Simon Hart (Lubor Tokos) travels to see his mentor Professor Roch (Arnost Navratil), who is recuperating at a sanitarium. The Professor has been working hard lately. During the night a small band of pirates, under the service of their captain (Frantisek Slegr), invade the sanitarium and kidnap both Professor Roch and Simon. They are taken to a submarine offshore. The master mind of the kidnapping is Count d’Artigas (Miloslav Holub). The Count is aware of the Professor’s work on unlocking a great power that he hopes to use to benefit mankind. The Count wants to use it as a weapon.
Along with the submarine the Count also has a schooner. Professor Roch is transferred from the submarine to the schooner. Simon is kept aboard the submarine in its brig. The Count’s submarine can also be used as a weapon. While sailing away to the Count’s hideaway they encounter another ship called “The Amelia”. The Count instructs the submarine to ram the Amelia. When the Amelia sinks the pirates on the sub pilfer the sunken ship transferring anything worth stealing underwater, using divers, to the sub.
When Professor Roch hears a call for help from the water the Count is forced to order the captain to rescue the survivor. The survivor turns out to be Jana (Jana Zatloukalova). She is taken aboard the ship. Jana and the Professor are both unaware that the reason the Amelia sank was due to Professor Roch’s submarine. Only Simon, who is still aboard the sub, knows what really happened.
The Count takes his captives to his island lair, a place he calls “Back-Cup Island”. The island is an extinct volcano that looks as if it’s still smoking due to the Count’s industrial plants that create his exotic inventions and weapons of destruction under the direction of his engineer Serko (Vaclav Kyzlink). The Count puts the Professor to work creating his new form of energy. The naïve Professor believes he is still creating something beneficial for man. In reality the Count is creating a super-cannon.
“The Fabulous World of Jules Verne” AKA “Invention for Destruction” AKA “Vynalez zkazy” was released in 1958 and was directed by Karel Zeman. It is a Czech science fiction fantasy film. It is an amalgam of several of Verne’s stories and is a combination of live acting and animation. The film is sort of a George Melies meets Steampunk meets etch-a-sketch. The film is a masterpiece that has been relatively obscure for years.
There are a couple versions of the film. One is subtitled and called “Invention for Destruction”. The other one was dubbed by Joseph E. Levine and narrated by Hugh Downs. The dubbed version was retitled “The Fabulous World of Jules Verne” and was distributed by Warner Brothers. I recommend the subtitled version. It’s just better.
Zeman did many wonderful films. Some of his most noteworthy films were “A Journey to the Beginning of Time” 1955, “The Fabulous Baron Munchausen” 1962 and “On the Comet” 1970. Zeman is well known for his animated films. Zeman uses a combination of stop-motion animation, miniature effects, cutout animation, models, matte paintings, forced perspective, trick sets, live action location photography, and optical matting, all layered on top of each other to produce and amazing fantasy world both above and below the water. It’s as if a pen and ink drawing suddenly came to life. Many of Zeman’s illustrations mimic the line engravings created by Leon Benett and Edouard Riou from the original printings of Verne’s novels.
According to Zeman: “The magic of Verne's novels lies in what we would call the world of the romantically fantastic adventure spirit; a world directly associated with the totally specific which the original illustrators knew how to evoke in the mind of the reader … I came to the conclusion that my Verne film must come not only from the spirit of the literary work, but also from the characteristic style of the original illustrations and must maintain at least the impression of engravings.”
The result of Zeman’s work is awesome.