28 February 2007 | Bunuel1976
THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (Lucien Hubbard and, uncredited, Benjamin Christensen and Maurice Tourneur, 1929) **1/2
I was looking forward to this one for several reasons: the fact that I've watched and enjoyed the 1961 remake featuring the model work of effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, because of a still of one of the film's sea creatures (found in an old anthology of Sci-Fi cinema belonging to my father) which had always intrigued me, and also due to the uncredited contribution of a couple of (now rather neglected Silent-film stylists) Benjamin Christensen and Maurice Tourneur.
Still, now that I've caught up with the film, I have to say that it didn't live up to my expectations: the biggest problem is that, for an adventure epic, it's rather dull perhaps the behind-the-scenes turmoil which saw the production go through three directors, as well as the addition of clumsily-integrated Sound sequences (not bad in themselves, particularly a lengthy conversation near the beginning between Lionel Barrymore and Montagu Love), diffused any momentum the picture might have had! Then again, the plot itself (which probably has little to do with Jules Verne's original) isn't exactly inspired: the Russian-style setting is a mistake and the love triangle/class struggle element really bogs down the proceedings.
What makes the film, therefore, are the submarine/underwater sequences even if the monster attacks themselves are somewhat lame (featuring nothing more imaginative than an alligator made-up to look like a dinosaur[!] and a rather small octopus). Leading lady Jane Daly whose last film this was is lovely but her role has no depth (besides, her ostensible propensity with the sub's gadgetry is hard to take); lamentable but, thankfully, brief injections of comedy are provided by the ubiquitous "Snitz" Edwards and a thinned-down Gibson Gowland (the imposing star of Erich von Stroheim's GREED ) appears as one of the sub's crew.