powered by AFI
Although reviews and copyright records refer to the film as South Seas Adventure, the opening title card reads: Cinerama South Seas Adventure. South Seas Adventure was the fifth and final Stanley Warner-produced travelogue to use the Cinerama widescreen process. The other titles of the Stanely Warner-Cinerama travelogue productions were: This is Cinerama (1952), which visited various locations around the world; Cinerama Holiday (1955) which focused on sight-seeing in Switzerland, France and the United States; Seven Wonders of the World (1956) which explored natural and man-made wonders throughout the world, and Search for Paradise (1957), which toured Kashmir and Nepal. For more information on the Cinerama process, consult the entry for This is Cinerama (below).
Although South Seas Adventure was not viewed, according to the New York Times review, the film opened on board a Hawaiian-bound luxury ship. In Hawaii, the ponderous specialty camera was taken on surfboards to record the experience of surfing. The voyage then proceeded by schooner to Tonga, Fiji and New Hebrides and recorded various native ceremonies and celebrations. The highlight of the trip was the air flight to, and stops in, New Zealand and Australia, where numerous native traditions were explored before the return to Hawaii. According to the review, one particularly lively and humorous shot showed the Australian landscape "as seen from a kangaroo's pouch." Reviews also noted that Handel's The Messiah was sung in Tongan. The Hollywood Reporter review erroneously listed the film's running time as 108 minutes.
In a modern oral history at the AMPAS Library, co-producer-director Richard Goldstone provided the following information: Documentary producer Carl Dudley's extensive experience and familiarity with the South Pacific prompted his assignment to the project by Warner. Goldstone claimed creative development for the project and described an initial pre-production concept of following the 1787-1789 journey of the British ship The Bounty using actor Charles Laughton as narrator. Laughton portrayed The Bounty's Captain Bligh in the 1935 M-G-M feature film about the voyage, Mutiny on the Bounty (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). Eventually with several writers working on the script, the production was divided into five separate stories that loosely followed the three South Pacific voyages by Capt. James Cook (in 1768-71, 1772-75 and 1776-80). During production, when the shooting unit was divided, it was decided that each segment would have a separate director. Dudley, who had suffered a heart attack during the film's pre-production stages, recovered to direct the Hawaiian segment that was photographed last, but placed first in the film's narrative. Goldstone described how the heavy camera was placed in a window in the nose of the plane to record the flight from New Hebrides to Australia. A small dark room was also built on the plane to allow film reloading while airborne. Goldstone noted that soundman Jay Ashworth starred as the main character in the New Zealand sequence. Goldstone's wife Chubby was featured in a small role as a nurse in the same sequence. Goldstone described the "kangaroo pouch" sequence as being shot with the Cinerama camera mounted on the bumper of a Land Rover with rigged tires that allowed a steady bouncing effect. Goldstone also pointed out that aside from some lines spoken by various indigenous participants, there were no speaking roles in the film.