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Blu-ray Review Mysterious Island Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Richard Gallagher

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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.
 


Mysterious Island

Studio: Twilight Time/Sony/Columbia Pictures
Year: 1961
Rated: Not Rated
Program Length: 101 minutes                         
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 1080p
Languages: English DTS-HD 5.1 MA, English Mono
Subtitles: English SDH

The Program

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 likely enjoy this adaptation, even though the giant creatures created by Ray Harryhausen are nowhere to be found in the book. Mysterious Island previously was released on DVD in 2002, but this Blu-ray edition is a limited one, with only 3,000 units being made available for sale. Anyone interested in obtaining a copy should go to www.screenarchives.com to check on availability before placing an order.

The Video

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 is the first Sony product to be released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time, and it is gratifying to see that Sony's usual high standards have been maintained.

The Audio

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.

Neil Middlemiss tipped me off to a discussion about the score at www.filmscoremonthly.com. It appears that about 70% of the score was mastered from two-track stereo masters and the rest is from a U.K. mono track. The discussion is interesting, although it seems that one of the posters is talking about the audio on the 2002 DVD rather than the Blu-ray.

The Supplements

The single Blu-ray disc contains just a few extras, so those who own the 2002 DVD may want to hang onto it even if they decide to upgrade to the Blu-ray.

Bernard Hermann fans will enjoy listening to the isolated score track. The isolated score is in stereo, so if you wish to hear it in mono you will have to do so while also listening to the dialogue and sound effects.

The original theatrical trailer is presented in high definition and is framed at 1.66:1. It is in pristine condition. A television ad for the film is in black & white (color televisions were rare in 1961) and is framed at 4:3. It too is in excellent shape.

Viewers also can see a listing of the entire Twilight Time catalogue, which is limited at this point. The next Blu-ray releases from Twilight Time are scheduled to be Fright Night and Rapture.

This Blu-ray release also comes with an eight-page booklet which includes a number of still photos and an excellent essay by Julie Kirgo.


The menu does not offer a scene selection option. There are chapter stops every ten minutes, but you have to use the skip function on your remote to advance through them (thanks to David Weicker for pointing this out).


The Packaging

The single disc comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

The Final Analysis

Mysterious Island is a very entertaining fantasy-adventure film which is now available in an excellent limited edition Blu-ray.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: November 8, 2011
 

 

Cameron Yee

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I read the Mysterious Island with no clue that Capt. Nemo would show up at the end.It was a real surprise and treat!
 

David Weicker

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Two additional points The disc does not contain any type of Scene Selection. There are chapter breaks, but they seem to be every ten minutes, and not at the start of scenes. Whether this changes your enjoyment or not, it should be mentioned. Also, according to one of the other threads, the isolated score is not music-only. Apparently, it also contains effects as well. I haven't had a chance to watch my copy yet - only watched a few minutes here and there, but what I've seen looks terrific. David
 

Richard Gallagher

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Originally Posted by David Weicker

Two additional points
The disc does not contain any type of Scene Selection. There are chapter breaks, but they seem to be every ten minutes, and not at the start of scenes. Whether this changes your enjoyment or not, it should be mentioned.
Also, according to one of the other threads, the isolated score is not music-only. Apparently, it also contains effects as well.
I haven't had a chance to watch my copy yet - only watched a few minutes here and there, but what I've seen looks terrific.
David

Thanks for pointing that out about the absence of a scene selection option. I am adding that to the review.


As for the isolated score, I sampled it but did not notice any sound effects in the portions I listened to. It's possible that I missed something, so if you hear effects with the score please let me know what scene it occurs in so I can check it out.
 

Joe Caps

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Try the finalo reels with the volcano exploding and you will hear plenty of effects.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Watched this film for the first time this morning on Blu-ray.

I very much enjoyed the film, though I think it falls somewhat

short of the more popular Sinbad movies.


As Rich mentioned, a very fine transfer from the folks at Sony.
Wholeheartedly agree that the increased amount of definition

bring out the seams in all the backdrop paintings and effects.


Was interesting to hear the 5.1 DTS-MA mix and how the

effects work (such as rain and wind) was effectively thrown to

the rear channels. As also mentioned, a fine score by Bernard

Herrmann.


Great seeing Herbert Lomm in this. Always been a huge fan

of his since seeing him in the Pink Panther movies.

Well worth picking this Blu-ray up, especially for those who

love the work of Ray Harryhausen.
 

Johnny Angell

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Ronald Epstein said:
Great seeing Herbert Lomm in this. Always been a huge fan of his since seeing him in the Pink Panther movies.  
Remember when he chopped off his finger? All that twitching he did was worth the ticket price alone:)
 

Richard Gallagher

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Parts of the isolated score do indeed include sound effects. During some of the prison break scene you can hear the rain and an explosion. On the other hand, once the balloon is aloft there is no sound of wind or rain, just the music.


It has been reported that part of the score - perhaps as much as 30% - is from mono sources in the U.K. It may be that in those segments the sound effects could not be separated from the music. I don't know that to be the case, but it's a reasonable theory.
 

Adam Gregorich

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Originally Posted by Richard Gallagher

Parts of the isolated score do indeed include sound effects. During some of the prison break scene you can hear the rain and an explosion. On the other hand, once the balloon is aloft there is no sound of wind or rain, just the music.


It has been reported that part of the score - perhaps as much as 30% - is from mono sources in the U.K. It may be that in those segments the sound effects could not be separated from the music. I don't know that to be the case, but it's a reasonable theory.



I talked to Nick from Twilight Time today as part of a larger piece we will be posting in the next week or two, so I asked him about this. He said that 70% of the isolated score is the score only. 30% of it no longer exists, so they had to use an effects/score track for those portions. So its not completely an isolated score, nor is it an effects/score track. Its the closest they could get to having an isolated score with the materials available. They didn't want to bill it as an effects/score track since 70% didn't have effects. They didn't want to have a full discussion of the problem on the back cover and they figured they fans who were interested in the score were aware of the history.


I have only watched part of it, but am very pleased with what I have seen so far. I look forward to finishing it and the other upcoming titles.
 

benbess

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On the basis of recommendations here and elsewhere I splurged and got this title. Just started watching it with my kids, 10 and 15. Even with all the cgi today that they are used to, we are still really enjoying it. The crab battle/cooked crab got us a couple of squeaks of delight at the zany fun of it.... Somehow in all my tv watching in the 70s I never saw this one, and so it was the first time for me as well.
 

benbess

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Bob Cashill said:
Not CGI, stop motion animation--and isn't that what makes the movie so enjoyable?
Yes, we knew it wasn't CGI. What I meant to say (and have now corrected above) is that my kids are used to cgi. But this was better in some ways because it wasn't that....:)
 

Billy Batson

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I haven't watched it yet. I never watch a favorite movie as soon as it arrives, I have to pick a day & then look forward to it (sad I know, but I don't care). Next weekend I'll watch it the same as I did when I was 10 in 1961, on a double bill with The Pirates Of Blood River (Sony Hammer Box).
 

Adam Gregorich

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Originally Posted by Billy Batson

I haven't watched it yet. I never watch a favorite movie as soon as it arrives, I have to pick a day & then look forward to it (sad I know, but I don't care). Next weekend I'll watch it the same as I did when I was 10 in 1961, on a double bill with The Pirates Of Blood River (Sony Hammer Box).


Not sad at all. I have to often due that as well due to my schedule. Let us know what you think!
 

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