Retro Review: Captain Nemo and the Underwater City

Underwater science fiction from the late 1960's.

Synopsis: When Captain Nemo saves the passengers of a sinking ship and takes them to his Utopian underwater city he discovers that not all of his guests agree to remain there forever.

Review: Captain Nemo and his Nautilus Submarine has been a character from Jules Verne stories that has fascinated me since first seeing ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ This movie pretty much gives us an idea of what Nemo’s dream of an underwater Utopia could be like, but not everyone is up for life in an underwater city.

Starring the late Robert Ryan as Nemo and Chuck Conners as Senator Robert Frasier. The film is as much an exploration of two philosophy as it is a family science fiction drama. On the one hand. You have Nemo shunning the surface world to build a Utopia fashioned by his wanting a better world for him and his followers whereas you have the Senator who’d rather go back to the surface and fight to make that world better. This is fairly consistent with Nemo’s character.

The film centres mostly on Nemo rescuing some survivors of a shipwreck and taking them back to his underwater city of Templemere where they can live happily in luxury and never want for anything. The only condition being. They can never leave. Of course, Senator Frasier is not to keen on the idea of staying and over a period of time plots a way out with some help.

Robert Ryan is unfortunately somewhat miscast as Captain Nemo due to the fact that he does not really possess the darkness or intensity that the character requires. Sure this is an older version of the character than the one that James Mason played in the aforementioned 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, but I cannot see Nemo mellowing that much given his reasons for having left the surface world behind.

Chuck Conners is well cast as the Senator and every bit the perfect foil for Nemo to debate with. Also, wonderfully cast are Kenneth Connor and Bill Fraser as the gold-hungry Bath brothers that offer up some of the comic relief. A bi-product of the underwater city is apparently gold. 

Adding the family element to the film is Nanette Newman as Hannah Beckett and her son Philip Becket played by child actor Christopher Hartstone.

The film’s story, while simple does drag a little bit, but given the gorgeous set design and visuals, which were really well done for a film of this time period. You really don’t mind so much.

A lot of the film is taken up with the new arrivals learning about what Templemore has to offer and I have to say. I’d be tempted to stay given that pretty much everything is FREE and taken directly from the sea.

The set design is lovely and does convey a sense of being in an underwater city. The model work is pretty cool and considering the time this movie was made fairly convincing except when filmed up close.

Something that holds up really well is the music score from Angela Morley who is credited in the film as Walter Stott. This music score is mesmerizing and it sticks in the head long after viewing the film. Which is what I call an earworm.

Overall considering this movie was made in 1969 at a time prior to the technological advances in special effects that we saw in Star Wars. It holds up fairly well. I’d love to see a similar film made with today’s technology given that we do not really see that many science fiction and fantasy films made underwater, which is a shame.

Captain Nemo and the Underwater City
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Special Effects
  • Soundtrack

Ian Cullen is the founder of and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: When he is not writing for Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of You can contact ian at: [email protected]
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