Jules Verne on Film by Thomas C. Renzi
McFarland & Company, Inc Trade: ISBN 0786419660 PubDate: 03/01/04
Review by Colleen R. Cahill
224 pgs. List price $ 39.95
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Jules Verne is the father of science fiction to many and certainly his work has inspired a vast array of films. Jules Verne on Film is a reprint of Thomas C. Renzi’s 1998 filmography of the cinema from Verne’s work and films that own some inspiration from the master’s themes. Although a filmography is usually seen as a reference work, Renzi has made this more than a list of titles, directors and actors by including descriptions and critical comments.
The introduction of the book sets the stage with a biography of Verne, looking at his life and outside influences, such as Verne’s father, publisher and other authors. The filmography is arranged by the title of the original Verne story or novel. Many of the titles are what you would expect: Five Weeks in a Balloon, Journey to the Center of the Earth and, of course Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, but some are less well known, such as The Tribulations of a Chinese Gentleman in China. Renzi has supplied a brief synopsis of each title and a discussion on the characters, writing, and how it relates to other Verne writings. Following this is a list of films related to the Verne work. This could be films based on the story or ones that have Verne elements in them. When dealing with the latter, some interesting movies are listed, such as under the chapter on “Robur the Conqueror and Master of the World,” Renzi includes Death Race 2000 and Blade Runner. He does provide explanations on why these titles are mentioned and I found it food for thought, even if I did not always agree.
There are several indexes at the back of the book for director, film title and general subjects. The two appendices are interesting, the first listing all of Verne’s publications in chronological order and the second being a bibliography of biographical and critical sources. One thing I would have liked to see was a listing of films by chronology: it would be intriguing to be able to tell if there was a gold age for Verne films.
Since this is a reprint, more recent works, such as the just released Around the World in Eighty Days are not mentioned, but there is still a wealth of information. I was startled to find that out all the actors that had played Captain Nemo, from James Mason to Michael Caine to Jose Ferrer. Scattered pictures from different films attract the attention of anyone browsing the work, as many are images we have seen on the big and small screen.
Overall, this book is good for Verne enthusiasts, film buffs and science fiction fans of both books and movies. The writing is informative, critical and literate: this is a reference book you could just sit down and read cover to cover. Already I want to find a copy of The Tribulations of a Chinese Gentleman in China because Renzi’s description has piqued my interest. If your interest runs into science fiction literature, Jules Verne or cinema, you will want a copy of this book.