The Mysterious Island

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(4/10) In a nutshell: Borrowing the name of Jules Verne’s bestseller, this problem-ridden 1926-1929 production features good acting, some remarkable special effects and a solid-ish script, but alas, the schizophrenic semi-talkie-semi-silent financial disaster is just as equally horrible in many ways, with toy submarines, crocodiles substituting for dinos.

The Mysterious Island. Directed by Lucien Hubbard, Maurice Tourneur, Benjamin Christensen. Written by Lucien Hubbard, Carl Piersen. Loosely based on several novels by Jules Verne (but not The Mysterious Island). Starring: Lionel Barrymore Jacqueline Gadsden (as Jane Daly), Lloyd Hughes, Montagu Love. Produced by J. Ernest Williamson (uncredited) for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. IMDb score: 6.1

Attack of the 3 foot Donald Duck oompah-loompas of the depths!

Attack of the 3 foot Donald Duck oompah-loompas of the depths!

The jury still seems to be out on this film, judging from the few reviews on the interwebz. Many pro reviewers seem to like it, while more amateur writers find it dull and clumsy. When it was released in 1929 critics heaped praise on it, while the audience failed to show the same enthusiasm. And in truth, it is a hard one to appraise. On one hand there are clear qualities in both script, acting, special effects and sets – indeed it was a very expensive film that took over two years to film. But on the other hand this very very loose adaptation of a mix of Jules Verne books had monstrous production problems that are equally obvious, and simply cannot be forgiven. Continue reading

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The Airship Destroyer

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(4/10) In a nutshell: An action-packed British short from 1909 depicting future warfare with missiles and airships. Marred by amateurish design, sloppy trick film and an uninspired script.

The Airhip Destroyer, 1909, UK. Written and directed by Walter R. Booth. Produced by Charles Urban.  IMDb score: 6.2

Imaginative, but flimsily executed airships.

Imaginative, but flimsily executed airships.

One of the early innovators of British cinema was Walter R. Booth, working together with camera maker and producer Robert W. Paul in the late 19th century to create similar trick films that were being pioneered by Georges Méliès in France. In 1899 he directed Upside Down; or The Human Flies, where he made people seem to walk on the ceiling by simply turning the camera upside down. In 1901 he made the first film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and in 1906 he made Britain’s first animated film by drawing on the frames. In the same year he took his first foray into sci-fi with a 2 minutes long film about a motorist fleeing the police around the rings of Saturn with the film The ‘?’ Motorist – which he would expand on in 1911. But his first sci-fi film of any substantial length was he 1909 film The Airship Destroyer. Continue reading