20,000 Leagues Under the Sea


1h 45m 1916

Brief Synopsis

A mysterious submarine captain sets out to destroy the world's warships.

Film Details

Genre
Action
Adventure
Fantasy
Silent
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Dec 1916
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal Film Mfg Co.; Williamson Submarine Film Corp.
Distribution Company
State Rights; Universal Film Mfg Co.; Universal Special Production
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Vingt mille lieues sous les mers by Jules Verne (France, 1870).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Silent
Color
Black and White
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

During the Civil War, a team of Americans investigates reports of a sea monster that is destroying ships. The sea monster is in reality a submarine, the Nautilus , commanded by Captain Nemo, a bitter man seeking vengeance on an English adventurer, Charles Denver. Years before in India, where Nemo was a prince, Denver caused the suicide of Nemo's wife and the disappearance of his young daughter. When the American team's air balloon crashes, Nemo rescues the men and puts them ashore on an island which is inhabited by a wild girl who, unknown to Nemo, is his long-lost daughter. The girl falls in love with Lieutenant Bond, one of the Americans, but is threatened by the villainous crew member Pencroft and by the unexpected arrival of the guilt-ridden Denver. The girl is abducted by Pencroft and Denver, but Nemo torpedoes Denver's yacht, killing the abductors and saving his daughter but incurring a mortal wound. Reunited with his daughter, Nemo dies at peace, and his daughter is reunited with her American sweetheart.

Film Details

Genre
Action
Adventure
Fantasy
Silent
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Dec 1916
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal Film Mfg Co.; Williamson Submarine Film Corp.
Distribution Company
State Rights; Universal Film Mfg Co.; Universal Special Production
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Vingt mille lieues sous les mers by Jules Verne (France, 1870).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Silent
Color
Black and White
Film Length
8 reels

Quotes

Trivia

This film became famous for its groundbreaking work in actual underwater photography by George and Ernest Williamson.

The actual undersea footage was shot in the Bahamas due to the unusually clear water. When this film was remade by Walt Disney 38 years later, they came to this same spot for their undersea footage.

Notes

One contemporary trade reviewer states that the film also uses plot material from Verne's novel The Mysterious Island (Paris, 1874). The film was shot over a two-year period and cost nearly $500,000. Contemporary sources disagree on whether the Williamson organization co-produced the film or whether they were hired by Universal to carry out the film's undersea photography. The underwater scenes were shot in the Bahamas, and the film's interiors were shot both at Universal's Eastern studio in Leonia, New Jersey and at Universal City. Pre-release trade articles state that the film was planned as a twelve-reeler, and the copyright holdings list it as an eleven-reeler, but nearly all reviews give its length as eight reels.
       The film's first public showing was in Chicago in September-October 1916, and some trade journals list it on release charts as early as September 23, 1916, but the film did not open in New York until December 1916, and all trade reviews appeared in December 1916 or in early 1917.
       One pre-release article gives "Brulatier" as the last name of the cinematographer who shot the undersea scenes. No information has been located to determine his full name. The copyright holdings give the name of the character played by Matt Moore as Gideon Spilett, but reviews call the character Lieutenant Bond.
       Jules Verne's novel was also the basis of the 1954 Walt Disney production of the same name, directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason.