Unboxing the Silents: The 1916 Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea on Bluray

This is an exciting one! The 1916 Universal version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was and is deservedly praised for its stunning and innovative underwater photography and now we get to see it in HD!

As always, thanks to Kino Lorber for the review copy. Please note that this post covers the quality of the home video release rather than the film itself. If you want to read my review of the picture, here it is.

This disc can be purchased here. (Disclosure: I receive a small commission from sales made through affiliate links.)

Jules Verne’s epic tale of vengeance and submarines has been filmed quite a few times but the 1916 version is important because of the stunning quality of the underwater scenes, which were overseen by the Williamson brothers, who are given a special introduction at the start of the picture.


The 4K restoration retains a fair amount of film grain. While there are still some signs of the film’s age, the results are pretty beautiful. Seeing every rivet of the hull of the Nautilus, for example.


The film features a score by Orlando Perez Rosso performed by a small ensemble and I am not going to beat around the bush: I loved it! It tastefully balances itself between vintage and modern and I detected hints of Debussy, Vaughan Williams and Mussorgsky in the sound of it. It enhances the nautical mood, papers over issues with the at-times flawed screenplay and adds heft and pathos in all the right places. This is exactly what I want in a silent film score and I hope to hear more of Mr. Rosso’s work soon.

I am not exaggerating when I say it’s my favorite new silent movie score to come along in years. This is top notch stuff and even if the restoration wasn’t great (and it is) this edition would be worth it for the music alone.

This disc is an absolute upgrade from the previous 1999 Image edition and well worth the purchase for any silent film fan.


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