Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Young Fears 7: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Each October I like to run a series of Halloween-themed posts on this blog. All this month, I'll be telling anecdotes about things which frightened me while growing up.

I've already spoken of a couple of animated Disney films which gave me the shivers. Of course, Disney also had a formidable presence in live action pictures. In the 1980s, I was constantly disappointed when Disney's anthology shows (Wonderful World of Disney, Magical World of Disney) would air a live action movie instead of an animated one; however, there were a few live action Disney films as scarily effective as their animated movies - notably, their adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Of course, when I say I found it scary, I'm speaking primarily of the giant squid attack. The tentacles everywhere, the creature latched on to the side of the Nautilus - it is the single most significant image of the film. What do you see on the video box? The squid. On the cover of the children's read-long book adaptation? The squid. The squid easily became the most fantastic thing about the picture, making the Nautilus itself seem passe. The squid looms so large in the film's identity that if it were made today the giant squid would be given his own prequel trilogy.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea introduced me to the idea of sea monsters, the notion that when you go swimming in a lake or ocean there could be unseen terrors lurking beneath you. What a splendid sensation that is! Let's hear it for that giant squid, perhaps the only time Peter Lorre wasn't the creepiest character in a film.

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