20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
One hundred years of Disney
This is playing at the BFI, as part of a season of Disney movies to celebrate the one hundred year anniversary. I probably enjoyed the short they played first, from 1938, more than the actual film. Why don’t they still do that?
20,000 Leagues is a very 1950s film, with endless tropes that characterise action films of the period, especially eight years later when the James Bond franchise got started. All of it, but especially the lagoon, reminded me of Thunderball. It’s a loose, fantastical story played in a blockish sort of way. This was Disney’s break into live-action and distribution, inspired the theme-park, and led to a TV series.
It is odd to see Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre, who had played such villains for Hitchcock in the 1930s being a low-key semi-comedy duo. They weren’t given enough to work with. The use of the seal seemed unkind to the poor animal. The racism is relatively brief but incredible when you consider the state of the USA and civil rights in 1954. The Bach was nice to hear. I enjoyed the sheer ambition of it all. Clearly it inspired parts of Ponyo, Titanic, and others.
It went quicker than I thought but is a bit too long. I could have done without Kirk Douglas as a ham. It gets a 3.5 on Letterboxd, which seems about right if not a little high. A Sunday afternoon sort of film. Interesting to see the final explosion after Oppenheimer. Worth seeing for the special effects and their role in the development of the movies. They won an Oscar for the squid and Harper Goff who did so much of that work wasn’t unionised and thus didn’t get credited. Bastards.