The year is 1868 and multiple ships are being lost at sea. Reports are of a monster attacking these ships. Scientists Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre head out to sea to find out the real cause. Their ship is attacked, but by a submarine and not a monster. They, along with sailor Kirk Douglas, are taken onboard the sub. The sub, the Nautilus, is commanded by Captain Nemo (James Mason). The three survivors don't know what to make of Nemo, whether he has been sinking ships and whether or not he is good or evil. The trio gets taken on a wild undersea adventure that culminates with an attack by a very large squid. This is the story of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
The film holds up well even almost 50 years later. The special effects still look good considering. The part that I just can't stand is Kirk's character and his seal. His character is so annoying. Guess that one was indicative of the time the film was made. Aside from that one negative the film is really something to see. Mason as Nemo is superb and easily one of the best cinematic baddies of all time.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is presented in 2.55:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a wide movie that would suffer terribly from being cropped. Thankfully it isn't and you can enjoy it all. Disney has gone all out on the restoration which leaves us with a very pleasing transfer that does well to hide the film's nearly 50 year old age. The print is clean with just a couple of specks and some light grain in a few shots. Colors are bold with no fading. Hues and flesh tones are very accurate. Contrast and brightness settings are absolutely correct, which gives us solid blacks that look properly balanced.
The film gets the audio upgrade treatment as well. Included is a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This is certainly one of the better remixed tracks. The score really benefits from the surround reinforcement and what probably is the best aspect is that the low end is pumped up to add real weight to the scenes of the sub moving through the water. As for discrete rear sounds, there are a few, which is all to be expected. As the audio is so old it is not very dynamic but what is present is well utilized and mixed. Dialogue is clear while hiss and such is not a factor in the center channel or in the rears.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a 2 disc release. Disc 1 houses the film as well as few other items. A Donald Duck cartoon, titled Grand Canyonscope, is present in widescreen. Some other Disney trailers as well as an audio commentary presented in the form of film historian Rudy Behlmer conducting an interview with director Richard Fleischer round out the disc.
Moving on to disc 2 we begin with The Making of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Running an hour and a half, this featurette is packed with behind the scenes material. Interviews, production details, cast difficulties and so much more are included.
Two other shorter featurettes are also included. One focuses on real life squids while the second talks some about Jules Verne and Walt Disney. Also present is a look at some squid attack footage not used in the film.
A lot more is to be found in the Production Archives section that I doubt will have mentioned it all. There is a 1954 Disney Studio Album, production galleries, audio archives with tons of radio spots and music clips, and so much more like a Nautilus tour, a blip on composer Paul Smith, storyboards, promotional reels, talent files, a trailer, and a look at some related movie merchandise. There is a heck of a lot of stuff to wade through if you are a fan. This is really an immersive collection of extras.
Overall 20,000 Leagues under the Seas is one of Disney's best 2 disc sets released yet for one of their classic film titles. It is packed to the brim with all sorts of extras that warrants you dedicate at least 5 hours to sample everything present on both discs. I said sample by the way. To experience it all, I couldn't even stagger a guess at how much time that would take. To go along with the rich quantity of supplements is a wonderfully restored transfer and a fine remixed 5.1 audio track. Three for three and the movie itself is truly a classic. Highly recommended.