In Search of the Castaways (1962)

Jules Verne plus Walt Disney equals really bad special effects and a disjointedly confusing story. Most of the blame surely rests with Disney since I doubt very much that Verne’s novel included an aged and slumming Maurice Chevalier sitting on a fake horse and singing about climbing mountains.

Jacques has a message in a bottle, purportedly written by Captain Grant, the father of two little brats (Hayley Mills and some nobody), saying that he is still alive along the thirty-seventh parallel. The rest of the message as to his location is a bit garbled, but Jacques (Chevalier) somehow interprets it to mean that they all need to be going to South America.

Before they can do that though, they need to sneak aboard the personal yacht of Lord Glenarvan, the guy who runs the shipping line that Captain Grant was working for. Once discovered, the stowaways are only saved from involuntary disembarking by Lord Glenarvan’s ultra prissy son John, who starts hitting puberty over the pre-pubescent Hayley.

He’s obviously gay, yet he insists on trying to molest this girl every chance he gets. If you have any doubt at all that his interest in this girl is seriously misguided, you have only to watch him up in the mountains during Jacques’ big singing number as he’s strumming his ukulele with a vapid grin on his face!

Once in South America (the plan seems to be that they’ll land on the correct parallel and just follow it until they find Captain Grant) they don serapes and ride a bunch of horses up a mountain and start singing. After ignoring the warnings of the natives, the party makes camp on a mountain where a really big earthquake hits and the chunk of mountain everyone is on breaks off and starts sailing down the mountainside!

This is where some of really bad special effects come into play. You’ve got this little model rock flying down a snow packed trail like it was some kind of bobsled and eventually it goes into an ice cavern and slides around in there and finally everyone is spit out into the snow and wouldn’t you know it but Hayley’s little brother gets snatched up by a really big bird and carried off!

At least until some native shoots the bird and causes it drop from the sky like a really stiff model. (The native explains its stiff fall by saying that he shot it in the back of the head so it would fall like that and not hurt the boy – nice save!)

The native promises to help them out, but all these idiots end up living in a giant tree with a jaguar while they wait for some floodwaters to go down. After what seems like weeks to the viewer, everyone gets rescued from the big tree (don’t worry about the jaguar – he stole the raft that John made) and their native buddy takes them to the village where three white guys are being held for ransom.

Right about this time, Jacques realizes that he has made a mistake in deciphering the note and decides that they should be headed to Australia, not South America! This would explain why the three guys that his Lordship paid for are not Captain Grant or his surviving crew!

I sat there as stunned and despairing as Hayley was and buried my face in my pillow in tears as I realized that the last hour of crappy songs, limp adventure and limp-wristed British boys I just sat through had meant absolutely nothing! The whole movie basically hit the reset button two-thirds of the way through and started again!

As soon as they all show up in Australia, they run into George Sanders (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) who has been hanging around waiting to play the heavy. George drops Glen and company overboard in a life raft and it isn’t long before they get caught by some savages and get put in a hut with one of Captain Grant’s missing crew men.

The expected escape via the rope woven from the crew’s own hair ensues and by the time everyone is working together to roll boulders down the side of a live volcano at the pursuing savages, you’re thinking that you probably ought to be laughing at all this, but it has gone on so long and been so poorly done that you just want to hurry up and get Captain Grant rescued so it will all end.

I thought this would be an easy movie to like since it promised a lot of adventure in strange lands and such, but there weren’t any giant mushrooms or dinosaurs or mole men or any of the other things that make for a ripping good time in strange lands.

You did have your annoying old timers (two of them in fact!), a sissy, and Hayley Mills. Hayley comes out on top of this by default and you can sense that she knows with her supporting cast, she just has to show up to look good. It’s like Walt took all the elements of the typical Jules Verne fantasy adventure story, gutted the good stuff and replaced them with the worst of his own stuff (bad songs, bad special effects, and wuss male characters).

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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