Directed by Richard Fleischer, Starring Kirk Douglas, James Mason, 1954

Reviewed by Adam Eli Clem

For many cephalopod enthusiasts, seeing the Walt Disney production of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"65896 marked an epiphany. It didn't matter that the giant squid was too big,too slow and had an upside-down white beak. It was a movie monster that defeated the standard bromide administered by adults to freaked-out children: "Don't worry, there's no such thing."

Walt Disney has now released the landmark 1954 film in a two-disc DVD format. The original Cinemascope aspect-ratio of 2.55:1 has been preserved, and the color transfer does justice to the Technicolor process. (The DVD packaging states that the film has been "restored," but there are some hard-to-miss flaws on the print.) Most members have probably only seen this film on television or by playing the old, pan-and-scan video cassette, so viewing this DVD may present a series of pleasant shocks. Cinemascope was in its infancy when the film was made, and director Richard Fleischer took to the ultra-widescreen format with zest. Some of the compositions are utterly beautiful, and the film's format encouraged the production team to fill every available inch of sets, scenery and miniatures with inspired detailing and color.

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" hasn't weathered the years entirely well. The clownish cannibals who attempt to board the Nautilus have accrued a discomfiting patina of racist condescension, and Kirk Douglas's enthusiasm can't save the film's sole musical number, "A Whale...
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