Book Review: Hollywood Presents Jules Verne: The Father of Science Fiction on Screen


by Brian Taves

Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2015. Pp. viii, 370. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 0813161126

Filming Jules Verne

A Library of Congress film archivist, Taves, the author of several books on the history of film, gives us a history of the cinematic versions of the works of Jules Verne.  In this book he manages to covers over 300 motion pictures or television programs based on or inspired by Verne’s many works. Taves offers a great many surprises, not least the sheer number of Verne’s many books and stories, even to some of the most obscure, that have been turned into motion pictures, teleplays, and even cartoons.

To begin with, Taves reminds us that in addition to writing insightful science fiction and adventure stories, Verne was a political radical, opposed to monarchy, racism, imperialism, and other forms of oppression, traits which, while they were often present in his works, but rarely make it into the film versions. Another surprise is the extent to which Verne’s works have often inspired films without being credited to him; Taves notes, for example, the popular 1940s radio series The Whistler, which became a film noir mystery series and even inspired a short-lived television series, episodes of which drew plots from a number of the author’s tales.

Naturally Taves spends a lot of time with the handful of major novels that have turned up on the screen most often, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. It’s unfortunate Taves did not spend more time on how Verne’s images of future war did or didn’t make it into film. Taves frequently discusses questions about casting, special effects, script writing, and more. He also addresses the influence of many of Verne’s ideas on the development of science and technology, including the military aspects of some of his work.

A volume in the University of Kentucky Press “Film Classics” series, Hollywood Presents, Jules Verne is a great read for anyone interested in Verne, film, technology, and even war.

Note: Hollywood Presents, Jules Verne is also available as a pdf, ISBN 978-0-8131-6114-3 and an ebook, ISBN 978-0-8131-6113-6.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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