There have been reports of a giant sea monster terrorizing the oceans of the world. An American naval ship called the “Abraham Lincoln” is sent to investigate. On board are Professor Pierre Aronnax (Dan Hanlon) and his daughter (Edna Pendleton). The “Abraham Lincoln” finally finds the beast. They try to harpoon it but to no effect. Even cannon fire will not dent the strong hide. The monster turns and rams into the “Abraham Lincoln” knocking Aronnax, his daughter and two sailors into the sea. The “Abraham Lincoln”, now rudderless, floats away.
The monster turns out to be the submarine “Nautilus”. Captain Nemo (Allen Holubar), the captain of the sub fishes the four out of the sea and brings them aboard his ship. Not wanting the submarine or its crew to be discovered, the four are held captive by Nemo. Eventually Nemo gives them the run of the ship provided they promise they will not try to escape. They sail the seas underwater seeing wonders they never saw before.
In the meantime, soldiers that are stuck in a runaway balloon crash into the ocean waves near an uncharted island. They do what they can to make the best of the situation. On the island is a girl who has been living alone. She is referred to as a “child of nature” (Jane Gail). One of the soldiers, Lieutenant Bond (Matt More), catches her and takes care of her.
The girl is the daughter of Princess Daaker. She was abandoned on the island years ago by Charles Denver (William Welsh). Denver had tried to rape the Princess. She committed suicide rather than submit. Her daughter was there and saw what happened. He took the daughter. Now, wracked with guilt and being haunted every night by the ghost of the princess, he has returned to the island to find out what became of the child.
On the island one of the soldiers tries to rape the island girl. He is stopped and outcast. He then runs into some men from Denver’s ship. The outcast plans on kidnapping the island girl and taking over the yacht. Captain Nemo is also in the area. He sees the yacht and sends a couple men to the island to find out who it belongs to. When he finds out it belongs to Denver he realizes he found his enemy. Nemo is really the Prince of Daaker and he knows it was Denver that was responsible for his wife’s death and the kidnapping of his daughter. He has been searching for Denver for 12 years. His enemy is within grasp. When he sinks the yacht he is unaware that his daughter was taken aboard.
“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” was released in 1916 and was directed by Stuart Paton. Loosely based on the story by Jules Verne, this silent film was produced by Carl Laemmie. Actually the story is quite involved. It’s part “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and part “Mysterious Island”. The writers also added some additional story that combines the two together. There are also two flash backs.
There are a few versions of the film out there. Some are missing the octopus scene, some are cleaner than others and some have music and some don’t. Even the one I saw with the octopus scene that section of it was very grainy. It’s over a hundred years old and has not gone through a really good restoration so it basically is what it is. Still it’s a unique movie in many ways.
It was the first motion picture that had scenes filmed underwater. Underwater cameras were not yet available so a system of water tight tubes and mirrors was used to reflect the underwater action to a camera above the water. The scenes were done in shallow water under sunny skies so as to pick up as much light as possible. The underwater scenes are inventive and quite charming. There’s also quite a lot of the underwater footage.
The film was distributed by the Universal Film Manufacturing Company. They are now known as Universal Pictures. The film took over two years to make and cost somewhere between $200,000 and $500,000. A massive cost that encompassed location shots, large sets and extravagant costumes. A full size mock-up of the Nautilus was also created.
The name of the octopus was Fatima. It was built by J. Ernest Williamson.