20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)

The very first motion picture filmed underwater, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a 1916 silent film adaptation of Jules Vernes’ novel of the same name, as well as incorporating elements from his The Mysterious Island. Directed by Stuart Paton, the underwater scenes were not actually filmed using underwater cameras but rather a system of watertight tubes and mirrors which allowed the camera to shoot reflected images of underwater scenes staged in shallow sunlit waters. Made by The Universal Film Manufacturing Company (now Universal Pictures), not then known as a major motion picture studio, it was incredibly expensive to produce and, according Hal Erickson, put “the kibosh on any subsequent Verne adaptations for the next 12 years”.

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