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Film uses a process dubbed "mysti-mation" that would influence many great filmmakers and animator to come - most notably Terry Gilliam. See more »
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Some movies used to be shown so often on television, due to crazy broadcast schedules or rental packages. Back in the 1960s and 1970s (early 1970s) this film popped up usually on Channel 9 in New York City. Sometimes another film like this, THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, would pop up as well. Both were made in Czechoslavakia in the late 1950s. The director designed the films to look like a 19th Century "moving" picture book (the sort that the reader, usually a child, would move by shifting small paper switches by pulling or pushing them. The film's backgrounds looked like the illustrations in Verne's novels, by illustrators like Edward Riou. Only the actors were real actors. Among moments that remain in my memory are the sinking of a ship by a submarine (a la TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA), and a battle between two submarines. I say moments in my memory because I have not seen any rebroadcast of this film on television since the early 1970s, and it has not come out on Video (or DVD for that matter).
Although it borrows from other novels of Verne's the basis for this film is an 1896 novel, which in English is titled FACING THE FLAG. The only edition of the novel that has appeared in recent years was published by ACE books back in the late 1970s, under the editorship of Verne scholar I.O.E. Evans, and retitled FOR THE FLAG. Evans explains that the novel was influenced by Verne's knowledge of a controvertial French scientist named Turpin who got into legal problems when he could not sell an explosive to the French Government, and then tried to sell it abroad. The anti-hero in the novel, Thomas Roche, has gone mad when his proposed weapon, called "the Fulgarator" is rejected (and he is laughed at) by the French authorities. He is being watched by a government agent, as the government slowly reevaluates it's position. But Roche and the agent are kidnapped by one of the last pirates on the globe (Count Artigas in the story). The Count helps Roche build a working model of the weapon (which is a type of missile, that flies off a track after a rocket fuel is added). The Count intends to use it to blackmail governments around the globe. The crisis at the end of the novel is whether the bitter and mad Roche will be willing to use his weapon against the ships of his homeland, France.
It is not a major Verne tale, but it is readable (not all of his novels are still readable). And the basic plot is followed in this film version. It is a wonderful movie to watch - and one hopes one day to see it on television, video, or DVD again.
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