Mysterious Island (1961)

Mysterious Island (1961)

“Aren’t we able to do anything to save ourselves?”

During the Civil War, a group of Union prisoners (Michael Craig, Herbert Brown, and Dan Jackson) — accompanied by an unwitting journalist (Gary Merrill) and a Confederate hostage (Percy Herbert) — escape by hot air balloon and land on a remote island with enormous creatures and mysterious signs of human life. Soon they are joined by two shipwrecked British women (Joan Greenwood and Beth Rogan) and romance blooms between Brown and Rogan while the team struggles to survive.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Deserted Islands
  • Fantasy
  • Gary Merrill Films
  • Joan Greenwood Films
  • Jules Verne Adaptations
  • Prisoners of War
  • Ray Harryhausen Films
  • Survival

Loosely based on Jules Verne’s 1875 novel of the same name, this sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) references Captain Nemo (indeed, he shows up late in the film as a pivotal character), but tells its own distinct tale of escape and survival on a remote island. Making the adventure much more exciting are several enormous creatures, including a crab that nearly eats one of the soldiers (Dan Jackson) before being dumped into a boiling hot geyser and eaten for supper:

… a huge, chicken-like bird that tries to peck away at Rogan (and is similarly roasted and eaten):

… a gigantic bee that seals Rogan and Brown inside a honeycomb cell:

… and more. Indeed, it’s these animated creatures — crafted by Ray Harryhausen — that make the film memorable and beloved by many viewers, but unfortunately, they don’t make much sense within the narrative, and weren’t part of the original novel. With that said, it’s refreshing to see the inclusion of a black actor and character (Jackson) who’s given a reasonably equitable role (at least up until the women arrive):

… and the opening escape sequence — as the prisoners leave their jail in a storm and sail high into the air — is genuinely exciting (see still below). Harryhausen fans will want to check this one out.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The exciting opening escape sequence
  • Bernard Herrmann’s score

Must See?
No; this one is only must-see for Harryhausen completists.


One thought on “Mysterious Island (1961)

  1. In agreement with the assessment: not-must see, though it’s likely to hold interest for Verne / Harryhausen fans.

    Director Cy Endfield keeps things moving along at a good pace, the actors work well together and Herrmann’s score is a plus.

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