I rediscovered my childhood love for Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea over the past few evenings, having found a copy of the two-disc special edition at the local video store, hidden away in the kid’s movie section. I loved all the extras with the movie - the Making Of doco narrated by John Rhys-Davies, all the period-piece Disney-made bits from the '50’s, the meet-the-geeks peice featuring the brothers who’ve made it their life to collect every bit of memorabilia that still exists. I had no idea it had been so ground-breaking in so many areas, like using fiberglass sets and only being the second movie shot in Cinemascope.
The movie itself has so much right about it side-by-side with so much wrong. James Mason as the perfect Captain Nemo paired up with a fer-cryin-out-loud seal. Stunning miniature work in one scene followed by Kirk Douglas singing in the next. And of course, the star of the show, the Nautilus. Harper Goff’s ultimate steampunk machine. We just kept stopping the DVD to geek out over the interior shots. I can’t possibly detatch my feelings for this movie now from those of my 11-year-old self who saw it at a matinee back in the days when screens were biiig. James Mason’s Nemo had a tremendous effect on my just-approaching-puberty hormones, leaving me with a deep and abiding lust for brooding, tormented geniuses with beards.
I’m aware that there have been a couple of sad, sorry attempts to remake 20,000 LUtS, but the only way it could be done is if Disney got on board and let, say, the writing/directing/production team behind Pirates of the Caribbean have Harper Goff’s perfect Nautilus and have them throw everything else away and start fresh, maybe casting Ciaran Hinds as Nemo, Paul Giamatti as Arronax, and Brendan Fraser as Ned Land (shirtless, as often as possible.).