During the American Civil War, a group of Union prisoners and one unlucky Confederate soldier escape a Southern prison in an observation balloon. Unfortunately their escape occurs during one of the worst storms in history, and they are blown far out to sea, eventually landing on the titular island. Luckily food is plentiful on this tropical atoll perhaps too plentiful, as the castaways first day of foraging yields a giant crab the size of a railroad car. Adding to the complications with giant local fauna are pirates, two shipwrecked women, an active volcano, and a mysterious benefactor who prefers his identity remain a secret.
Mysterious Island remains one of my favorite Ray Harryhausen films: a sturdy adventure story decked out with a monster every twenty minutes and one of the most bombastic, affecting scores Bernard Hermann ever wrote. If the characters seem a bit trite and the acting occasionally wooden, all is forgiven as the viewer is swept along by the story and amazing visuals. It can be argued that Jules Verne did not include such niceties as female love interests and giant monsters in his original novel but by golly, I bet he wishes he had.
Quality family-friendly genre entertainment and it's not often you can say that.
Columbia TriStar has been doing a bang-up job on the Ray Harryhausen Signature Collection. The image is startling in it's clarity and color, lush skin tones, and deep shadow details. There is minimal dust speckling and scratching evident, unfortunately most obvious during the plentiful matte shots. The sound is as good as you're going to get in a mono soundtrack, sharp and clear.
This is Dynamation is a 3:30 preview for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad ballyhooing the movie's special effects. Though presented letterboxed, it is not anamorphically enhanced. One can only imagine, though, the wonder of seeing this in a darkened theater in 1958. The Harryhausen Chronicles is a hour-long documentary that still crops up on Turner Classic Movies. Narrated by Leonard Nimoy and utilizing interviews with the master animator himself, other fantasy luminaries such as Ray Bradbury and George Lucas, and tons of film clips, it does a very thorough job of tracing Harryhausen's career. The Making of Mysterious Island is a nine-minute interview with Harryhausen backed by clips, storyboards, and behind-the-scenes photos.
This is backed by a Photo Gallery split into three sections: Sketches (4), Production Stills (14), and Poster Art (2). Trailers for Mysterious Island, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger round out the package.
Dr. Freex, 8/9/2003