20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954)/Smith

February 21, 2008



20000_leagues_under_sea_19.gifA brand new experience for this reviewer ( baby boomer generation) was the downloading off of iTunes of this 1954 Disney film starring Kirk Douglas, James Mason, and Peter Lorre. Based on the Jules Verne novel and directed by Richard Fleischer, son of Max Fleischer a big rival of Walt Disney in the 30’s (Popeye), it tells the story of a fantastic submarine the Nautilus and the antihero Captain Nemo.

There has never been any reason for me to look into all of this lossy compression, 64, 128, 192, 320 kbits/sec, VBR encoding, or uncompressed WAV files. I went from 78’s to 45’s to LP’s to reel to reel and cassette tapes and finally to CD’s and all of the ways they were recorded, ending with the SACD. This Direct Stream Digital seemed to produce excellent results especially through my older higher end audio equipment and this download was the standard 128 Advance Audio Coding from Apple. The overall results were not bad at all! Yes, there was some difference in the the lack of bass and that crisp sound of the treble in the high end but part of that could have been the (3) track mono recording. This is going to be the wave of the future and we might just as well get use to it!

Paul Smith is one of those composers who would likely never make a top ten list, yet he worked on many of the famous Disney films, spending most of his life composing for them. From the opening strains of the “Main Title” full of high sea adventure and romance it seques into a dark foreboding theme from the brass, the leitmotif for the Nautilus. Also included in the “Main Title” is a theme for Nemo, again a leitmotif. “Ned’s Tale” is a great theme sung by Kirk Douglas and also used as a leitmotif for the character he portrayed in the film Ned Land. The words are typical Disney silly but after a few listens the strains begin to sink into your brain and they become hard to get rid of. While Paul didn’t resort to (9) harps as Bernard Herrmann did for the film Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef, he did use a combination of a harp and the lower register in the strings and brass to depict the underwater sequences in the film. The end result was music that was quite effective. As a bonus there are additional versions of “A Whale of a Tale” including one by the Wellingtons whose claim to fame was the television theme to Gilligan’s Island. There is also a recording of Side B of the produced 45 called “And The Moon Grew Brighter and Brighter”. This is one that is best left forgotten.

Liner notes are provided by none other than John “Cutthroat Island” Debney relating a story of how he came to know and fully appreciate the score while growing up. His father worked for Disney and was on occasion permitted to bring home 16mm copies of the films. John quickly became the family projectionist and this was how he became interested in film composing.

From what I can hear Randy Thorton, who also included a producer notes page, did a fine job in the restoring process. While we are on the subject of liner notes there are (7) pages of them including drawings, pictures, and schematics. They are in the 8.5 by 11 size so if you want them to fit in your CD case you’ll have to reduce the size of them. The odds of this ever becoming a CD release are slim or none so this too might be your opportunity to download material for the very first time. I’m glad that I did!

Golden Score Rating is *** 1/2

Produced by Randy Thorton

Mastering by Jeff Sheridan at Soundworks Studio


Track List1. Main Title (Captain Nemo’s Theme) (2:26)

2. Street Fight (1:04)

3. Aboard the Abraham Lincoln /

Hunting The Monster (2:29)

4. A Whale of a Tale (2:10)

5. The Monster Attacks (2:21)

6. Deserted Sub / Burial / Captured (9:14)

7. Fifty Fathoms / The Island of Crespo (8:45)

8. Storm at Sea / Nemo Plays (2:26)

9. Strange Man of the Seas (4:04)

10. Nemo’s Torment (1:00)

11. Justified Hate (1:29)

12. Searching Nemo’s Cabin (4:02)

13. Ned’s Bottles (:44)

14. Ashore at New Guinea (2:55)

15. Native Drums / Back to the Nautilus (3:50)

16. Submerge (1:45)

17. The Giant Squid (6:54)

18. Ambush at Vulcania (4:47)

19. Nemo Wounded (2:44)

20. Escape from Vulcania (3:43)

21. Finale / Deep Is the Mighty Ocean (:52)


22. A Whale of a Tale (Single) (2:07)

23. And the Moon Grew Brighter and Brighter

(Single B Side) (2:32)

24. A Whale of a Tale (2:22)

25. A Whale of a Tale (2:00)

26. A Whale of a Tale (Reprise) (:12)




7 Responses to “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954)/Smith”

  1. Larry Brooks Says:

    Thank you very much for reviewing Paul Smith’s score for 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. I’ve always felt that Smith was unjustly neglected over the years because he scored Disney films, which were primarily thought of only in terms of their songs. He was a gifted composer who deserves serious reappraisal, and the release of his majestic score for LEAGUES is, in my opinion, one of the finest composed during the mid-1950s.

    At the time, many in the film music community thought his work for this movie was outstanding, and had an excellent chance of getting nominated for the Academy Award for best score. Unfortunately, Smith never filled out the forms/sent them in to the Academy, and so was bypassed for consideration by the Academy’s nominating committee.

    It’s truly amazing that the Disney studios never released this marvelous soundtrack, even though there were many, many requests for it over the years. Interestingly, bootleg copies of the score have been sold across the Internet and movie conventions for the last decade.

    With this new download of the entire score, Paul Smith’s music is finally available to the public. After all these years of waiting, it’s a total pleasure to be able to own & listen to his inspired work in soundtrack form.

  2. Randy Thornton Says:

    Thanks for the kind words about Paul Smith’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”!

    I read your entry on Film Score Monthly’s message board, which led me to your site. I appreciate your understanding of the download evolution. I too await the day for not only lossless, but downloads of a quality superior to CD. That time will be here eventually. When I restored “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, I did it with that in mind. I used the best high resolution restoration tools currently available. Short of re-recording, it’ll never sound better.

    As I’m sure you read in the Booklet, it took me 10 years to get this done. And what allowed me to finally release it was iTunes – where I didn’t have to concern myself with retailers, manufacturing, or AF of M new uses fees upfront. It was the new use payments that kept this down for so long, as it was based on the number of units manufactured and payment was required all upfront. With iTunes, its a pay-as-you-go system that makes wonderfully obscure titles like this viable. Not only that, by this method I’m not forced into a limited release scenario to balance out these re-use payments. If I did a limited release, once they were sold out – that’d be it forever!! In my opinion, The Mighty Nautilus has been submerged far too long. And I’m quite willing to deal with a little compression (for the time being) if that means that this music will still be readily available to my grandchildren’s grandchildren.

    If you can retrieve my e-mail address from when I registered to comment here, please contact me – I may have something for you. I’ll be out of the office for the next 2 weeks, but please drop me a line.

    All my very best,

    Randy Thornton
    Walt Disney Records

    July 24, 2008

    • alex Says:

      Possibly the most effective music film. So ridiculously difficult to obtain in any form, thank you for making it available. I have tried to find it on ITunes, but since I really don’t know what I’m doing, I am having trouble. But thanks again.

  3. Jack L Says:

    Well done Mr Thornton, on the restoration of this very beautiful soundtrack. Thank you.

  4. Michael Says:

    Why is this soundtrack only available on iTunes in the US? I tried to download 20,000 Leagues on iTunes UK and was prevented from doing so. As a global company, I am surprised that Disney has restricted its distribution in this way. I’m very surprised and disappointed – as I’m sure everyone else outside of the US will be too who wanted to obtain this soundtrack.

    • sdtom Says:

      there is a long long story behind the way it was released. my suggestion would be to go to maintitles.org join as a member, all free of course, and create a topic thread about this soundtrack. Members are located in your country who may own it and be willing to trade etc. with you. If that doesn’t work I’ll see to it that you get it.


      “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation” Herbert Spencer

  5. arthurdavis Says:

    @ sdtom
    I have the same problem as Michael, am in the UK and cannot download this fantastic score from iTunes. That maintitles.org site doesn’t work for me at all… is there any way you could help me out to get this sounndtrack? Any help would be hugely appreciated; I have been trying to get hold of this score for several years now!

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