20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Movie Review

Even grander and more rambling than Swiss Family Robinson, Walt Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea simultaneously sets a bar for both child-friendly epicness and overblown goofiness. On one hand there's the classic attack of a giant squid, on the other there's hokey moments with a singing Kirk Douglas and natives doing a hot-foot dance as they're electrocuted on a trap.

Corny, but I guess that's what Jules Verne wrote back in the mid-1800s. The hot-foot dance hadn't become a cliche yet.

The film is a hodgepodge of hgihlights and lowlights. First our nature expert Paul Lukas (with expert harpooner Douglas and assistant Peter Lorre in tow) spend half an hour circling the Pacific in search of a giant monster that's been sinking ships. They finally give up, but not until we see countless Jacques Cousteau outtakes of schooling fish, lobster harvesting, etc. But then they're rammed by a submarine equipped with a spike on its nose and commanded by the malevolent Captain Nemo (James Mason), who's hatching some kind of fiendish plot to (essentially) destroy the world (when he's not playing his underwater pipe organ, that is).

It's a curious way to spend two hours, hit and miss all the way, but often dazzling in Cinemascope grandeur. Even Douglas's singing isn't half bad. And Mason is quite memorable as the megalomanic captain.

Squid battle aside, though, 20,000 Leagues doesn't give us much more pioneering footage, and that doesn't take place until the very end. The rest of the film -- in retrospect -- is just waiting for the finale.

Disney has issued the film on DVD finally and if you're a fan, it's a grandiose adventure hardly equalled anywhere else. The remastered film (with THX sound) adds a commentary from director Richard Fleischer (now 87). A second disc includes hours of extras: outtakes, behind-the-scenes archives, script bits, and Grand Canyonscope, the animated short that was appended to the film in its original release.

Cast & Crew

Producer :


20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Rating

" OK "

Rating: G, 1954


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