An unfortunate, fascinating, uneven, and apparently accursed film with three directors which took that same number of years to complete. The cost of this interesting failure was well over a million dollars, a staggering sum at the time. Barring underwater sequences, the entire film was shot
in the old two-color Technicolor process, an expensive system which required special projection equipment in the theaters. The entire second unit was destroyed while filming on location near the Bahamas. The original director, the celebrated Tourneur, suffered artistic differences with MGM
wunderkind Irving Thalberg and departed when the film was half completed. He was replaced by writer Hubbard, assisted by Christensen. The narrative departs from author Verne's novel in almost every detail. A sequel to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the novel tells of the further adventures
of its major protagonist, Captain Nemo. The celebrated captain does not even appear in this film. His place is taken by Count Dakkar, Barrymore, who constructs two submarines in the hope of confirming his theory (based on skeletal evidence) that a strange creature, half fish, half human, exists
near the ocean bottom. Villain Love hopes to gain the throne of Russia with the help of Barrymore's inventions, which he attempts to commandeer. Capturing the count and his shore crew while one of the submersibles explores the surrounding sea, Love subjects Barrymore to torture. When the undersea
craft returns to the island to successfully rescue Barrymore it is crippled by gunfire and sinks to the bottom, where its occupants discover the race of tiny mermen they sought. Wearing diving suits, Barrymore's men mingle with the merpersons, winning their regard by staving off the attack of a
sea monster. Meanwhile, Barrymore's sister Daly, in the second of the two submarines, does battle with Love--who, in a plot twist, loves her--and his men. Sensing defeat, she sinks the submarine sending it to the bottom alongside its crippled sister ship, where the battle continues. The
merpersons--who seem to have a bit of shark in their makeup--are incited to frenzy by the blood of the combat mixing with the water, and attack the humans. Love is killed and his men defeated. Barrymore is fatally wounded by the embrace of a giant octopus which the seapeople sic on the
surface-dwellers. One submarine is repaired and the survivors surface, but the fatally wounded Barrymore opts to make the submarine his coffin and goes to his watery grave. While this embattled film was in production and on the shelf, synchronized sound made its appearance in the world's
moviehouses. Consequently, sound was added to the picture after the fact. The dialog sequences occur mostly in the opening scenes, with Barrymore pontificating about his remarkable inventions. Technically, the film is excellent. The seapeople were midgets, suspended from wires in a studio setting.
The other effects are fine. Though well received by critics, this fascinating failure lost more than three quarters of a million dollars for the studio. Remade in 1941, 1951, and 1961 under the same title.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: An unfortunate, fascinating, uneven, and apparently accursed film with three directors which took that same number of years to complete. The cost of this interesting failure was well over a million dollars, a staggering sum at the time. Barring underwater… (more)