Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1969)

Nemo Underwater City PosterThough Senator Robert Fraser tells Captain Nemo that he can’t possibly stay in his underwater city of Templemere because of pressing government business topside involving European arms sales, it’s safe to say that after the tedious tours of his undersea kingdom that see Nemo harassing his pet octopus, preaching his unrealistic isolationist philosophy, and showing the models of his future projects that Fraser was more likely just simply bored out of his mind by this salt water addled old fogey!

Fraser meets Nemo after Nemo’s men rescue him from a sinking ship along with a few other passengers. Fraser and company are taken to Nemo’s secret underwater city where Nemo advises that they will spend the rest of their lives there because he can’t risk one of them tattling on him to the surface dwellers about Templemere.

In perhaps the most fantastical moment in a movie filled with such things as a machine that produces breathable air for Nemo’s city and has as its by-product gold, Senator Fraser gives his solemn word that he won’t say anything and I think Nemo believed him!

I don’t know about you, but that just sounds like one of those campaign promises that’s promptly forgotten once the election is over and the anti-Nemo PACs start dumping truckloads of money off at the Senator’s office. Still, Nemo isn’t a crabby old genius for no reason and while he may stupidly believe Fraser is a man of his word, he rightly observes that Fraser can’t promise the silence of the others who were rescued.

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You can’t really blame Nemo either. One of the survivors is a guy suffering post traumatic stress syndrome from sort type of mine collapse so he’s crazier than a rabid jellyfish when he realizes he’s cooped up with millions of gallons of water pressing down on him. Even the gold-obsessed schemers who were also rescued recognize that this guy isn’t someone you want to hatch an escape plan with!

The crazy guy does provide some of the only excitement in a surprisingly dull film, when he blows up one of the pumps in the city in a effort to do something that I’m not sure the guy even understood. All he gets for his trouble is drowned when Nemo simply orders the room sealed so that the entire city isn’t destroyed.

With crazy guy dispatched, the rest of the characters can get down to the serious business of trying to escape a place where there is no escape! After all, they’re 10,000 fathoms beneath the ocean and Nemo’s got the keys to the Nautilus, the only way out, right?

Sure, except for the top secret project in the part of the city labeled “Forbidden Area” which goes by the top secret code of Nautilus II!

But even if they could get their hands on the Nautilus II, there’s no way a Senator, a couple of budding Goldfingers, or the widow, her kid, and his pet kitty could possibly drive the thing! Except that as luck would have it, Senator Fraser has been taking submarine driving lessons with Captain Nemo!

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Despite Nemo’s understanding of technology that doesn’t exist to this very day, he displays zero knowledge of human emotions. His second in command has the hots for fellow city dweller Mala, but in the movie’s singularly most realistic moment, as soon as the Senator sees her, he immediately makes a play for her and she reciprocates much to Joab’s dismay. Nemo’s response? Pretty much laughs it off.

Nemo though is determined to make things even worse when he shunts Joab aside and starts to groom the Senator as his main guy instead! So now Nemo has in his two most trusted guys, one who has stated plainly he will do whatever he can to escape and another who will do whatever he can to see that the other leaves the city! I smell a submarine hijacking! And it’s probably going to be an inside job!

But the joke is on everyone but Nemo because the Nautilus II has one vast improvement over the original Nautilus! And that improvement is a faulty engine that will surely blow up if someone starts trying to drive it!

And Nemo just found out about it the morning of the escape! And now he has to rush out in the old crappy Nautilus I and try to save everyone! And even worse, it’s on the day of some festival where he’s supposed to be watching little kids swim through obstacle courses! And the Templemere brass band (complete with strange instruments) is even making an appearance!

I admit that I swelled with pride as I watched a single American politician single-handedly screw up of all Nemo’s perfect plans in about a week.

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While the movie looks like a decent amount of money was spent on sets and model submarines, the impressively mounted underwater city can’t hide how utterly dull life in the city actually is. So little happens that the film is forced to insert a giant stingray to harass the city a few times just to give us a break from Nemo’s blather about his future plans, the failed comic relief of the Goldfinger brothers, and the creepy burgeoning romance between Nemo and the rescued widow, who is surely young enough to be his great granddaughter!

The movie further suffers from a lack of a clearly defined villain as Nemo is nothing more than a dude with a dream that he wants to see succeed at all costs. He doesn’t do anything dastardly to our heroes and in fact, caters a pretty awesome meal for them when they first arrive!

The widow and the kid decide to stay, further dampening the drama, as all we are left with is rooting for the Senator and the goldbugs to escape, though the idea that I was supposed to care if the Senator got back in time to deal with some European arms issue was a bit silly since we have ended up with nothing but nonstop wars in the 20th and 21st centuries anyway.

By the time the surviving escapees somehow swim up 10,000 fathoms with no ill effects and emerge in the ocean right near a passing ship, this movie has left you with so much water on the brain, you don’t even stop to think about how blandly meaningless it all was.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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