In 1961's Mysterious Island, confederate prisoners outwit their captors and escape by hijacking a hot air balloon. A few days later, they land on a deserted island somewhere in the Pacific. It seems like a normal strip of sand before giant animals begin to pop up everywhere. The giant animals come courtesy of Ray Harryhausen. I'm on an intrepid quest to see every film that Harryhausen worked on as an effects technician. Mysterious Island is more of an adventure than a creature feature, but I was able to steal a thrill or two from its grandiose presentation. It's an easy watch, and I've never been one to turn down a brainless b-movie.
This Jules Verne adaptation doesn't leap off of Harryhausen's resume like other movies do, but it's not that bad. There aren't many scenes of monster carnage, but the stop-motion beasties that we do get to see are inordinately charming. I was stunned to learn that the giant crab wasn't sculpted out of clay. Harryhausen actually eviscerated a crab, cleaned out the gore, and inserted a mechanical skeleton into the crustacean's frame. That's why it looks so damn creepy. The actors are less convincing than the special effects. Well, I take that back; Beth Rogan's slinky dress is very convincing. I believed every word that it said to me.
To be fair, Herbert Lom gives an alluring performance as Captain Nemo, but he only shows up for the third act. He arrives just in time, as the pace slows to a crawl towards the end of the second act. On the whole, Mysterious Island is an entertaining "survival" picture. See it for the quaint scenery, the revealing costumes, and Harryhausen's creations. Robert Z'Dar says, "The CGI sucks!"