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This takes place in the 19th century, as with the two previous films with Nemo's character - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) & Mysterious Island (1961) - a creation of Jules Verne. But, as mentioned on Wikipedia, there's some discrepancy - this should be later in the life of Nemo but there are references to the Civil War still going on.
The story begins with a storm at sea; several passengers on a ship get swept into the ocean. They would surely drown (and the length of time that they're underneath the surface seems long enough for them to drown anyway) but for the sudden appearance of underwater divers, who rescue them. Among those rescued is a heroic-like senator (Connors). Brought aboard the famous craft The Nautilus, they meet Captain Nemo (Ryan), who is polite but dictatorial. Soon after, they reach Nemo's underwater city, which Nemo has dubbed Templemir (why that name? Dunno; maybe someone else here has the answer).
This story presents the next logical step in the Nemo mythology: rather than just a fantastic ship, Nemo now has an entire fantastic city under the waves. But, the same questions always arise in my mind whenever I watch this: how was this huge city built? who are all these residents of the city - where did they come from? I guess you have to place such logical questions aside to appreciate the tale - Nemo merely states that it took years of hard work and that his "followers" brought their families to the city. I would think it would take about 50 years to build a full-sized city under the water like this - it's not the same as just building a ship - and this is even borne out by comments in the film itself: when Nemo unveils plans for a couple of more even larger cities, the senator opines that such work would take centuries; Nemo agrees.
Most of the conflict in the story stems from the old & tired love triangle plot - Connors' senator falls for Paluzzi, who is being wooed by Nemo's 2nd-in-command. Also, inexplicably - as sometimes happens in these adventure tales, Nemo begins to favor new man Connors over his loyal 2nd-in-command. At least one of the rescued persons is also a troublemaker, very nervous about being stuck in paradise deep under the sea. And, a couple of others always seem to have sinister motives (Nemo is right to be cynical, I suppose). The whole thing is kind of a TV-movie-styled pale version of the big 1954 Disney film.
I thought Ryan was miscast; Nemo, to me, is an eccentric, intense genius and the stern, gruff one-note Ryan just doesn't fit the part. He begins to fall for Newman's smart & pretty widow, also hard to buy into. I also didn't quite buy into Connors as a senator. The story also throws in a giant sea monster - dubbed Mobula (derived from a scientific term), it's a giant manta ray. It shows up briefly a couple of times. This was released, btw, in late 1969 in a couple of other countries, but not until 1970 in the USA.
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