Nautilus - "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"

On the NAUTILUS men's hearts never fail them.
No defects to be afraid of, for the double shell is as firm as iron,
no rigging to attend to, no sails for the wind to carry away;
no boilers to burst, no fire to fear, for the vessel is made of iron, not of wood;
no cove to run short, for electricity is the only power;
no collision to fear, for it alone swims in deep water;
no tempest to brave, for when it dives below the water,
it reaches absolute tranquility.
That is the perfection of vessels.

As an inspiration to the submarine pioneers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, no other literary figure loomed as large as Jules Verne, the "father of science-fiction" and the author in 1870 of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Verne's plot in Twenty Thousand Leagues is relatively simple and serves largely as a framework for describing both the wonders of the underwater world and the technologies needed to realize the author's prophetic vision of undersea travel and exploration.

Captain Nemo relates [in CHAPTER XII. SOME FIGURES.] that the Nautilus "... is an elongated cylinder with conical ends. It is very like a cigar in shape, a shape already adopted in London in several constructions of the same sort. The length of this cyhnder, from stem to stern, is exactly 232 feet, and its maximum breadth is twenty-six feet. It is not built quite like your long-voyage steamers, but its lines are sufficiently long, and its curves prolonged enough, to allow the water to slide off easily, and oppose no obstacle to its passage. These two dimensions enable you to obtain by a simple calculation the surface and cubic contents of the Nautilus. Its area measures 6032 feet; and its contents about 1500 cubic yards; that is to say, when completely immersed it displaces 50,000 feet of water, or weighs 1500 tons.

"The Nautilus is composed of two hulls, one inside, the other outside, joined by T-shaped irons, which render it very strong. Indeed, owing to this cellular arrangement it resists like a block, as if it were solid. Its sides cannot yield; it coheres spontaneously, and not by the closeness of its rivets; and the homogeneity of its construction, due to the perfect union of the materials, enables it to defy the roughest seas.

"These two hulls are composed of steel plates, whose density is from .1 to .8 that of water. The first is not less than two inches and a half thick, and weighs 394 tons. The second envelope, the keel, twenty inches high and ten thick, weighs alone sixty-two tons. Theengine, the ballast, the several accessories and apparatus appendages, the partitions and bulkheads, weigh 961.62 tons."

The anterior part of this submarine boat starting from the ship's head: the dining-room, five yards long, separated from the library by a water-tight partition; the library, five yards long; the large drawing-room, ten yards long, separated from the captain's room by a second watertight partition; the said room, five yards in length; mine, two and a half yards; and lastly, a reservoir of air, seven and a half yards, that extended to the bows. Total length thirty-five yards, or one hundred and five feet. The partitions had doors that were shut hermetically by means of india-rubber instruments, and they insured the safety of the Nautilus in case of a leak. A door opened into a kitchen nine feet long, situated between the large store-rooms. There electricity, better than gas itself, did all the cooking. The streams under the furnaces gave out to the sponges of platina a heat which was regularly kept up and distributed. They also heated a distilling apparatus, which, by evaporation, furnished excellent drinkable water. Near this kitchen was a bath-room comfortably furnished, with hot and cold water taps. Next to the kitchen was the berth-room of the vessel, sixteen feet long. At the bottom was a fourth partition, that separated this office from the engine-room. The engine-room, clearly lighted, did not measure less than sixty-five feet in length. It was divided into two parts; the first contained the materials for producing electricity, and the second the machinery that connected it with the screw.

Loosely based on the celebrated novel by Jules Verne, the swashbuckler genre bumped into science fiction in 1954 for one of Hollywood's great entertainments. The Jules Verne story of adventure under the sea was Walt Disney's magnificent debut into live-action films. Kirk Douglas, Paul Lukas, and Peter Lorre star as shipwrecked survivors taken captive by the mysterious Captain Nemo, brilliantly portrayed by James Mason. Wavering between genius and madness, Nemo has launched a deadly crusade across the seven seas. But can the captive crew expose his evil plan before he destroys the world? Disney's brilliant Academy Award-winning (1955, Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects) adaptation of Jules Verne's gripping tale makes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea a truly mesmerizing masterpiece. The art designs -- particularly those for the Nautilus -- are justly celebrated. At the time of its release, LEAGUES was the single most expensive motion picture ever made (ironically it would loose that dubious distinction later that same year to yet another film featuring James Mason: A STAR IS BORN), and every penny of the money spent shows in the onscreen result. But for all its beauty, it is the performances which make the film work.

The interior arrangement of the famous submarine Nautilus from Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" has long been a subject for speculation. Scale models of this submarine consistently place it as being 178 feet long. Verne provides a rather exact description of the Nautilus, which is less imposing in configuration, though rather larger [70 meters, 227.5 feet] than Disney depicted.

  1. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Biograph, 1905) The 1905 silent version was the first time the novel was made into a film, an 18 minute short film by Wallace McCutcheon. [Admiral McCutcheon was a fictional character in the 1997 television remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea]. Wallace McCutcheon, previously a stage director, was taken on by American Biograph in the spring of 1897, subsequently directing hundreds of short films. In 1903, Biograph released two McCutcheon films, The Pioneers and Kit Carson, both wild-west action stories. These films were the first true movie Westerns. In May 1905 McCutcheon was lured away from Biograph by Thomas Edison, and McCutcheon, one of American cinema's true pioneers, simply disappears from the historical record after 1910.
  2. 20000 lieues sous les mers (1907) The 1907 silent version of Jules Vernes' 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was the second time the novel was made into a film, this time an 18 minute short film by Georges Melies, the special-effects pioneer. Melies made over 500 films, but his most famous was A Trip to the Moon made in 1902. There is a submarine, but Nemo is absent from this film, as are any of the plot elements and dramatic conventions of Verne's story.
  3. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1916) The third time the novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea was made into a film, it was the first time it was made as a full feature film and not a short film. The 1916 silent version of Jules Vernes' 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was "sold" on the basis of its advanced underwater photography, the handiwork of the legendary Williamson Brothers. This production, financed by Universal, would require location photography, large sets, exotic costumes, sailing ships, and a full-size navigable mock-up of the surfaced submarine Nautilus. The film's storyline combines elements from both 20,000 Leagues and another Verne novel, Mysterious Island. The cost of this film was so astronomical that it could not possibly post a profit, putting the kibosh on any subsequent Verne adaptations for the next 12 years.
  4. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1936). This production by Irving Thalberg was unfinished.
  5. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Paramount, 1952-53) Production unfinished.
  6. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Walt Disney Productions, 1954) Classic screen adaptation of Jules Verne's early vision of submarine warfare. James Mason is the mad Captain Nemo, who takes on the warmongering imperialist countries with his submarine Nautilus. Also stars Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre. This Oscar winner (for special effects and set decoration) is a remake of a 1916 silent film.
  7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Television - "Festival of Family Classics", 1972) T.V.-Video, Animated Cartoon Inc., 30 minutes.
  8. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Television - "Famous Classic Tales", 1973) Australia Broadcasting Commision, Sydney, Animated Cartoon, 60 minutes
  9. The Return of Captain Nemo / The Amazing Captain Nemo (CBS-TV/Warner Brothers TV, 1978) Typical 1970's lightweight pseudo-science-fictional fare, this movie was the pilot for a very brief action series. Modern-day US Navy scientists discover the legendary Nemo (an apparently underemployed Jose Ferrer) in suspended animation aboard his Nautilus at the bottom of the ocean.
  10. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) The heroes of 1899 are brought to life with the help of some expensive special effects in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. From the pages of Victorian literature come Dr. Jekyll (and his alter ego Mr. Hyde), Dorian Gray, Tom Sawyer, an Invisible Man, Mina Harker (from Dracula), the hunter Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery), and Captain Nemo. Naseeruddin Shah as Captain Nemo returns Nemo to his original characterization by Verne as a Sikh. Shah's Nemo was a welcome variation to previous Nemos, providing a sense of command, control and honor in comparison to those others. Some of the special effects are very good, such as the bizarre image of the Nautilus sailing the canals of Venice.
  11. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (2012 ?) David Fincher who was busy filming "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", is also attached to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He said he wanted it be like a "Gigantic steampunk science fiction movie from 1873." Writer Randall Wallace (Braveheart, SECRETARIAT) said "They were developing it ... in a way that had more heart and a more realistic lucidness than what we would think of as the normal fantasy fare." The project was previously titled Captain Nemo: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and was setup with a script by Bill Marsilli's (Deja Vu), with rewrites by geek screenwriter Justin Marks (Masters of the Universe, Super Max) and Randall Wallace (Braveheart).
  12. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (2012 ?) Fox is prepping its own version of the classic Jules Verne tale with an equally pedigreed filmmaking team. Producers Ridley and Tony Scott and their Scott Free Prods. are developing a "Leagues" project for the studio with a script by "Clash of the Titans" co-writer Travis Beacham.

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