Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island begins in Richmond, Virginia at the siege of 1865 during the Civil War, with a group of Union prisoners of war – led by the dashing Captain Cyrus Harding (Michael Craig) – escaping in an observation balloon.
The group includes captive Confederate soldier, Pencroft (Percy Herbert); cynical war reporter Gideon Spillt (Gary Merrill); and emancipated African-American Union Soldier, Neb (Dan Jackson). One of the young soldiers, Herbert (Michael Callan) harbours fears that he is a coward.
The men are unable to control or steer the wandering balloon and end up high over the ocean where they eventually crash in the water, just short of land.
Captain Cyrus falls into the swirling sea a mile short of landfall but is rescued by a mysterious, unidentified presence. The rest of the group make it to a strange rocky island with live volcanoes, subterranean sea grottos, and roaming gigantic wildlife (the stop-motion monsters feature include a colossal crab, an oversized chicken, and a veritable swarm of giant bees).
While facing these oversized beasts, the men discover (to their delight) two women who are also trapped on the island – the regal Lady Mary Fairchild (Joan Greenwood) and mini-skirt-wearing Elena (Beth Rogan).
The castaways seek haven in a high mountain cave and form a utopian society of sorts.
We eventually learn that Captain Nemo (Herbert Lom) has been protecting Harding and his entourage from death while toiling away on the island, “conducting horticultural experiments” on animals.
The gigantic animals are his creations, designed to provide mankind with an inexhaustible food supply in the hope of eradicating one of the primary causes of war – Hunger.
Mysterious Island was shot at Shepperton Studios in England and on location on the coast of Spain. The superb stop-animation creatures were created by effects legend Ray Harryhausen.
Captain Cyrus Harding
Lady Mary Fairchild
Cpl. Neb Nugent