During the storm sequence over the Pacific Ocean, the rapidly descending balloon is pushed further westward toward an unknown island. We catch a brief glimpse of some rocks in the distance as one of the crew announces the sound of waves crashing against the shore. The group remains in a precarious position above the churning waters below, as rain continues to lash the balloon amid furious winds and the threat of impending disaster. Capt. Harding falls from the rigging and hits the water, followed by Herbert and then Mr. Spilitt who says he will swim all the way to shore. Neb and Sgt. Pencroft are the only two left holding onto the balloon's rigging as they are finally dragged up onto the sandy beach. The following scene opens upon a magnificent beach as the survivors begin to search for Capt. Harding. The matte painting is sensational in this beautiful portrait of a tropical island, with fluttering seagulls waving about and huge volcanic mountains in the distance. The atmospheric flavor breathes with incredible color, splendid detail and verdant tropical majesty. Full credit for the masterfully created scenes in this film would have to include William C. Andrews (Art Direction), Francisco Prosper (Construction Coordinator, Art Department, uncredited), Ray Harryhausen (Creator of Visual Effects), Vic Margutti (Special Photographic Effects, uncredited), Wilkie Cooper (Cinematography), Cy Endfield (Director), Charles H. Schneer (Producer), and Bernard Herrmann (Music, with the London Symphony Orchestra).
Making a Home on the Island & Exploration of the Landscape
In order to restore stamina for the crew after finding Capt. Harding, Mr. Spilitt cooks up a batch of giant oyster stew "seasoned with seaweed." There is some speculation amongst the survivors as to their exact location, perhaps Figi or New Zealand. Capt. Harding narrates the evolving story via his detailed observations delivered through the accompanying voice-over. "The landscape everywhere was a mixture of the strange and the beautiful." Volcanoes stand surrounded by tropical palm trees and sandy beaches, all of it "a riot of wonderful hues and fantastic colors." The Captain relates that there is "no evidence that man had ever set foot here before." Towards an exploration of the interior of the island, a stream and a magnificent waterfall appear in the midst of a lush tropical forest, again the results of spectacular matte painting. The survivors manage to battle a giant crab and win the fight when the creature falls into a hot geyser along the beach. We catch glimpses of a realistic volcano in the distance, which Capt. Harding orders the crew to scale in order to better observe their present location. In managing to climb to the summit of the volcano, Mr. Spilitt finds a pleasant surprise. "Giant mice!" he exclaims upon finding a herd of wild goats, all of which are dutifully pressed into service. Looking into the mouth of the volcano, one can perfectly visualize both the splendor and the terror of this genuinely awe-inspiring phenomenon.