now quite antiquated, Lucien Hubbard's production of The Mysterious Island starring Lionel
Barrymore, is one the first oceanic thrillers filmed in the new sound medium
94mins. Technicolor. US.
Credits: Dir: Lucien Hubbard, Maurice Tourneur & Benjamin
Christensen; Sc: Lucien Hubbard; Ph: Percy Hilburn; Ed: Carl L. Pierson; Art: Cedric
Gibbons; Tech: James Basevi, Louis H. Tolhurst & Irving G. Ries; Mus: Martin Broones
& Arthur Lange. From the story by Jules Verne.
Cast: Lionel Barrymore,
Lloyd Hughes, Jane Daly, Montague Love, Harry
Gribbon, Snitz Edwards, Gibson Gowland,
Dolores Brinkman, Angelo Rossitto, Pauline
Starke, Karl Dane, Warner Oland.
This is the first oceanic adventure brought
to the screen in sound that was loosely based on Jules Verne's novel, however, film
pioneer Georges Melies produced a version titled Ulysse
et le Geant Polpheme in 1905, ironically the same year Verne died.
Although now antiquated, this early sound production is particularly interesting for
displaying how studios were trying their best to adapt to the new sound medium. There are
only a few scenes of dialogue that demonstrate how even capable actors such as Lionel
Barrymore, here as Count Dakkar, were having trouble during this period of adjustment.
Andre Dakkar, a character who later came to be known as Captain Nemo in future productions
based on the same source, is an eccentric genius living on an island near the shores of
the kingdom of Hetvia. He explains to Baron Fallon, (Montague Love), his intention to
explore the ocean in search of a civilisation he believes exists under the ocean floor. In
his experimental submersible craft, Count Dakkar and his daughter's sweetheart, Nikolai,
(Lloyd Hughes), descend into the waters. However, during their descent, Count Fallon and
his Hussars seize the chance to overrun the island, and in a bid to rule the kingdom he
holds Dakkar's daughter, Countess Sonia, (Jane Daly), captive.
Upon resurfacing in the craft, Dakker and Nikolai learn of the dissent and quickly return
to the ocean depths after they are bombarded by the Hussars. Plummeting dangerously to the bottom of the ocean the ship ends up precariously
balanced on a ledge. The crew disembark in cumbersome diving suits to be greeted by a race
of dwarf-sized fishmen that look similar to deformed Donald Ducks. After encountering a
giant horned lizard, the fishmen and a giant octopus help remove Dakkar's ship safely from
the ledge, but Count Fallon has discovered another of Dakkar's submersible crafts on the
island and follows him into the depths accompanied by Countess Sonia and a few soldiers.
During the ensuing confrontation Baron Fallon looses his life when a pole pierces his
diving helmet and his life's-blood oozes out. Fighting off a further attack from hoards of
sea creatures, Dakkar, his daughter and Nikolai repair their ship with parts provided by
the other submersible allowing them to return to the surface and defeat Fallon's remaining
Finally to prevent his work from being stolen and used for evil ends, Dakkar destroys his
laboratory. His dying wish is to be buried at sea in his submersible ship, and in turn
destroying the last remnant of his discoveries.
troubled production, the film took three years and $1 million to complete under three
Danish director Benjamin Christensen, a
largely forgotten, but an outstanding director responsible for Haxan (1922), and the
"old-dark-house" comedy Seven Footprints to
Satan (1929), was reportedly sacked after MGM's executives were dissatisfied with his
painstaking methods that was pushing the film well over budget. In 1926 Christensen was
replaced by Maurice Tourneur, who was then replaced by scriptwriter Lucien Hubbard for the
the film was shot as a silent and released in an early two-tone Technicolor process for
which synchronised sound effects and dialogue were later added to help boost box office
takings during this difficult transitional period.
Although this curiosity is not deserving of
critical praise, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND remains as yet another stepping stone on the road
to the cinema we know today.
Poster and lobby card stills
courtesy of Ronald V. Borst
and DVD Search