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191 8 The Wandering Trail, 1981–1993 If the explosion of science fiction filmmaking in the wake of Star Wars (1977) impacted Verne filmmaking, it was only in a deleterious way. Seldom would Verne productions rise above the level of mediocrity, as remakes often paled in contrast to their predecessors in the Verne cycle of the 1950s and 1960s. The various possibilities of adaptation, pastiche, and animation having been explored, further innovation was absent from the next dozen years of Verne filmmaking. The one exception began the 1980s, attempting a story that offered modernist opportunities; Verne had debunked his own fascination with the desert island myth by mocking the formula in The School for Robinsons . A rich and wily American, in order to curb his day-dreaming nephew’s wanderlust, buys an island and endows it with all the accoutrements of a Robinson—spurious animals and actors to play savage natives, even a man Friday. A shipwreck is staged, stranding the lad, and for companionship he is given the burden of T. Artelett, his hapless tutor of dancing and deportment. All get more than they expected, however, when the island is invaded by fierce wild animals, and The School for Robinsons is one of the wittiest of Verne’s Robinsonades. When The School for Robinsons was filmed as Mystery on Monster Island (also known simply as Monster Island, 1981), a rousing, promising beginning was added. Several treacherous pirates kill one another over a cache of gold, heightening the motivations and allowing the brief participation of cult star Paul Naschy. Taskinar (Terence Stamp), in league with the pirates, learns of the gold but is outbid for Spencer Island by the 192 Hollywood Presents Jules Verne wealthiest man in America, Kolderup (Peter Cushing, in a part originally slated for Jimmy Stewart before a Screen Actors Guild strike intervened). Kolderup realizes his nephew, young Jefferson Morgan (Ian Serra), hungers for adventure before settling down to marriage and his inheritance , so he provides him with a year-long world cruise accompanied by Artelet (David Hatton). Only the name of his yacht, the Dream, and a wink between its captain and Kolderup foreshadow what is to come. As the voyage commences, initially the only surprise is the discovery of a Chinese stowaway, Sehng Wu (Ioshio Murakami). Then one night finned monsters carrying flares kill several crewmen, and Jeff and Artelet dive overboard, the vessel exploding behind them. Ashore, Jeff and Artelet explore their island refuge, finding the ruins of a cabin guarded by a friendly chimp and rescuing a native, Carefinotu (Gasphar Ipua), from cannibalism. As in the book, Artelet is wholly dependent, a constant comic presence who will simultaneously instruct both the chimp and Jeff in teatime social graces. Scenic and music interludes serve to bridge the work of building living space on the island. Giant dinosaur-style monsters suddenly appear, and the castaways’ launching of a small boat is interrupted by kelp creatures. (These creatures had their antecedents in real wild animals that Kolderup and Taskinar had let loose in the novel.) A French female castaway, Dominique (Blanca Estrada), whose coiffure looks like she has just returned from a stylist, leads Jeff, Artelet, and Carefinotu to her cave. She has salvaged ragtime cylinders from her own shipwreck, to which they dance in a decidedly modern fashion; she is especially interested in a fragment of the gold they have found. The parade of clichés continues until the volcanic activity impels Carefinotu to reveal, as in the book, that he speaks perfect English and is a San Francisco actor. Explaining Kolderup’s trick, he tells Jeff and Artelet that the eruption was the rescue signal for the Dream to reappear, and on shore Jeff is reunited with his sweetheart, Meg (Ana Obregon). Kolderup reveals that the creatures were made by a toy manufacturer, an apt description considering their rubbery look. However, at that point all are surrounded by hooded men after the gold, led by Taskinar; Dominique is an imposter, too, and part of Taskinar’s plans. Yet a third twist occurs with a cascade of fireworks courtesy of Wu, The Wandering Trail 193 who was of course only playing a stowaway, and in the ensuing melee the crew of the Dream captures Taskinar. Wu had arranged for the Dream only to appear to go down in an explosion; in the book, the ship had used tanks to appear to be sinking, an explanation only slightly more believable. The succession of creatures ensures a...


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