It all begins on a dark and stormy night (This movie has everything!) when three Union POWs are planning their elaborate scheme to bust out of the joint. Captain Cyrus Harding, Herbert Brown, and Corporal Neb Nugent have tricked up the staircase that leads down to their cell and once the guards come down with a new prisoner they make a break for it.
Once free, they escape in a giant hot air balloon the Confederates were using to observe enemy troop movements. They also lift off with a rebel soldier who knows how to fly it. You can tell he’s from the South because he talks like he has much more than a pinch between his cheek and gum.
He and the Union boys forge an uneasy alliance while airborne with the understanding that once they land no one is anyone’s prisoner and they each go their separate ways.
Unfortunately for all involved they just happened to pick the very day that the worst storm in the history of the United States decided to hit! One crash landing later, everyone has miraculously survived and reunited on an island.
Once Cyrus is revived, he takes command and they go exploring the island they’ve washed up on. It’s one of those lush islands with volcanoes painted in the background and birds superimposed over the shoreline. It’s also one of those islands where they run into overgrown wildlife about every fifteen minutes or so.
They first encounter a large crab and after battling it, they push it over the side of cliff into a hot spring below. The expected comic relief follows as the next scene shows everyone sitting around enjoying the biggest crab dinner of all time.
Two chicks get added to the mix when the boys find them washed up on shore, survivors of a recent shipwreck. One of them quickly becomes a love interest for Brown, while the other one is older so she’s relegated to doing stuff like sewing a hot new summer wardrobe for the younger one.
Thus is born that fashion craze of the summer of 1862 – the goatskin tank top and microskirt. It’s what all the stylish gals are wearing when they want to sneak away for a romantic afternoon in the giant beehive!
The incident with the giant beehive doesn’t happen until after the incident with the super deluxe prehistoric chicken thing that saw Brown jump on the its back and ride it around stabbing it!
Sometime when they’re all taking a break from fighting mutant animals, Cyrus and his crew go exploring some more and locate a cave. Inside it they discover a diary written by a guy who got hosed by a bunch of pirates.
Cyrus decides that this would be an ideal place for all of them to make as their home and with a bunch of stuff that Neb found in a crate floating in the bay, they move in and put the girls to work to give it that homey touch. And the homey touch means washing the dinner dishes and giving out haircuts.
The stuff in the crate reveals that it’s from the Nautilus and everyone reminisces about what a swell guy that Captain Nemo was and didn’t he get his butt sunk eight years ago in the Gulf of Mexico and why was he always sinking other guys’ boats and do you want your hair left over your ears?
Later on Captain Nemo saves everyone from a pirate attack. The Nautilus isn’t seaworthy anymore and sits in an underground grotto. Nemo has abandoned his plan to force man to stop making war on one another in order that he might try to tackle the world’s ills through horticultural research. Specifically, increased food production through larger animals.
While I was never quite sure how he was able to carry all this out with one guy and a broken down submarine, I was struck by the thought that if Nemo could ever make it back to civilization that he could completely dominate the giant vegetable circuit at all the state fairs.
Since the Nautilus won’t be able to rescue anyone, they have to work to raise the pirate ship that Nemo sunk to use as their getaway boat. They have to work double time though because the volcano that dominates the island picks the next day to blow its top.
Lots of action, exploration of cool landscapes, caves, monsters, and climbing of vines and ropes make this one a good solid adventure yarn.
Things never bogged down with too much talk and the movie was colorful, though the special effects didn’t always hold up. Sometimes they were fairly impressive (the crab, the underwater stuff, and the landscaping), but there were other times when they showed their age such as the scenes in the balloon.
The actors are a forgettable lot with the exception of Nemo (Herbert Lom) who had a fairly impressive presence about him, but how memorable do you really have to be when you’re riding around on a thirty foot high chicken?
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