Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1969)
While I’m always looking for an inspiration on what film of yesteryear to write about, I settled on this tale aimed at the kiddies thanks to locating a colorful original one sheet film poster from a reputable dealer that I frequently do business with.
For this big screen adaptation of the famed Captain Nemo of literature, the unlikely Robert Ryan has been enlisted as the stern ruler of the world beneath the seas. When a seafaring ship is lost at sea there are but few survivors. Sinking to certain death is Chuck Connors and four others including Nanette Newman and British ‘Carry On” regular Kenneth Connor.
The five members of the downed ship are rescued by a group of nineteenth century scuba divers and taken aboard Nemo’s Nautilus. It is here that state senator Connors will meet and verbally spar with Ryan over ethics and right and wrong for the balance of the film. Naturally the new found members of the Nautilus are to be enamored at the wonders of the sea and the inventions that Nemo has created including the title’s Underwater City.
They’re not so happy when Ryan states matter of factly, “You’ll be staying here for the rest of your natural lives.”
And so begins the battle to regain their lives on the surface despite seeing the pleasures of the utopia that Ryan has bequeathed upon his city dwellers that have followed him to the depths of the ocean floor. Men, women and children living in harmony without the threat of wars that mankind continues to enact upon each other.
For a bit of comedy relief, we have two brothers played by the Ken Connor and Bill Fraser. The pair lost a fortune in gold when their ship went down but are relieved to find that gold is abundantly used in the underwater city for practically everything mechanical including every day forks and knives, goblets and plates. Our British comedian is constantly tucking items into his clothing with the intention of bringing the items top side should they be able to escape. Even a violin is made of gold.
For a love interest, leading man Chuck Connors meets Luciana Paluzzi (The Green Slime) who runs a school for the children of the city. The pair fall for each other but are star crossed lovers when she refuses to leave her home and enter a world she knows little about. Jealousies rear their ugly heads when her suitor beneath the sea and second in command to Ryan takes exception to the affair.
Just how will Connors and his party find their way to the ocean’s surface? I’m not telling but if you need to know then keep your eyes peeled to the TCM guide as it occasionally shows up.
This rather harmless tale from director James Hill injects adventures including shark attacks and a giant manta ray subbing in for the giant squid from the 1954 Disney classic which cast James Mason in the Nemo role. One member of Chuck’s group suffers from claustrophobia and will cause substantial damage to the city and himself resulting in a very cold decision from Ryan’s Nemo that doesn’t sit well with the other survivors.
The special effects are passable for the time and the tossing of Chuck’s ship over the opening scenes are well enacted with the use of models and what I assume to be a large indoor tank for the actors to be thrown about while diving off the ship to to the waters below. The set designers do their best as well at creating the interiors of the underwater city and the Nautilus where the majority of the film will take place.
Ryan was well past his Noir years by this time and had just starred in perhaps the best western of the decade( perhaps ever) before adding his name alongside Mason’s and Herbert Lom’s, two actors who had previously enacted the role. As for Chuck Connors, he was always moving back and forth between series TV and motion pictures resulting in a long and varied career.