20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)

It’s Saturday night! Time for a good movie!

Lovers of cinema and Steampunk are sure to enjoy this evening’s post: the second film production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea! It’s a feature length silent film directed by Stuart Paton and incorporates source material from two of Jules Verne’s novels, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and its sequel, The Mysterious Island. It stars Lois Alexander, Curtis Benton, and Wallace Clarke.

This film broke new ground in underwater cinematography by the brothers George M. Williamson and J. Ernest Williamson using a system of watertight tubes and mirrors that allowed the camera to shoot reflected images of underwater scenes staged in shallow sunlit waters.

So grab some popcorn and kick back for this evening’s feature film!

Robur the Conqueror

Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is arguably his best known work. It stands as a remarkable example of Victorian science fiction and proto-Steampunk fiction.

Verne wrote more than just 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, however, and many of his novels have such radical and fantastic twists that they deserve more attention within Steampunk circles.

Robur the Conqueror, written by Jules Verne in 1886, is a lot like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea featuring an enigmatic captain who takes prisoners aboard his highly advanced craft and shows them the wonders of his technology. Instead of being set in the seas, however, Robur the Conqueror is set in the skies and features heavier-than-air aircraft that would turn from science fiction to science fact in the following century.

The novel has moved into the public domain, which means you can read it for free from a number of sources. You can find the various e-reader formats and an audiobook version from the Dieselpunks forum here.

Robur the Conqueror was combined with another of Verne’s novels, Master of the World, in a 1961 adaptation featuring Vincent Price as Captain Robur. It used to be available on Hulu back in May when I covered it then (so please go there if you want a more in depth breakdown of the film), but it appears as though the film is no longer in the Hulu archives. Here’s a trailer, at least.

A remake of this tale with a bit larger budget might be really interesting and probably in high order.

A Trip to the Moon

Today, I’ve a bit of a Steampunk history lesson for all of you who may be interested in proto-Steampunk works.

A Trip to the Moon is a 1902 French black and white silent science fiction film. It is based loosely on two popular novels of the time: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells. And while the film obviously came out a long time before Steampunk was even a concept, the film is a mashup of the two most referenced proto-Steampunk writers.

So to explore our roots, let’s watch Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon. As a History major (among other things) I think it’s important to know where Steampunk came from, so we may better understand our present.

A Trip to the Moon was named as one of the 100 greatest films of the 20th century by The Village Voice, ranking in at #84. (For all you film junkies, you can see the complete list here). Also, if you find yourself interested in the beginnings of film making and would like to see more, there is an excellent DVD collection of entire films (read, not just clips) called Landmarks of Early Film. It’s an essential compendium of early cinematography for anyone interested in film.

Jules Verne: Extraordinary Voyages

Earlier this week, I presented to you LibriVox, an online compendium of audio-books in the public domain in the hopes to increase your exposure to the literature that laid the foundations for today’s Steampunk writers. Among the trailblazing masters of science fiction is Jules Verne, one of my favorites among the proto-Steampunk authors.

Jules Verne often takes the opposite view of technology than H.G. Wells. Where Wells condemns the continued progression of technology as the prelude to humanity’s destruction, Verne sees technology as the key to unlocking the human spirit and all its potential.

Barnes and Noble is offering a magnificent collection of Verne’s three best known novels: Around the World in Eighty Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in hardcover.

This magnificent tome is also illustrated with the artwork of Nate Pride.

You can get all of this for just $11.68. Quite a bargain if you are looking to add a bit of Verne to your personal library. As far as modern editions of these novels go, you can’t get much better than this.