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225 10 Telefilms and Miniseries Reign, 1997–1999 Although in 1995 the animated series Space Strikers and the live-action series Mysterious Island offered largely new conceptions of Captain Nemo, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas was about to appear in several major live-action television films and miniseries. The time was ripe; of all Verne’s books, none had so received repeated literary validation in translation. Since the Walt Disney film in 1954, three massmarket paperbacks had appeared and remained in print: translations in 1962 by Anthony Bonner, in 1965 by Walter James Miller, and in 1969 by Miller’s New York University colleague Mendor T. Brunetti. Miller’s annotated trade edition in 1976 was followed by a similar version in 1992 by Emanuel Mickel, and Miller himself, in conjunction with Frederick Paul Walter, rounded out his project with a completely fresh edition in 1993. A critical mass had been reached, and Hollywood was confident that collective memory had faded sufficiently to try the first live-action adaptation since Walt Disney, and so for the 1996–1997 season not one but three new such television productions were made of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas, a phenomenon TV Guide labeled “submarine warfare, network style.”1 First arriving was a Hallmark telefilm on CBS, then an ABC miniseries, and finally a separate CBS children’s series episode with a different cast but using much of the telefilm’s footage. Between them was as much difference as could be imagined, but all three 226 Hollywood Presents Jules Verne had one prominent element in common: the belief that a female presence was necessary—although each introduced her in different ways. Computer -generated special effects suggested a new production could be considerably cheaper than it would have been in the past. Most notable was the miniseries 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, first broadcast on ABC on May 11–12, 1997, which marked a vigorous, fresh interpretation. The filmmakers had respect for the Disney version, and director Rod Hardy, proud owner of a first edition of the novel, explained his rationale for the remake. “The industry is always searching for new material. . . . Sometimes there is no reason why stories that have been told before couldn’t be updated. I loved the Disney version, but when you set it up in the ’90s it seems very cute. There was another side to Jules Verne. You know Jules Verne had a fairly dark side to him. This version is certainly a little more edgy than the ’50s version.”2 Michael Caine was cast as Nemo because Hardy felt he had the “stature ” to follow in a role so closely identified with James Mason.3 Fortunately , executive producer Richard Pierce realized the period flavor had to be preserved without any attempt to update the situations, characters, or dialogue. “You can’t make it seem hokey or old-fashioned, because to the characters in that time and that place, it wasn’t. That was their reality. You just have to commit to that, and that’s how classics become classics,” Pierce commented.4 Scriptwriter Brian Nelson utilized many incidents, dialogue, and situations directly from the book but also offered embellishments. There is not one but two professors Aronnax. The miniseries opens with Pierre Aronnax experiencing a nightmare as he is almost drowned, caught in a net, threatened by a sea monster, and denigrated by his father, Thierry, as a “little man.” Pierre then is seen offering his explanation of the sea monster of 1867, believing it to be a giant narwhal, although others suspect a man-made vehicle. The Cunard Line offers him the opportunity to leave his father’s shadow and join the search by the Abraham Lincoln, but once aboard Pierre learns that his father has already besmirched his reputation with Admiral William McCutcheon. However, McCutcheon ’s own nature is foreshadowed by his pet hawk. Encountering Cabe Attucks, a free black who experiences virulent prejudice, Pierre hires him as a servant. However, Cabe displays ill- Telefilms and Miniseries Reign 227 directed anger on many occasions; for instance, he pointlessly quarrels with Ned Land over the harpooner’s desire to hunt whales. The trio fall overboard during the attack of the Nautilus on the Abraham Lincoln and eerily discover the “monster” submerged just a few feet below them, limned by a greenish hue. Taken aboard the Nautilus, they are confronted by Nemo, initially seen only in silhouette in perhaps the best enactment of this pivotal...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813161143
Related ISBN
9780813161129
MARC Record
OCLC
907532757
Pages
360
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-17
Language
English
Open Access
No
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