In the silent film fantasy 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916), a sea monster is interferring with the safety of trade routes & passenger ships. In consequence the American clipper ship Abraham Lincoln sets out on the quest to find & destroy the presumed creature.
Captain Nemo (Allen Holubar), looking like a slim Santa, is a Muslim villain with a submarine, desirous of revenge against the whole wide world. The mosnter is of course his sub the Nautilus.
Nemo takes on some near-drowning victims after he defeats the Abraham Lincoln, having rammed its rudder. Professor Aronax (Dan Hanion) is one of the captives.
Lots of tedious underwater photography of fish & coral pads out the film while the story is put on hold. Such photography was unique in 1916 & had audience appeal for its own sake.
Meanwhile Lieutenant Bond (Matt Moore) with his scouts escapes from a Civil War prison by balloon & is blown to Mysterious Island, home of the dancing feral girl in leopard skins (Jane Gail). The balloon castaways capture the feral girl for some comedic getting-to-know-each-other shtick.
Back on the Nautilus there's a pretty damned appealing hardhat diving sequence showing men walking on the ocean floor.
They go on a shark hunt with air-rifles, it's all so deliciously wrong. Again, though, the film's timing of bad, as we watch the divers wallowing in the sea so long that the appeal just wears out.
Nemo becomes more of an underwater tour guide than sinister captain. There's an hysterical giant octopus sequence, with the phoniest actopus before Ed Wood.
A seemingly unrelated sequence is eventually sewn into the narrative somewhat awkwardly. This regards the ravishing of a princess of India, & her subsequent death. Her rapist, Charles Denver (William Welsh), is haunted by dreams of the devil & by the ghost of the princess.
Charles Denver sets off to sea to escape his own guilt & terror, & he's quite the handy yahtsman. He hopes to find the long lost daughter of the princess, who as it turns out is the feral girl of Mysterious Island, both played by the same actress.
A lot of time is devoted to threatening the feral girl with kidnapping & rape, as Captain Bond undertakes some derring-do to save the girl.
Other than the mysteriousness of where you get leopard-skins in an environment with no leopards, there's nothing about the Mysterious Island that would justify calling it Mysterious.
When Nemo detects Charles Denver's ship, he readies the torpedos, having good cause for hating Denver.
The feral girl as it turns out is Nemo's daughter, & when he's reunited with her, he becomes a good guy.
The film goes off on a silly tangeant with a long flashback belatedly explaining Nemo's former life as Prince Dakaar, & how Charles Denver became his great enemy.
Not a very good film, testing one's patience to get through it, this version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea does have visual content advanced for 1916, & must be granted a larger place in the history of cinema than it justifies in terms of watchability.
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