20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)


Adventure | Sci-Fi


Richard Fleischer




Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre, Robert J. Wilke, Ted de Corsia, Carleton Young, J. M. Kerrigan, Percy Helton, Ted Cooper, Fred Graham


As a monster is terrorizing the seas, three unlikely companions board a warship in search of the beat, only to find out the hard way it is a submarine boat, the Nautilus, commanded by Captain Nemo (James Mason).


I've recently read Jules Verne's novel "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and I surprisingly enjoyed it. So I decided to watch the film based on it, but I should have stayed away from it.

In fact, Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" is a quite tedious adventure film that is nothing compared to Jules Verne's visionary novel.

I don't really understand why they had to change all the fascinating things about the story. One of the things that make the novel interesting and intriguing is the aura of mystery around the character of Captain Nemo. Neither Aronnax nor his associates nor the readers know a thing about Nemo's enigmatic figure, but the screenwriters decided to take some steps further: not only they created his past, but they've also made it part of the plot.

But that's not all. Instead of being focused on Aronnax, the story this film tells is focused on Aronnax's associates. I would have been okay with that if it wasn't for the way the two men were portait. First of all Conseil isn't anything like the guy in the book. Second, Conseil and Ned Land, who was my favourite in the novel, are scripted like a comic duo. And what's up with the singing seal? I don't remember anything like that in the book.

But at least the special effects and set design are impressive. I still cannot believe this film was made in 1954 because visually it is still very beautiful to look at, and it doesn't feel too much dated.

The acting is also quite good. Despite the way the character was written, Kirk Douglas makes a quite good and charming Ned Land. And James Mason is amazing as Captain Nemo.


  1. Nice comparison.

  2. I have not read the book but not surprised at the changes especially the seal...this was Disney after all. You are right about the effects...really well done.

    1. Yeah, I guess I couldn't expect much from Disney.

  3. That's pretty much my feeling on the film. The book was way better, as usual, but I can't say that I hated the movie. It was decent. And definitely gorgeous to look at. You're right about that.

    1. No, it isn't terrible - especially for someone who hasn't read the book -, I just was expecting it to be a little bit more faithful to the book.

  4. Actually the filmmakers didn't make up Nemo's past. His past is explained in Verne's later book The Mysterious Island, where Nemo pops up towards the end. In this book he explains the motives of his actions, and it is pretty similar to what Disney have written - although there are some slight differences.