20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (10/25/12) – Nostalgiathon

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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Movie Two Hundred Forty

A sailor, a professor, and his assistant climb aboard the Nautilus for adventure as they travel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

A mysterious sea monster is attacking ships in the Pacific Ocean and is halting sea trade. Professor Pierre Arronax (Paul Lukas) and his assistant, Conseil (Peter Lorre) are commissioned by the U.S. government to travel and look for evidence of the monster. After having no luck on the sea, the ship is attacked by the monster and the professor and Conseil are thrown overboard along with cocky crewmember Ned Land (Kirk Douglas). After being adrift in the ocean, the men arrive upon a strange metal submersible and realizing that it is the monster they have been looking for climb aboard looking for answers. They look outside a large porthole window and see the crew of the vessel diving in large suits. The crew comes back aboard the Nautilus and their captain, Nemo (James Mason), takes the three men as captives. As Nemo reveals his intentions, the crew of the Nautilus travel the treacherous seas as Ned plots his escape.

Since this is the kickoff for Nostalgiathon, I will start by explaining why 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is my perfect choice. As a kid, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was one of my favorite movies but also the movie I found the most terrifying thing ever. The giant squid that attacks the Nautilus near the end of the film made young Andy have nightmares for weeks and still effects me today. Also, the Shedd Aquarium here in Chicago had a lifesize model of a giant squid on the ceiling in one of their exhibits that would make me cry every time we went there. But even though I was terrified, I was also incredibly intrigued by the creature.

To young me, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea WAS the giant squid attacking; the rest of the movie was filler for that scene. As an adult, the rest of the film is actually incredibly smart and mature considering this is a Disney film. Ned Land acts as most the film’s comic relief since he sings songs and acts crazy, and there is also a seal that seems tossed onscreen to appease kids, but the actual plot and Nemo’s motivations are quite adult. Even though I had watched this film many times as a kid, other than a few spotty things here and there, the only thing that was still burned in my brain was the giant squid attack and I’ll be honest…I still got chills from that scene as a 30 year old. Though no nightmares this time around, I’ve matured!

As mentioned, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a Disney film, the first sci-fi film from the studio. When Jules Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, submarines did not exist, which blows my mind. This was science fiction that turned non-fiction. The style of the film is also largely credited with popularity for the steampunk movement since the design of Nautilus is incredibly unique, even today.

As a kid, Kirk Douglas’ over the top sailor, Ned Land, always made me chuckle and he was the only character I really remember anything about. Now, Mason’s and Lorre’s performances stick out just as much, though they are a little more subtle. Mason as Nemo has such a dark hidden rage and Lorre is just a loveable assistant but gives a great performance.

Since I was lucky enough to see 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on the big screen this time, the giant squid was still huge and scary and amazing. It is still the highlight of the film for me, but now I am able to fully understand what is happening in the film. I think it has aged quite well both as a film and as a piece of nostalgia

I give it 4 (what else?) giant squid attacks out of 5.

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North By Northwest (7/18/12)

North By NorthwestMovie One Hundred Seventy

North By Northwest tells the tale of a case of mistaken identity leading to a kidnapping by international spies.

Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for George Kaplan after paging a bellhop who is paging Kaplan. Two thugs take note and force Thornhill to the estate of Lester Townsend by a man impersonating Townsend named Philip Vandamm (James Mason). After questioning and Thornhill’s refusal that he is Kaplan, they fill Thornhill with liquor and send him on his way over a cliff. Instead, Thornhill, who is extremely drunk, drives away and gets picked up by the cops. When no one believes his story, Thornhill decides to track down the real George Kaplan to get to the bottom of things. He soon finds himself on the run after another case of mistaken identity and becomes involved with a young woman named Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) who helps him escape capture only to land him in more trouble.

North By Northwest is very much an Alfred Hitchcock film. It has everything we’ve come to expect from the master of suspense and it could easily be argued that North By Northwest is one of his finest films. Cary Grant absolutely shines on screen and can be charming and funny no matter what. The rest of the cast is good, especially Saint, but Grant is undoubtedly the star here.

I actually got the opportunity to see this in theaters, in the same summer series as A Clockwork Orange, and unlike that film, North By Northwest looked and sounded like it had been carefully restored for the big screen. Unfortunately for me (and the rest of the theater) the experience was marred by a group of cackling idiots near the front of the theater that shrieked and bounced up and down during most of the film. Scenes that were not meant to be funny were laughed at and tense scenes were marred by their outbursts. They were clearly enjoying themselves but it was incredibly irritating. If you’re wondering, we didn’t get a manager because they weren’t doing anything wrong, per se, they were just irritating people. As a public service announcement, please remember that a crowded movie theater is not your living room.

Alfred Hitchcock’s films catalog is vast and it would take ages for one to watch all of his films. It would be hard to even just recommend one film of his to watch, let alone several. North By Northwest is a film that should be viewed both because it’s a Hitchcock film and because it’s a beautifully crafted thriller.

I give it 4 missed the bus moments out of 5.

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