I love movies featuring high adventure and/or swashbuckling, like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, or (on the television side) Land of the Lost. Disney Plus has presented us with a lot of classics that we didn’t have immediate access to before, so I’ve compiled a short list of some of my favorites that are available to stream now through Disney Plus. Join me, won’t you?
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Generally, this is considered one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. Adapted from the Jules Vernes classic, this movies effects are so grounded and thoughtful, that it still stands up today. Kirk Douglas consumes scenery, James Mason crushes his flagship role as “Dr. Nemo,” and the always intriguing Peter Lorre is even along for the ride. The pace isn’t perfect, it’s broken into episodic scenes that chain together and it can get a little fatiguing, also there’s also sporadic singing, which is a bit jarring, but that’s just nitpicking. This is a must see for fans of movies like The Time Machine.
That Darn Cat (1965)
Something is funny about watching the feds and the police follow a cat around the city trying to unravel a kidnapping plot. The cat is super cute, a Siamese mix I believe, named “DC,” which is short for “Darn Cat.” We’re led through the story by Haley Mills, using her actual British accent, and Dean Jones, as an allergenic FBI agent, tasked with finding out how an alley cat ended up with a watch that carries a message from a kidnapped lady. The music is fantastic, the sets are great, and the acting is so 60’s. This is one of the few on this list that isn’t fantasy or sci-fi, because of the gravitas of that darn cat.
Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
This is a kid’s movie, but even Siskel & Ebert agreed it was worth a watch. Witch Mountain is a sci-fi chase flick that delivers a lot of fun without treating you like a total idiot, and also, did I mention it features Donald Pleasance? Pleasance also yells “sheriff!” just like in the Halloween movies, I need to take a breath.
The Cat From Outer Space (1978)
Yes, this is the sillier one where the cat talks, and this time the king of not-acting-cool, Ronnie Schell, is along as the voice of Jake the Cat (his alien name is too complicated). You can definitely see the influence of Witch Mountain, because wacky chases abound. Norman Tokar directed this caper-comedy and did a pretty darn good job with the effects. Some think it’s too long, and parents at the time hated it for it’s silliness, but if you want some swank 70’s dialogue, excellent actors, and another super cute cat, then this is 1 hour 46 minutes worth spending. Oh, did I mention it has one of my favorite actors: Roddy McDowall?
The Black Hole (1979)
This is where Disney went dark, and boy is it dark. The Black Hole flopped at the theaters, but now it’s a cult classic, and fans of Event Horizon and Star Trek might really enjoy it. The cast is phenomenal: Robert Forster, Roddie McDowell, Yvette Mimieux, and the late great Ernest Borgnine. Maximilian Schell is the villain of the piece and he has got some menacing hair. I would love to hear your interpretation of the ending.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
I would deem this retelling of the Jules Verne classic as “kitschy.” It’s not the perfectly executed plot of “20,000 Leagues,” or the uplifting, overcome-all-odds, enjoyment of “Voyage,” but it’s still a lot of fun. This film is an experimental romp which features a lot of superimposed people fighting what are actually iguanas and Tegu lizards, some hallucinogenic walks through giant underground mushroom fields, and more crazy scientists than you can shake a torch at.
Treasure Island (1950)
Bobby Driscoll is inspired as young Jim Hawkins, but Robert Newton steals this whole show as Long John Silver, the wildest-eyed pirate you’ve ever seen. So, where do you start with pirate stories? Right. Here. This movie is textbook and the cast is loving life speaking in pirate, at one point, they all say a prayer and Long John Silver says, “ARR-men!” It’s even got a little crazy violence, like, I’m pretty sure young Jim kills somebody here, tune in.