Written by / 3/22/2016 / No comments / , , , , , , , , , ,

KIRK DOUGLAS IN DISNEY'S '20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA'

Probably singing something by SEAL
What's rare about movies, especially that of the action or science-fiction nature, is there are usually two or three leads. That is, two males, an Alpha and Beta, and one female ingenue that you only see enough to drive the two men crazy.

Kirk Douglas
Meanwhile, a woman would have given Kirk Douglas's freelance harpooner a lot more to sing to, and about, than a seal within a very special submarine/boat that, among other things, Kirk secretly collects a cache of treasure and booze inside as battle-ship rammer James Mason's Captain Nemo uses the machine's pointed exterior to rid the ocean of ships carrying weapons for that horrible creation called War...

Kirk kicking his way out
And in this multi-layered, completely entertaining 1954 Disney adventure, there are plenty of characters to center on including two buried leads for their scientific value, yet only one, Mason's brilliant yet borderline insane Nemo, is the entire reason for the group to go 10,000 leagues deeper than a book taken seriously by everyone at that time, written by the famous Prof. Pierre Aronnax (the Jules Verne of the movie), played by a subdued, grounded, very important (and narrating) Paul Lukas, who becomes more of an unappreciated middleman between the edgy Nemo and the cocky, rogue Douglas; the latter who, years later, would possibly inspire Steve McQueen in THE GREAT ESCAPE and/or Han Solo in STAR WARS, stealing the movie outright, as if it were his very own... like that stolen treasure in the seal's room. But the conversations between Professor Aronnax and Captain Nemo range from pretty much everything: to the war, basic human nature and our overall existence.

Kirk Douglas figures things out
And last but not least is an aged Peter Lorre, more heavyset and friendly than his eerie and sinister youth, resembling character-actor Burt Young (before there was a Burt Young to be compared to).

Lorre's Conseil is the only thing (moral compass) really holding back Douglas's Ned Land from continuing to steal more and more treasure that Nemo had taken from the sea floor, and that Ned wanted to do beforehand, while Nemo's busy destroying war ships, which is how, after a mysterious first act, boats were supposedly being ferociously and fatally attacked by a rumored, unstoppable sea beast... initially bringing the three investigative leads together in the first place: all reluctantly "rescued" into the classy mad man's submarine, The Nautilus. And eventually, during the famous conclusion, a giant formidable squid tries taking the sub/ship, and crew, apart with its powerful tentacles...

Peter Lorre
Herein Douglas finally almost proves his heroic worth to Mason's perpetually untrusting Nemo, although at this point, after a relatively long yet flowing two-hours, the adventure, now taking place on the island where the ill-fated war ships set out to sea, there's a literally explosive conclusion. Just imagine Nemo destroying British war ships on the way to stopping Hitler, and you might just want to kick his idealistic ass...

The brains of the bunch
Well this is obviously years before WWII, and still, the sane trio realizes he's a sick man. But Nemo's edgy, anti-war status is somewhat understandable since these war ships have to do with slavery that he was involved with, and yet, despite the deep stuff, a lot of the film has Douglas hanging with both the cute seal and Peter Lorre, reveling in the booze and booty as Lorre catches tips from the brave hero (while peripherally "protecting" his boss) as Douglas, subliminally becoming a sort of SIERRA MADRE Bogart, only nicer, is yearning to take the treasure chest for himself...

Meanwhile, Nemo considers all the underwater elements to be the real treasures and/or discoveries, ranging from aquatic elements that can make food and cigars... Basically, you can live an entire life underwater, and Nemo needs the Professor as his own personal Captain's log-pen for what could be a glorious journal when (and if) completed.

Four main leads in one motion picture RATES: ****
With a perfect combination of scientific exposition and a handing-off of daring-do adventures, all completely resulting from the characters: from battling headhunters to that awesome giant squid, LEAGUES takes us lower than any movie...

Yet, although dated with a few corny singalongs by an initially hyperactive Douglas (few can get away with such kitsch and still seem cool, wearing a shirt resembling Christmas candy cane, to boot), contrasting with his brainy partners and eventually, all heads connect in one of the best Disney features that... although only slightly wielding dated (albeit completely apt) monstrous creature effects... looks great outside and even better inside as any movie today, especially the plush interior of Nemo's ultimate submarine... Thus the Nautilus, which is also a spooky-looking boat resembling some kind of primal dragon sea monster of the depths, is both a character in itself and the reason for everything to take place, uniting four human beings that couldn't be more different, and yet fitting together, perfectly.
Giant Octopus fighting the Nautilus in the Disney classic YEAR: 1954 
Exterior View of Nemo's vessel as the boy's attempt to escape
An intense Captain Nemo during an 11th hour emergency
Peter Lorre standing next to that great looking organ
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