Vynalez Zkasy (released in the U.S. as The Fabulous World of Jules Verne) may represent Czech FX pioneer Karel Zeman’s quest to emulate the style of 19th century fantasy illustration—to the end of presenting the future through a Victorian lens—at its most extreme. That does not mean that it is any less fascinating than, nor nearly enchanting as, films like The Stolen Airship and Cesta do Praveku/Journey to the Beginning of Time. It only means that there is a vague miasma of obsession that threads through the movie’s general air of wonderment.
Cosmic Journey. Zeman even throws in a fight with a giant octopus for good measure.
The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin. However, while I enjoyed Vynalez Zkasy a lot, I have to say that I enjoyed Gintsburg’s film more. That is because, amid its visual dazzle, Garin is anchored by the sterling performance of Evgeni Evstigneez in its title role. The performances in Vynalez Zkasy, by contrast, are generally competent but flat (reportedly at Zeman’s instruction), which leaves the performers constantly at risk of being upstaged by all the visual sorcery that surrounds them. Also working against them are all of the fetishistically ornate sets and background mattes (Zeman went so far as to paint costumes and set elements with striped rollers to emulate the unique crosshatching used by Verne illustrator Jules Ferat) in which they are placed, which threaten to render them little more than minor design elements.
If you want to learn more about Karel Zeman, please see my friend and colleague Keith Allison’s fantastic overview of his career over at Teleport City.