Mysterious Island (Shock) (1961)
Trailer-x 2 for other titles
Featurette-”This is Dynamation” Featurette (3:27)
Featurette-The Harryhausen Chronicles (57:58)
Featurette-”Mysterious Island” Featurette (9:06)
|Year Of Production||1961|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Cy Endfield|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
1865. As the American Civil War draws to a close and the Union army besieges Richmond, a group of Union prisoners of war make a daring escape from a Confederate prison. Captain Cyrus Harding (Michael Craig), Michael Callan (Herbert Brown), Corporal Neb Nugent (Dan Jackson) and war correspondent Gideon Spilitt (Gary Merrill) break out during a violent storm and steal a weather balloon, accidentally taking with them Confederate Sergeant Pencroft (Percy Herbert). Taken aloft by the strong winds, the balloon is carried all the way across the America continent and into the Pacific, where it crashes onto a remote island.
The island has an active volcano but has fresh water, vegetables and goats, so the group are able to survive and plan their next move. Matters become more congenial when two women are shipwrecked on the island, Lady Mary Fairchild (Joan Greenwood) and her niece Elena (Beth Rogan), who soon forms a romantic attachment with Callan. However, when the group are attacked by a monster crab, and later a giant flightless bird it becomes obvious that this is indeed a mysterious island. When a pirate ship arrives, but is sunk by an explosion, the group discover that the fabled Captain Nemo (Herbert Lom) and his submarine the Nautilus are hidden in a cave. However, the Nautilus is damaged and cannot sail so with the volcano set to erupt the two groups must work together to find a way off the island before everything is obliterated.
Mysterious Island is based on a popular Jules Verne novel of the same name and directed by Cy Enfield, who a few years later directed the marvellous battle picture Zulu (1964) so he is no slouch with action. Indeed, most of the talent for Mysterious Island is certainly behind the camera for the acting is fairly pedestrian. Michael Craig is not much of a leading man; he did win a shared Oscar in 1961, but it was for the screenplay of The Angry Silence, not acting. As a couple carrying the romance in the film Herbert Brown and Beth Rogan have no presence together. Better is veteran actor Gary Merrill but the pick is Herbert Lom, perhaps now best remembered as the foil for Peter Sellers in the various Pink Panther films, who does provide gravitas as Captain Nemo.
Although using the Jules Verne novel, the producers decided to provide additional excitement by adding the creatures to the film that did not occur in the novel. These creatures were provided by the fabulous Ray Harryhausen; the giant crab and the bees look wonderful, the flightless bird just ridiculous enough to be amusing, but these are only part of the appeal of this effects driven movie which includes an erupting volcano, crashing rocks, an escape in a balloon, a lost undersea Atlantis type city and a battle underwater with a giant cephalopod, a creature with a shell with tentacles. This is a spectacular effects extravaganza, shot by cinematographer Wilke Cooper, who worked on Harryhausen projects a number of times including The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963), all set to a rousing Bernard Herrmann score.
Herrmann had scored Citizen Kane (1941) and indeed won his only Oscar that same year for All That Money Can Buy. He is perhaps now best remembered for his iconic scores for Hitchcock including Vertigo (1958), North By Northwest (1959) and Psycho (1960). For Mysterious Island he delivered a score that could be exciting, such as during the escape or the climax, or playful, such as during the fight with the giant flightless bird; it certainly does enhance the viewing experience!
Mysterious Island used state of the art special effects in 1961 and while of course the effects cannot compare with modern CGI, the combination of stop motion animation (“Dynamation”), travelling matte paintings, miniatures and live action is still very impressive. Indeed, the effects are the main reason for watching the film as they overshadow the acting and the plot! But that is more than enough: Mysterious Island is an old fashioned adventure, colourful and exciting, that can still be enjoyed by all ages today.
Mysterious Island is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.
A problem with modern DVDs is that they can slow up the faults of special effects films made 50 years ago. Mysterious Island utilised a combination of stop motion animation, travelling matte paintings, miniatures and live action so while the live action close-ups, sets such as inside the Nautilus and some of the miniatures such as the balloon have great detail, the matte backgrounds on the island including the volcano, the men walking over the tree bridge and the storm do look very soft. The contrast is even more telling during the stop animation: the monster red crab and the flightless bird have good detail but the background is quite splotchy with grain and faded colours. However, other colours inside the Nautilus, the yellows of the honeycomb and the reds of the explosions are deep and rich.
There are constant small marks throughout the film and the occasional vertical scratch plus some motion blur with movement against vertical lines such as trees. However it is fleeting and does not spoil one’s enjoyment. The amount of grain varies but mostly helps the feel of this 55 year old film.
The layer change at 57:12 resulted in a slight pause just after a scene change.
There are a huge range of European subtitles, including English, plus Arabic and Hindi.
You can chose to watch the film in the original English or with German, Italian, Spanish or French dubs; all are Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 192 Kbps.
Dialogue was clear and easy to understand. The effects were, unsurprisingly, not overly dynamic but there was some depth to the storm, volcanic explosions and creature action while Bernard Herrmann’s score comes through clearly. There was obviously no surround or sub-woofer use.
There was no hiss or pops.
There were some minor lip synchronisation errors, but nothing serious.
|Surround Channel Use|
A look at the dynamation process and how it was done, showing examples from Harryhausen’s films. The same featurette has been included on other Harryhausen DVD / BD releases, such as Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad but is worth a look if you have not seen it.
Narrated by Leonard Nimoy and made in 1997, this featurette is an extended interview with Harryhausen as he talks about his influences and his career accompanied by his drawings, his unreleased early stop motion animation and sequences from a number of his films. There are also comments about Harryhausen and his legacy from author and friend Ray Bradbury, producer Charles Schneer, director Henry Selick, Lucasfilm SFX supervisor Dennis Muren and George Lucas himself. This is a fantastic featurette and Ray Harryhausen is a delightful speaker, funny and self-deprecating. It has also been included on other DVD / BD releases, i.e., Jason and the Argonauts, but if you have not seen this featurette it is a must for anyone interested in special effects.
Hosted by Ray Harryhausen this is an interesting look at the film using storyboards, black and white stills, film footage and location search film. Items covered include adapting the Verne novel to include creatures, locations and how some of the animation sequences were shot.
Consists of three sections. All are silent and you must use the mouse to advance to the next still. The sections are:
Trailers for Mysterious Island (2:35), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (2:52) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (2:08).
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The US Region 1 release of Mysterious Island is NTSC, has the same extras but lacks some of the audio and subtitle options. I think, given the subtitle and audio options, is Region All PAL release is the same as the UK release. There is clearly no reason to buy elsewhere.
A Jules Verne story, Ray Harryhausen special effects and a Bernard Hermann score. For fans, that says all that they need to know. Mysterious Island has been released on DVD in this country some years ago in the Columbia Classics series. If you have that DVD this release from Shock Entertainment is no advance, but if you don’t already have the film and like the sound of Mysterious Island this is a great film and a good package.
The video and audio are acceptable for a 55 year old film, the extras are worthwhile if you don’t already have them on other Harryhausen films.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|