Mysterious Island (1961)

101 mins | Science fiction | 13 December 1961

Director:

Cy Endfield

Producer:

Charles H. Schneer

Cinematographer:

Wilkie Cooper

Production Designer:

Bill Andrews

Production Company:

Ameran Films
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HISTORY

Mysterious Island was originally set to be produced by Bryan Foy for Columbia Pictures, with screenwriter Crane Wilbur on board to adapt the Jules Verne novel, L’ile mystérieuse, upon which the film was based, as stated in the 18 Mar 1955 DV and NYT. Although the 1874 novel was in the public domain, Foy reportedly “had to obtain copyright clearances in Europe.” On 28 Sep 1955, DV noted that James Whitfield Ellison had been hired to work on the script.
       Early plans called for shooting in the South Seas. However, the 19 Dec 1955 DV stated that Foy was in Mexico scouting locations for a Mar 1956 start date. Principal photography was delayed, and the 19 Mar 1956 DV reported that Charles Gould , who was set to direct second unit, would soon travel to the Malay Archipelago to shoot underwater scenes with the aid of Frank Donahue’s team of deep-sea divers who worked on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954, see entry).
       James Mason was named as the top contender for the lead role in the 18 Mar 1955 NYT. The following year, a 7 Jun 1956 DV item stated that Bryan Foy was eyeing Collier Young for a starring role. On 22 Jun 1956, DV announced that Irving Schulman would deliver a final screenplay. The project subsequently stalled. Nearly three years passed before the 29 May 1959 DV announced that producer Charles H. Schneer would make the film through his Morningside Productions. The 6 May 1959 LAT indicated that Columbia would ...

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Mysterious Island was originally set to be produced by Bryan Foy for Columbia Pictures, with screenwriter Crane Wilbur on board to adapt the Jules Verne novel, L’ile mystérieuse, upon which the film was based, as stated in the 18 Mar 1955 DV and NYT. Although the 1874 novel was in the public domain, Foy reportedly “had to obtain copyright clearances in Europe.” On 28 Sep 1955, DV noted that James Whitfield Ellison had been hired to work on the script.
       Early plans called for shooting in the South Seas. However, the 19 Dec 1955 DV stated that Foy was in Mexico scouting locations for a Mar 1956 start date. Principal photography was delayed, and the 19 Mar 1956 DV reported that Charles Gould , who was set to direct second unit, would soon travel to the Malay Archipelago to shoot underwater scenes with the aid of Frank Donahue’s team of deep-sea divers who worked on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954, see entry).
       James Mason was named as the top contender for the lead role in the 18 Mar 1955 NYT. The following year, a 7 Jun 1956 DV item stated that Bryan Foy was eyeing Collier Young for a starring role. On 22 Jun 1956, DV announced that Irving Schulman would deliver a final screenplay. The project subsequently stalled. Nearly three years passed before the 29 May 1959 DV announced that producer Charles H. Schneer would make the film through his Morningside Productions. The 6 May 1959 LAT indicated that Columbia would provide financing as part of a three-year, nine-picture deal with Schneer. Raphael Hayes was hired to write the screenplay, as noted in the 23 Jun 1959 DV, and principal photography was scheduled to begin the following year in Europe.
       The project was Schneer’s third to use the Dynamation technique invented by special visual effects man Ray Harryhausen, following The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958, see entry) and The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960, see entry). As noted in the 8 Jul 1959 Var, the Dynamation process entailed “the combination of animated models with live action and the combination of separate scenes in the printing rather than employing process photography.” An item in the 8 Dec 1961 LAT specified that an updated version, “Super-Dynamation,” was used in Mysterious Island.
       The 14 Jun 1960 NYT stated that Michael Callan would star, with shooting scheduled to begin the following Monday, 20 Jun 1960, in Spain. According to an 11 Aug 1959 DV brief, Spanish locations would include the Canary Islands. While filming in Manzanares, Spain, an hours-long delay occurred after armed guards forbade Schneer and his crew from entering a location where director Nicholas Ray was also filming King of Kings (1961, see entry). The 3 Aug 1960 Var stated that both Ray and Mysterious Island director Cy Endfield shot a “huge and very photogenic rock outcropping” in the area. When location filming was completed, cast and crew moved to Shepperton Studios in London, England, for the completion of principal photography, the 31 Aug 1960 Var reported.
       English actor Percy Herbert was initially turned down for the role of “Sergeant Pencroft” due to his British accent. The 7 Jul 1960 LAT stated that Herbert was eventually cast after perfecting his American southern accent based on repeated viewings of the film Suddenly, Last Summer (1960, see entry).
       Competing Mysterious Island projects included a “telefilm series” to be produced by Leon Fromkess, who, upon learning of Columbia’s feature film version, decided to shelve his project for a year or more, as noted in the 16 Mar 1956 DV. Columbia later protested producer Benedict Bogeaus’s registration of the title Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island, according to the 23 Oct 1958 DV. Items in the 27 Apr 1959 DV and 16 Nov 1960 Var credited the plethora of Verne adaptations in the works, including Joseph E. Levine’s The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1961, see entry), Twentieth Century-Fox’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959, see entry), and Five Days in a Balloon (1962, see entry), to the recent box-office successes of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956, see entry), which had grossed $70 million worldwide as of Nov 1960.
       The 15 Dec 1961 LAT review stated that Mysterious Island opened on 13 Dec 1961 in Los Angeles, CA, and roughly two dozen other locations. According to a 9 Aug 1961 DV brief, Columbia hoped to have the picture in as many as 400 theaters by Christmas 1961.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
PERSONAL & COMPANY INDEX CREDITS
HISTORY CREDITS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Mar 1955
p. 3
Daily Variety
28 Sep 1955
p. 2
Daily Variety
19 Dec 1955
p. 2
Daily Variety
16 Mar 1956
p. 1
Daily Variety
19 Mar 1956
p. 6
Daily Variety
18 May 1956
p. 15
Daily Variety
7 Jun 1956
p. 8
Daily Variety
22 Jun 1956
---
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1958
p. 4
Daily Variety
27 Apr 1959
p. 1
Daily Variety
29 May 1959
p. 3
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1959
p. 3
Daily Variety
11 Aug 1959
p. 13
Daily Variety
29 Sep 1959
p. 2
Daily Variety
24 Jun 1960
p. 6
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1961
p. 1
Los Angeles Times
6 May 1959
Section A, p. 13
Los Angeles Times
7 Jul 1960
Section C, p. 9
Los Angeles Times
8 Dec 1961
Section C, p. 12
Los Angeles Times
15 Dec 1961
Section C, p. 12
New York Times
18 Mar 1955
p. 33
New York Times
16 Mar 1956
p. 49
New York Times
14 Jun 1960
p. 43
New York Times
21 Dec 1961
p. 30
Variety
8 Jul 1959
p. 19
Variety
3 Aug 1960
p. 13
Variety
31 Aug 1960
p. 15
Variety
16 Nov 1960
p. 26
Variety
13 Dec 1961
p. 6
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Charles H. Schneer Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Daniel Ullman
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Underwater photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
SOUND
Sd supv
Sd rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Sp visual eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod mgr
Title des
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel L'île mystérieuse by Jules Verne (Paris, 1874).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 December 1961
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 13 Dec 1961; New York opening: 20 Dec 1961
Production Date:
began 20 Jun 1960
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Ameran Films
1 November 1961
LP20499
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color by Pathé
Widescreen/ratio
Duration(in mins):
101
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1865, following the siege of Richmond toward the close of the Civil War, three Union soldiers, a Northern newspaperman, and a Rebel sergeant escape from a Confederate prison in an observation balloon and are carried across the country and far out over the Pacific. A violent storm forces them down on a tiny tropical island; there they find giant creatures (land crabs, roosters, and bees) but no signs of human life. One day they are joined by two women, the sole survivors of a shipwreck. As the little community grows, a pirate ship enters the lagoon and is mysteriously exploded and sunk. At this point a stranger emerges from the sea and announces himself as Captain Nemo. For the past 8 years he has been living on the island and experimenting in the mutation of animals in the hope that the development of such mammoth creatures may solve the world's food problems. The island's volcano will erupt in a few days, he tells the group, and they must try to refloat the sunken pirate ship. By means of the observation balloon, the vessel is raised; and all scramble aboard just as the volcano erupts--all, that is, except Captain Nemo; for by remaining behind until everyone else is safe, he is trapped by tons of rock and ...

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In 1865, following the siege of Richmond toward the close of the Civil War, three Union soldiers, a Northern newspaperman, and a Rebel sergeant escape from a Confederate prison in an observation balloon and are carried across the country and far out over the Pacific. A violent storm forces them down on a tiny tropical island; there they find giant creatures (land crabs, roosters, and bees) but no signs of human life. One day they are joined by two women, the sole survivors of a shipwreck. As the little community grows, a pirate ship enters the lagoon and is mysteriously exploded and sunk. At this point a stranger emerges from the sea and announces himself as Captain Nemo. For the past 8 years he has been living on the island and experimenting in the mutation of animals in the hope that the development of such mammoth creatures may solve the world's food problems. The island's volcano will erupt in a few days, he tells the group, and they must try to refloat the sunken pirate ship. By means of the observation balloon, the vessel is raised; and all scramble aboard just as the volcano erupts--all, that is, except Captain Nemo; for by remaining behind until everyone else is safe, he is trapped by tons of rock and lava.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.