Today's movie -In Search of the Castaways - celebrates its 51st anniversary this year; it certainly qualifies as a classic here at Java's Journey.
It's as if the Mickey Mouse company asked itself, "how can we get the entire family to buy tickets?" The result is to cast Maurice Chevalier -who's heyday was a generation or two prior- to make grandma and grandpa nostalgic. Cast George Sanders and Wilfrid Hyde-White -who lit up the screen during the the 1930s, the war years and beyond- for mom and dad. Cast the charming Disney princess of the moment for the teens -Mills. And throw in a small-ish child (Keith Hamshere) and an animal or two for the youngest kiddies.
Well, it works. The entire family can enjoy this film.
Mary Grant (Mills) and her brother Robert (Hamshere) are searching for their father Captain Grant (Jack Gwillim) who is missing at sea. This being a Disney film, the mother is nowhere to be seen, thus driving up the stakes of finding father.
A professor (Chevalier) and the owner of the captain's missing ship, Lord Glenarvan (Hyde-White) agree to help find the captain, and thus begins the adventure.
(Anderson says in a 1963 interview that he is smitten with the teen queen in real life. "Of course I'm in love with Hayley Mills," says Anderson. "Who isn't?")
Right. On to the adventure.
Since this is a Jules Verne adaptation, the movie skips about here, there and everywhere all over the globe and encounters fantastic natural occurrences. Floods in a drought, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, avalanches, ice caves, wild cats in trees with humans, giant birds carrying children away - this is par for the course in the ninety-eight minute film.
With all this mayhem stirring around, we don't really need a human villain, but we get one (and we appreciate the luxury). Sanders shows up with his singular talent for portraying quiet menace. Then, in addition to man vs. nature, we get to man vs. man and all that entails -betrayal, deception, captivity, all sorts of things to ravage the senses. It's a thrilling movie.
In Search of the Castaways boasts dated (but still excellent) film technology for those natural disasters, fabulous period costumes, great adventure, family-friendliness and interesting performances for all ages. Highly recommended.
- 1963 Michael Anderson, Jr. Interview with Motion Picture Magazine
- Seedship.com has a great collection of Hayley Mills interviews here: http://www.seedship.com/hayley/#gallery
- In Search of the Castaways is one of Java's 13 Classic Movies for Father's Day