Mysterious Island (serial)

Mysterious Island is a 1951 black-and-white 15-chapter movie serial from Columbia Pictures, the studio's 46th, that stars Richard Crane, Marshall Reed, Karen Randle, and Ralph Hodges. It is an adaptation of Jules Verne's 1874 novel, The Mysterious Island (L'Île mystérieuse). As in the original story, which was Verne's follow-up to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, this serial is set in 1865. However, Columbia's screenwriters added alien Mercurians as an additional set of villains. The serial has been labeled a space opera version of Verne's novel.[1][2]

Mysterious Island
Directed bySpencer Gordon Bennet
Produced bySam Katzman
Written byScreenplay:
Lewis Clay
Royal K. Cole
George H. Plympton
Based onThe Mysterious Island
by Jules Verne
StarringRichard Crane
Marshall Reed
Karen Randle
Ralph Hodges
Music byMischa Bakaleinikoff (musical director)
Gerard Carbonara
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
CinematographyWilliam Whitley
Edited byEarl Turner
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
August 23, 1951 (1951-08-23)
Running time
15 chapters
(252 minutes)
CountryUnited States


During the siege of Richmond, Virginia, in the American Civil War, POW Capt. Cyrus Harding escapes from his Confederate captors in a rather unusual way – by hijacking an observation balloon. In his escape, Harding is accompanied by sailor Pencroft, his nephew Bert, writer Gideon, loyal soldier Neb, and a dog. A hurricane blows the balloon off course, and the group eventually crash-lands on a cliff-bound, volcanic, uncharted (and fictitious) island, located in the South Pacific, with very unusual inhabitants. They name it "Lincoln Island" in honour of American President Abraham Lincoln.

The castaways soon encounter a group of people that include the local natives (who worship the island's volcano), Rulu (a woman from Mercury trying to extract an unnamed superexplosive element in order to conquer the Earth), Ayrton (a wild man exiled on the island) and Captain Shard (a ruthless pirate). A mystery man, who possesses great scientific powers, also makes his presence known to the group of people; he is Captain Nemo, who survived the whirlpool in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and unlike the character in the Disney film, was not fatally wounded by military troops from warships. On the way, our quintet of heroes must battle the elements and peoples while trying to figure out a way off the island and back to civilization.


Chapter titles

  1. Lost in Space
  2. Sinister Savages
  3. Savage Justice
  4. Wild Man at Large
  5. Trail of the Mystery Man
  6. The Pirates Attack
  7. Menace of the Mercurians
  8. Between Two Fires
  9. Shrine of the Silver Bird
  10. Fighting Fury
  11. Desperate Chances
  12. Mystery of the Mine
  13. Jungle Deadfall
  14. Men from Tomorrow
  15. The Last of the Mysterious Island



Costumes belonging Western Costume Company were recycled from earlier serials for use in Mysterious Island. The Mercurian soldiers wear shirts from Universal's Flash Gordon and masks from Columbia's The Spider's Web.[1]

Critical reception

Authors Jim Harmon and Donald F. Glut were largely positive when writing about the serial: "Although fantastic beyond credibility, Mysterious Island actually contained more elements from the original source than most such adaptations of the sound era".[1]


  1. Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "13. The Classics "You Say 'What Dost Thou Mean By That?' and Push Him Off the Cliff"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 332–336. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  2. Cline, William C. (1984). "2. In Search of Ammunition". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 11. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  3. Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 252. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.

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