The Magic Lantern: Episode 105 – Invention for Destruction
There is simply nothing like Karel Zeman’s Invention for Destruction (1958). Taken from the pages of some of Jules Verne’s greatest adventures, these images combine to form one of the greatest cinematic pop-up books ever committed to film. The amount of painstaking detail that must have been involved in bringing this line engraving style of illustration to life boggles the mind. The end result is a film that gloriously straddles the line between the archaic and the state of the art. It’s a wildly inventive hybrid of live action and various types of animation that also addresses the fears and anxieties of living in a world in which the catastrophic potential of weapons of mass destruction has outstripped the creator’s ability to control it.
That being said, Invention for Destruction is no dry, didactic bit of finger-wagging. This is a rollicking adventure full of eye-popping visuals from beginning to end. There are shark fights, giant sea monsters, underwater bicycles, pirates, submarines, hot air balloons, explosions, a secret volcano lair, and so much more! And it’s great for all ages, too. It’s just as thrilling today as it was when it was made. I am so grateful for the restoration efforts that save these films for us and the distributors around the globe that are dedicated to making sure these films stay in our collective consciousness. Because of that, more than sixty years down the road, I have found yet another film that I will never forget.
What you’ll find in this episode: the DIY aesthetic of Karel Zeman, the illustrators that brought Jules Verne’s words to life, the Sears catalogue of 1905, and the first thing we’re going to do if we ever go to Prague.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Invention for Destruction on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Japser Morello.
An archive of the original illustrations from Jules Verne’s Voyages Extraordinaires.
The website for the Karel Zeman museum.