Remember back in the ’80s when Stephen King would have half a dozen new titles on bookstore shelves and 2 or 3 films in movie theaters based on his stories? Now, imagine that he’s been dead for 50 years. Do you think there will be twice that many Stephen King books on the shelves and 4 or 5 current films based on his stories? How about Stephen King comic books in the late 21st Century? Maybe he will, but I write about 1961, not 2061 (No, I’m not implying that Stephen King is going to die this year!)
By my reckoning, 1961 saw the release of no less than four motion pictures based on Jules Verne stories!
Master of the World, starring Vincent Price and Charles Bronson was based on two Verne novels, Robur the Conqueror and Master of the World. At first glance, the production values are pretty impressive for cheapo studio American International Pictures (AIP). This is partly due to the use of superior stock footage behind the airship, Albatross.
Mysterious Island was a bit more prestigious; having on board the special effects great Ray Harryhausen (who was also one of the producers). The cast isn’t as readily recognizable as that in Master of the World - we have to settle for Inspector Clouseau’s boss (Herbert Lom) as Nemo doing his best James Mason impersonation. But who needs a star when you have a giant crab?
Valley of the Dragons was based on Verne’s Off on a Comet which was about a group of people swept from the Earth by a comet and having to learn to live together. Valley of the Dragons shaved the comet travelers down to two rivals (a Frenchman and an Irishman). On the comet, they encounter cave people and dinosaurs, which allows the director to splice in substantial chunks of stock footage from One Million B.C (1940). The film ends with the two leads becoming pals and shacking up with some cave-babes until the comet revisits Earth seven years hence. I have no idea what “Monstascope” is. If you do, please let me know.
Triomphe de Michel Strogoff was a French/Italian production based on one of Jules Verne’s non-fantasy/SF tales so I won’t spend too much time on it except to note that it stars a future 007 villain (Curt Jurgens) and Peter Seller’s costar from The Pink Panther and What’s New Pussycat (Capucine).
AIP’s Off on a Comet may not have actually been made for all I can tell. The only evidence of its existence (that I know of) is a contest announced on the back of Charlton comic books in 1961. Perhaps the project was canceled when Valley of the Dragons(based on the same story) came out. I welcome any additional information on this mystery film.
It’s worth noting that Jules Verne also had a banner year in comic book adaptations; something I may address in a future post.