As Martha noted, director Richard Fleischer died Saturday at age 89. While he directed a number of solid thrillers and action films, the film I remember most is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which he directed for Disney in 1954. It's not that I was a big fan of the film, but as a child, I kept encountering it repeatedly in various social situations. The movie must have been one of the few "family films" available cheaply as a 16mm print, because the nearby grade school/church showed it frequently as a weekend activity for kids. Also, I believe the film was shown regularly during a local summer kids' movie series, which we were sent to weekly.

What I remember about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is that I was jaded enough to find the special effects to be pretty cheesy, especially the big octopus or sea monster or whatever it was. It was the late 1970s/early 1980s when I saw this film, and I was a kid from the Star Wars generation. I also found Kirk Douglas' character Ned Land to be annoying and grating. But even at a young age, I rather liked James Mason as the enigmatic Captain Nemo. He was my favorite part of the film.

I wonder if I would enjoy the film at all now. I didn't realize at the time that the cast included Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, and allegedly Charles Grodin in an uncredited role. These days, I'm still a fan of James Mason ... but I might consider Nemo a bit of a drama queen, playing his organ during climactic moments at sea, brooding in his beautifully appointed private rooms, and so forth. However, at age 10, or 12, I was a sucker for a British accent and especially a moody genius that no one understood. (Don't even ask about Gene Hackman in the Superman movies.) Have any of you seen 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea lately, in theaters or on DVD, and is it worth another look?
categories Features, Cinematical