo, fearful his world will be discovered, refuses to let him go. In an attempt to keep him, Nemo offers Fraser a role in the running of Templemir, and the other cities under construction. This doesn't sit well with Joab, who is worried about being replaced, both by Nemo and the woman he and Fraser both like, the comely Mala (Luciana Paluzzi, from Thunderball). Joab offers to help Fraser and the Bath Brothers escape.

Unfortunately, it doesn't all go as planned, and only Fraser and Swallow survive to make it to the surface:
They are picked up by a ship, where they tell their story about an undersea city, which is met with incredulous laughter. It appears Nemo and Templemir will remain a secret after all!

Captain Nemo and the Underwater City is a fairly fun movie--I mean, how could it not be?--but it's made up such individual weak parts that it never really congeals into something truly remarkable. Robert Ryan seems miscast as Nemo--he's more grumpy than driven, and I can only imagine what he thought when putting on the ridiculous costumes he's forced to wear. Chuck Conners is okay as Fraser, but he seems like a warmed-over version of Kirk Douglas from the Disney film. The two Bath Brothers are by far the weakest part of the movie, however--they practically have Comic Relief stamped on their foreheads, and the even get their own "wacky" music motif on the soundtrack. I feel like the movie stops dead every time they do their schtick.

My favorite part of the movie is the scene with Lomax as he tries to sabotage Templemir--it's got some nice grit to it, and it's well executed (no pun intended). The stuff with the irradiated manta ray is interesting, but it seems more like a distraction from the main story, like they really didn't want to pursue it too far. I would have enjoyed Nemo fighting more giant sea creatures, myself!

Apparently David Fincher, of all people, is keen to remake 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, which is not a sentence I'd ever thought I'd type. No matter how that film turns out, I'm just happy knowing that Captain Nemo will be returning the movies again soon!

1 comment:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Haven't seen it, but sounds like an okay way to spend some time.

Glad you got to see the other one on the big screen. Last week, we saw Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein in the theater. Loved it!

We are supposed to see my favorite film, Halloween, tomorrow, but Sandy may have other plans. :(

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