Back to the Island
Ten years after they had a go at Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island in a 15-chapter serial which included pirates, cannibals and a visiting princess from the planet Mercury in search of radioactive materials, Columbia Pictures visited the classic novel again, wisely letting producer Charles H. Schneer and his stop-motion animation comrade-in-arms, the visionary Ray Harryhausen, bring to the party the special effects magic they’d bestowed upon The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960). One of the key decisions the partners made was to honor the book’s positioning as a sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, as the surviving Captain Nemo (here portrayed in authoritative fashion by the incomparable Herbert Lom), ever the experimental scientific mastermind, would be the key to the development of the atoll’s king-sized creatures. Although lower-key in their scare factor that other Harryhausen creations, they bear the creator’s omnipresent attention to detail and lifelike action: a supersized Crab with mean claws which subsequently provides the stranded castaways with a hearty meal; the Phororhacos, a scrappy prehistoric bird who also meets a similar fate after causing some fuss; a huge Bee who seals two of the castaways inside his honeycomb via beeswax; and the Cephlapod, a gigantic prehistoric mollusk that menaces a diving crew trying to raise a sunken vessel. Now returning on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray in time for Christmas after an initial run sold out three years ago, Mysterious Island (1961), directed by Cy Endfield (Zulu, Sands of the Kalahari), has been reauthored to include some fabulous new extras. An Audio Commentary boasts a mysterious murderers row of top experts to guide you through the movie’s many marvels: Randall William Cook, the three-time Lord of the Rings trilogy Special Effects Academy Award® winner who knew and worked with Harryhausen in his later years; screenwriter/historian/actor C. Courtney Joyner, who also spent time with Harryhausen; and author/historian Steven C. Smith, who wrote the definitive biography of the film’s storied composer, A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann. The Blu-ray also features an on-camera Harryhausen reminiscence on the making of Mysterious Island. There’s no more fantastical place to be stranded than on Mysterious Island, available again from TT on December 8. Pre-orders open November 20.