Sunday YouTube: The Fantastic World of Jules Verne

I did, indeed, attend this weekend’s ApolloCon, along with our own John D. On Saturday I managed to attend one panel, this one about steampunk. During the discussion, Lawrence Person (who I see is part of the Austin Cabal with Chris Roberson) named a proto-steampunk movie that most people have never seen, let alone even heard of. That movie was the 1958 film, The Fabulous World of Jules Verne. I was intrigued enough to try and track down this movie, which is supposedly in the public domain. Sadly, I have been unable to find the full movie. However, I did find this trailer on YouTube. Yes, the SFX is poor by today’s standards, but this was a 1958 foreign film so I’m going to cut it some slack. Now I’d really like to find the full version…

7 thoughts on “Sunday YouTube: The Fantastic World of Jules Verne”

  1. JP,

    To me, this film looks great. I’ve always cut older films slack as long as the story is good. Every summer, for some unknown reason, I like to watch old SF movies. One of my all-time favs is “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Others include “The Thing from Outer Space,” and “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.” I’d love to find this one. Thanks for adding to my list.

  2. I also tracked this down after the Locus review. I found it an amazing movie, and suggested it to my local book group.

  3. I remember seeing this film when I was ten years old. Some images still linger: the sight of a submarine equipped with a ramming prow, or the steam-powered sub whose fins were worked by gears, to impersonate the motions of a fish, rather than having a propeller; the sight of a giant four-story crane handing a scientist a pencil; the montage of telegraph wires weaving a city like a spiderweb, all flickering with desperate news.

    “Yes, the SFX is poor by today’s standards, but this was a 1958 foreign film so I’m going to cut it some slack. ”

    Even modern viewers might be impressed by the care that went into these special effects, especially getting that engraving-and-woodcut look.

    Let me quote from a description from Locus Online:

    http://www.locusmag.com/2004/Reviews/10_WaldropPerson_Verne.html

    Karl Zeman (the director) lets out all the stops. This is a live-action black and white movie — but it uses every camera trick and every form of animation known in 1958 … Methods include stop-motion, paper cutout, drawing and painting animation, drawn foregrounds and backdrops, dissolves, miniatures and models, double exposure (probably in-camera and superimposition), still images, traveling and stationary mattes — they’re all here. There were at least eight people watching; someone yelled out at one point “There are at least seven different things going on in this scene!” (I counted eight.) And all this before the invention of blue screens!

  4. More from Locus Online on this last topic.

    What impresses most about the film is the sheer fanatical devotion to detail, of the meticulous composition of so many diverse elements in a single shot that occasionally puts even such painstaking stop-motion giants as Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen and Nick Park to shame. In terms of black and white trick photography, you’d have to reach back to films like Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. to find anything even remotely comparable, and this is easily an order of magnitude more sophisticated.

    There are lines drawn on sets, and even on people, to keep the original steel-engraving feel. The scenes of ships of the water have been treated with some sort of light, striped screen (probably cloth, probably double-exposed) that makes the moving waves of real water take on the appearance of the engraved lines in a 19th century drawing of the sea. There’s a scene of a train coming down a track — the train is drawn; the wheels and the tracks are animated; the (real) engineer stands on an open platform in the engine’s cab and (real) people lean out of the (drawn) passenger car. (It’s so simple and powerful it takes your breath away.) Actors walk through back-projected sets; at the same time they’re walking behind animated full-sized paper cutouts of spinning flywheels and meshing gears, all this in front of a painted set in the middle-background. For maybe five seconds of screen time. There’s a scene of an animated shark attacking a real diver in a model set with painted water. We could go on…

  5. I also remember seeing this movie on TV when I was a kid in the early 60’s. It was sufficiently memorable that I recently remembered about it and conducted a search. It would appear that there is a purchasable copy but the quality is not too good. I would suspect that the film, like so many of the older films, has been subjected to the ravages of time and there may not be a viable copy out there, but I plan to keep looking.

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