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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

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Released 28-Jan-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Jules Verne & Walt Disney: Explorers Of The Imagination
Featurette-Monsters Of The Deep
Featurette-The Humbolt Squid: A Real Sea Monster
Featurette-Lost Treasures: The Sunset Squid
Featurette-Tour Of The Nautilus
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 121:49
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:27) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Richard Fleischer
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Kirk Douglas
James Mason
Paul Lukas
Peter Lorre
Robert J. Wilke
Ted de Corsia
Carleton Young
J.M. Kerrigan
Percy Helton
Ted Cooper
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Paul J. Smith

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.55:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This adaptation of Jules Verne's classic story of an underwater vessel, commanded by a very complicated captain, was Disney's biggest and most ambitious live-action movie of the time. Although taking licenses with the original story, it still does a great job capturing much of the essence of the book, which is no doubt familiar to most readers.

    It's the late 1860s and ocean-going ships are regularly disappearing at sea, with stories of a huge sea monster destroying them all. As there are rarely any survivors, the stories are hard to corroborate, but fear is spreading to the point where sailors are refusing to take jobs on ships. The US Navy decides to find out if there is any substance to these stories, and sends out a military ship to sweep grids in the ocean for months on end. At the request of the US government, French Professor Pierre Arronax (Paul Lukas) takes part in the voyage, with his assistant, Conseil (Peter Lorre), who along with annoyingly chirpy Harpooner, Ned Land (Kirk Douglas), become the main characters in the events that are to follow.

    After months of searching with no result, the captain is ready to return to port when the feared monster makes an appearance and cripples the ship. During the attack, Ned, the Professor and Conseil end up overboard in one of the lifeboats, and stumble upon the "monster" as it floats lifelessly in the ocean. Of course, as we all know, the monster is in fact the Nautilus - atomic powered submarine and brainchild of Captain Nemo (James Mason), who isn't too pleased about his unwanted guests. However after a little test of their character, Nemo decides to keep the three on board in order to possibly pass on his ideals and technology to the outside world.

    As we travel the underwater world that the Nautilus inhabits, we learn more of Nemo and his crew, and it becomes clear that he is both a genius and a tyrant (but with what appears to be good reason). The Professor becomes engrossed in his genius, while Ned (and to a lesser extent Conseil) are angered by his cruelty, leading to a growing tension between them. All the while Ned is treading a fine line between being treated as a criminal or a guest.

    Despite being an edited, toned-down, family-friendly version of the story, the film is still a very successful adaptation. The character of Nemo especially is very well portrayed, as the man who is neither hero nor villain, and yet both. Apparently Walt Disney wanted to make sure he got a decent, established actor to make this key element believable, and James Mason certainly falls into that category. The other characters are mixed, with Douglas's Ned being the hardest to put up with, and not really that true to the French-Canadian Ned of the book, but in general they come across successfully.

    As for the production standards of the film - well the money spent on it really shows, with superb visuals of both a real and constructed nature. The underwater footage is excellent, as are the beautiful sets and the special effects (for the time, anyway). In fact I've seen some worse CGI effects in recent years than some of the animatronic effects on display here.

    20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is a movie that I enjoyed as much this time round as I did watching it as a boy. It's not perfect, but it is a testament to the glory years of a now steadily declining studio. Highly recommended, but don't rush out and buy locally until you've read below.

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Transfer Quality


    Disney have obviously put a lot of time and effort into restoring this movie, and it shows. Unless you saw the film during its original theatrical release, you'd never have seen it looking this good.

    This transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.55:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness levels are very good when considering the age of the print, and the fine details that are visible inside the Nautilus are a pleasure to behold. It's not up to the standard of a recent release, but then you wouldn't expect it to be. There are occasional instances of overly visible grain (such as 14:55 and 78:03), but these are very infrequent. Blacks are nice and solid, but unfortunately there are times when shadow detail suffers a little. Examples of this can be seen in a lot of the Nautilus interior shots, where the edge of the set is in shadow, such as at 48:20.

    Colours are well saturated and solid, with a mixture of bright tropical blues and greens, combined with deep rich interior colours, on display. They have the slightly inaccurate hues that were common to colour formats of the era, but they're certainly not too far off. I didn't notice any instances of bleeding or chroma noise.

    The only noticeable film to video artefact is some minor edge enhancement, which can be seen at 39:05, 58:14, 78:06 and 121:26. Film artefacts consist of fairly frequent small specks and spots, which really aren't distracting. The print has been cleaned up to a high standard.

    There are 12 subtitle streams; English, English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Portuguese, Dutch, French Titling, and Spanish Titling. I sampled the English stream and found it to be almost 100% accurate to the spoken word.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change taking place at the 76:27 mark. It is well placed and doesn't disrupt the flow of the movie at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Originally released in stereo, and re-released in Dolby Stereo, we now have a remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track that shows its dated source, but has obviously had time and effort put into it.

    There are 3 tracks on this disc; English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s). I listened to the English track.

    Dialogue is clear and well defined, and has no problems with being drowned out during loud and dramatic moments. The remix has been done so that most of the dialogue emanates from the centre speaker, as we're accustomed to with 5.1 tracks. There are no problems with audio sync.

    The music by Paul J. Smith is an orchestral score, characteristic of the era. It can be a little overdramatic at times, but for the most part it fits the movie well and adds to the desired mood.

    Surrounds are used sparingly, but do come into play during some of the music, and occasionally in some of the action scenes (such as for explosions).

    The subwoofer is used to good subtle effect inside the Nautilus, where it provides some feeling to the constantly throbbing engines. There are also a few explosive scenes where it really comes into play, and one particular explosion will actually have the floor shaking for an extended period.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    Menus are 16x9 enhanced and are animated with interior views of the Nautilus that shift to different parts of the ship when changing menus.

    Note: All the following extras are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Jules Verne & Walt Disney: Explorers of the Imagination (16:11)

    A recently produced look at the similarities between Verne and Disney, commenting on they way they were both men who imagined what the future would bring. There are interviews with writers, scientists, historians and even collectors, who give their thoughts on the men in question.

    A very brief, but quite interesting look at these two men.

Featurette - Monsters of the Deep (6:38)

    An old Black and White promo short from 1955. On set with Kirk Douglas who talks a little about the movie, introduces Peter Lorre, and then shows us a clip from the famous giant squid sequence. A quaint little extra when comparing this to modern EPKs, but not really any more informative than its modern counterpart.

Featurette - Humbult Squid: A Real Sea Monster (7:02)

    Interview segment with Scott Cassell, an underwater explorer and filmmaker, who talks about the Humbult squid that the giant squid from the movie is based on. Interspersed with his comments are segments of footage of the squids in action. Worth a watch, but probably not something you'll come back to a second time.

Deleted Scene - Lost Treasures: The Sunset Squid (3:16)

    This is the original version of the squid fight scene, which Walt Disney wasn't happy with, and told them to reshoot. Apparently this is the first time it's been edited together in the way the original storyboard had it laid out, with the musical score included. The quality of the video and audio is understandably bad, and all the stunt wires are still visible, but this will certainly be of novelty interest to fans of the movie. I think Disney made the right decision to reshoot the scene as nighttime in the rain.

Featurette - Tour of the Nautilus (5:22)

    A sequence of shots that goes between locations on the Nautilus, via a 3D CGI model, some of the original plans, set photos, and some movie clips showing the locations in action. Although it's not interactive, as the title might have you thinking, this does give you a much better idea of how the ship was actually laid out - something that I didn't really get during the movie itself.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Unfortunately we've been very shortchanged here in Region 4 land. Instead of the 2-disc special edition that's been available in the US since last May, we've got a cropped down 1-disc version (I assume the commentary was removed to make way for the few extras that we're given). This means we miss out on what is apparently an excellent 88 minute documentary, as well as the Director's commentary and a host of other extras. Definitely a win for Region 1.


    One of Disney's classic live action films, which still looks impressive 50 years after it was made. Despite a few dodgy effects it still manages to draw the viewer into the story, and is good fun for the whole family (provided you can put up with Kirk Douglas' annoying character).

    The video transfer is a lovingly restored one, and is the best you'll ever see this film.

    The remixed audio transfer is free of any problems, and even manages to occasionally make good use of the 5.1 format.

    There are a few extras that are of some interest, but we miss out on a lot of the excellent material that is available on the Region 1 version.

Ratings (out of 5)


© David L (Only my Mum would have any interest in my bio)
Saturday, March 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDOmni 3600, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252QM CRT Projector, 250cm custom built 16x9 matte screen. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS797- THX Select
SpeakersAccusound ES-55 Speaker set, Welling WS12 Subwoofer

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