Filmed at least nine times over the last nine decades, Jules Verne's Mysterious Island received its most popular picturization in the hands of producer Charles Schneer, director Cy Endfield and special-effects maestro Ray Harryhausen. During the Civil War, several P.O.W.s led by Gary Merrill escape from a southern stockade in a huge observation balloon. Buffeted about by a violent storm, the balloon lands on an unchartered island somewhere near New Zealand. The fugitives soon discover that this is no ordinary desert isle, especially after being attacked by a giant-sized crab. Joined by a pair of shipwrecked British gentlewomen (Joan Greenwood and Beth Rogan), the castaways find evidence that the island has been previously inhabited-and that they're all being watched. Sure enough, it turns out that the island is the domain of Captain Nemo (Herbert Lom), skipper of the futuristic underwater vessel Nautilus. Having failed to end all wars by blasting battleships out of the sea, Nemo is now experimenting with new means of ending starvation in the world: hence the outsized crabs and birds that the castaways have confronted. Before Nemo can spread his goodwill elsewhere, he is destroyed by the island's volcano, while the others manage to escape in the Nautilus. As in 1957's 7th Voyage of Sinbad, the combination of Ray Harryhausen and musical composer Bernard Herrmann is unbeatable; otherwise, Mysterious Island tends to slow to a halt in-between its spectacular special-effects highlights.
by Hal Erickson synopsis