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The Saturday Matinée ~ "Mysterious Island"
Please see a spoiler alert and the design and intent of these "The Saturday Matinée" film recommendations at ~ "The Saturday Matinee ~ a preview".
The Civil War, Pirates, underwater cities, monster-sized animals, Captain Nemo - 1961's "Mysterious Island" might be the all-time '10 year old boy movie' ever made. Ray Harryhausen is one of the most influential filmmakers ever, the list of directors who name him as their biggest reason for making movies and loving movies is a who's who of today's top film makers. Now, Harryhausen himself was not a director, he was a special effects genius. When Tom Hanks handed Ray Harryhausen his special Academy Award, Hanks announced that while some say "Citizen Kane" and some say "Casablanca", he thinks Harryhausen's "Jason And The Argonauts" is the greatest film ever made.
Enough cannot be said about Ray Harryhausen, but another off-camera genius must be mentioned when talking about "Mysterious Island" . . . Bernard Herrmann was a multiple Oscar nominee and winner who wrote some of the screen's most memorable film scores, including the music to "Citizen Kane", "Cape Fear", and "Taxi Driver", but, that's not even touching on the series of musical scores he did for two great filmmakers - Alfred Hitchcock and Ray Harryhausen. Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much", "Vertigo", "The Birds", "North By Northwest", "Psycho", etc, all featured music by Bernard Herrmann, as did many of Harryhausen's films. When you watch "Mysterious Island", right from the start, the first thing that grabs you is Bernard Herrmann's music . . . the double clashing cymbals as the waves first crash (TTSSSHHHH) against the rocks and then burst (TTSSSHHHH) into the air with a rousing "TTSSSHHHH TTSSSHHHH"! Just listen to the little bit you get in the trailer below.
All the performances in this film are great; Michael Craig is properly balanced between wonder and resolve as the heroic leader, Gary Merrill (husband of Betti Davis) as a newspaper reporter is one of those actors many in my generation know from dozens of films and is always good, and Michael Callan was the new rising star - but it's the Captain Nemo character and performance that is one of those perfect actor for the role circumstances that you can't always see coming.
In that era, the early 1960s, if I were to pick any actor to play Nemo in a film I would quickly and easily pick James Mason . . . and that's just what genius Walt Disney did for his 1954 film "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea", and James Mason was flawless as the tortured visionary Captain Nemo. However - Herbert Lom (who was frequently being driven batty as Inspector Clouseau's boss in the "Pink Panther" films) was inspired as "Mysterious Island"'s Captain Nemo.
I like to think if James Mason had been in the Nemo role in this superior film to his "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea", he would have been a superior Nemo as well (because I'm a great fan of James Mason) - but there's no denying it, Herbert Lom is THE screen Nemo. When Michael Craig's Captain Harding asks Nemo why he has kept himself hidden from the castaways, Lom as Nemo answers with one of my favorite lines in movie history . . . as a kid, I sat in the theater and knew just what Nemo was talking about, and it was helpful to the youthful me that someone else out there 'got' what I often felt.
So, make it a big deal, have movie night, have a cousin or friend join them, get some snacks, BUT - encourage them to attentively watch the movie, it's not play or goof-off time, if they sit still and pay attention "Mysterious Island" will teach them to want to do this some more, it will persuade them that mom & dad might just know what they're talking about sometimes. And, please remember, this is not for the kids, this is for the family . . . and if you sit attentively and actually watch the movie, you will see how well done a simple Saturday matinée movie from 50 years ago can be - a well told story is timeless and for young and old.
This is the first in my series of "The Saturday Matinée" movie recommendations. . . as I continue to publish other suggested films, this space will provide links to those entries in the series.
"A Preview" (an introduction to this movie review series)
1. "Mysterious Island"
2. "Horror Of Dracula"
3. "This Island Earth"
please also visit my other series "Regular, Normal Christianity"
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One of the 'boy's back to school movie sleepovers with grampa' with just some of the grandsons . . . the younger ones will join us as they are able and interested to sit still and give their attention to the movie