- Dec 9, 2001
- Fishkill, NY
- Real Name
- Rich Gallagher
When Mysterious Island was released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time four years ago, it sold out quickly. Twilight Time has now released an encore edition which features the same outstanding transfer but which adds an optional 2.0 DTS HD-MA soundtrack and several excellent extras which were not available on the prior release.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 41 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, OtherStandard Clear Blu-ray Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 12/08/2015
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
During the decade of the 1950s three blockbuster movies - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days, and Journey to the Center of the Earth - were adapted from novels written by Jules Verne. Supposedly producer Charles Schneer was attracted to Verne's "Mysterious Island" after hearing that a survey of public libraries revealed that it was at that time the "most looked-at" book. It was an attractive project for Schneer. For one thing, the book is a sequel to the highly successful 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. For another, it gave Schneer the opportunity to utilize the talents of his longtime collaborator, special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen. The result is a highly entertaining fantasy-adventure which also features a superb score by composer Bernard Hermann.
The action opens at a Confederate prison during the siege of Richmond, Virginia in 1865. Three Union POWs - Captain Cyrus Harding (Michael Craig) and two enlisted men, Corporal Neb Nugent (Dan Jackson) and Private Herbert Brown (Michael Callan) have hatched an escape plan. The Confederates have an observation balloon at the prison, and the POWs decide to try to hijack it if they can escape from their cell. An opportunity presents itself when the rebels take a war correspondent, Gideon Spilitt (Gary Merrill), into custody. The guards are overpowered and the prisoners make their way to the balloon in the midst of a fearsome thunderstorm. During the course of their escape they capture a Confederate soldier, Sergeant Pencroft (Percy Herbert). The escapees hang on for dear life as "the greatest storm in American history" forces the balloon to the west, and they eventually drift out over the Pacific Ocean.
When the ballooning neophytes finally spot a mass of land, they lower their airship to get a better look. However, the balloon's valve gets stuck and breaks, and a crash landing ensues. They all survive the crash, but they find themselves on what appears to be an uninhabited island - uninhabited by humans, that is. Before long they begin to have encounters with enormous crustaceans, birds and insects. In the course of exploring the island they discover that it once was occupied by pirates. More ominously, the smoking mountain in the center of the island is an active volcano. A shipwreck fortuitously delivers two females to the island, Lady Mary Fairchild (Joan Greenwood) and her niece, Elena (Beth Rogan). When a chest of valuable items from the submarine Nautilus washes up on the beach, we know that Captain Nemo (Herbert Lom) cannot be far behind (in fact, we know all along that Nemo will be showing up, because his name appears in the opening credits). Nemo's unusual entrance is one of the film's more memorable moments.
The cast of Mysterious Island is not exactly A-list, but the actors turn in engaging performances. Herbert Lom is particularly striking as Captain Nemo, and Beth Rogan's Elena fashions what may be the only goatskin mini-skirt in the history of film. Michael Craig is appropriately sturdy as Captain Harding, and Gary Merrill is very entertaining as the wry war correspondent. Only Michael Callan seems to be out of place, as he sports a pompadour which appears to have been transported directly from the 1960s to the 1860s. Ray Harryhausen's special effects remain impressive even after the passage of fifty years. Director Cy Endfield (Zulu) keeps the action moving along at a brisk pace, and he is aided immeasurably by Bernard Hermann's impressive score (which is performed by the London Symphony Orchestra).
Fans of Jules Verne will surely enjoy this adaptation, even though the giant creatures created by Ray Harryhausen are nowhere to be found in the book.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
This is an excellent Blu-ray transfer which looks as good as anything which Sony has produced from the same era. The 1.66:1 image is properly framed, leaving slight black bars on both sides of the picture. Colors are solid and accurate, contrast is strong and black levels are fine. The one drawback to the highly detailed picture is that Harryhausen's matte paintings look more like paintings than the real thing. One of the early scenes on the island includes a flock of birds, and it is immediately apparent that the birds are animated figures. However, this is a minor quibble. An appropriate level of film grain has been retained to provide a highly satisfying, film-like appearance. Mysterious Island was the first Sony product to be released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time.
Robert A. Harris, our resident expert, has chimed in on the virtues of this release:
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
In my 2011 review I wrote, "As noted above, the film's audio can be heard either in lossless DTS-HD 5.1 MA or the original English mono. The 5.1 soundtrack provides more punch and really brings Bernard Hermann's score to life. Dialogue is confined to the center channel and is crisp, clear and entirely understandable."
The addition of the 2.0 DTS HD-MA soundtrack is a nice touch which will please some viewers. I still prefer the 5.1 soundtrack, which does a nice job of providing directionality to the sound effects, but try them all and choose the one which you prefer.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
As noted, the extras on the original Twilight Time Blu-ray were limited, but several additional excellent supplements have been included in this encore edition.
Bernard Hermann fans will enjoy listening to the isolated score track. As was the case with the original Twilight Time Blu-ray, the isolated score track sometimes includes sound effects. Nick Redman explained that 30% of the original score track no longer exists, so they had to use an effects/score track for those portions.
The original theatrical trailer and a re-release trailer are presented in high definition and are framed at 1.66:1. Both are in pristine condition.
Two television trailers for the film are in black & white (color televisions having been rare in 1961) and are framed at 4:3. They make a point of emphasizing that the film is in color. Both are in excellent shape.
There also are three black & white television spots, ranging in length from 20 seconds to one minute.
"Islands of Mystery" is a vintage 5 1/2 minute promotional film which intersperses information about the film Mysterious Island with facts about other interesting islands such as Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands.
"Ray Harryhausen on Mysterious Island" is a ten-minute color featurette in which the special effects genius discusses how he spiced up the original Jules Verne novel by including prehistoric creatures in the story. It is framed at 4:3 and appears as if it was produced as an introduction and postscript to a television airing of the film.
The original Twilight Time Blu-ray of Mysterious Island did not include chapter stops, but this release is divided into 24 chapters.
A worthwhile commentary track by film historians Randall William Cook, C. Courtney Joiner, and Steven C. Smith provides many insights into the production of the film.
The enclosed booklet with Julie Kirgo's excellent essay is identical to the one which came with the original Twilight Time release.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Mysterious Island is a very entertaining fantasy-adventure film which is once again available in an excellent limited edition Blu-ray. Whether owners of the original Twilight Time release will want to double-dip depends upon your interest in the additional extras and the inclusion of the 2.0 DTS HD-MA soundtrack.
This release of Mysterious Island is limited to 3,000 copies, so readers interested in purchasing it should go to the Twilight Time website and confirm that copies are still available. Twilight Time is promising faster shipping and for each month in 2016 will randomly select one lucky purchaser who will receive all new Twilight Time releases for the following month at no charge.
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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