The Return of Captain Nemo
The Return of Captain Nemo FilmPoster.jpeg
DVD cover bearing the film's theatrical title: The Amazing Captain Nemo
Also known asThe Amazing Captain Nemo
Based onTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea novel by Jules Verne
Written byNorman Katkov (Parts 1–3)
Preston Wood (Part 1)
Robert C. Dennis (Part 1)
William Keys (Part 2)
Mann Rubin (Part 2)
Robert Bloch (Part 3)
Larry Alexander (Part 3)
Directed byAlex March
Paul Stader
StarringJosé Ferrer
Burgess Meredith
Mel Ferrer
Lynda Day George
Music byRichard LaSalle
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes3
Executive producerIrwin Allen
ProducerArthur Weiss
CinematographyLamar Boren
EditorBill Brame
Running time180 minutes (television)
102 minutes (theatrical)
Production companiesIrwin Allen Productions
Warner Bros. Television
Original networkCBS
Original releaseMarch 8 (1978-03-08) –
March 22, 1978 (1978-03-22)

The Return of Captain Nemo (theatrical title: The Amazing Captain Nemo) is a 1978 American science fiction adventure television miniseries directed by Alex March and Paul Stader (the latter directed the underwater sequences), and loosely based on characters and settings from Jules Verne's 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It was written by six screenwriters including Robert Bloch and has been considered an attempt by producer Irwin Allen to duplicate the success of his Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.[1]


During naval exercises in 1978, Captain Nemo (played by José Ferrer) is found in suspended animation aboard his submarine Nautilus beneath the Pacific Ocean. Revived by members of a modern-day US Government agency, Nemo is persuaded to rescue United States interests and in so doing battles Professor Waldo Cunningham, a mad scientist played by Burgess Meredith.

Not originally aired as a movie, it was divided into three parts ("Deadly Blackmail", "Duel in the Deep" and "Atlantis Dead Ahead") expanded somewhat with about 45 minutes of additional footage over the three episodes to become a very brief action series. Sometimes described as a "miniseries", it was intended to be the first story-arc in an ongoing serial. Ratings were dismal, and the series never materialized.

Instead this proved to be Irwin Allen's final foray into weekly science fiction television.

Robert Bloch makes no mention of the series in his autobiography (Once Around the Bloch) but commented on it in an interview: "I did an episode for a show about five years ago which was an abortive attempt at a science-fiction series (editor's note: The Return of Captain Nemo). The network gave the go-ahead on it, and they were going to do a four-part story. They assigned each individual episode to a different writer. You had four writers working, neither one of them knew what the other ones were doing, and they had a three-week deadline! And it went off the air after those first four weeks." [2] Bloch's segment (co-written with Larry Alexander) was titled "Atlantis Dead Ahead" [3] although in the theatrical release there are no titles for individual segments of the story.

The Return of Captain Nemo was a co-production between Irwin Allen Productions and Warner Bros. Television. It was originally shown in the United States as a three part miniseries (60-minutes each episode) on CBS from March 8–22, 1978 and portions of the three-episode series were then re-edited into a 102-minute version released theatrically overseas as The Amazing Captain Nemo.



Part Title Directed by Written by Original airdate
1"Deadly Blackmail"Alex MarchNorman Katkov, Preston Wood, Robert C. DennisMarch 8, 1978 (March 8, 1978)

The story opens with a transmission received by the White House from the renegade Professor Cunningham, who threatens Washington, D.C. with nuclear destruction from a missile fired from his submarine Raven. His extortion demand is one billion dollars in gold bullion. To demonstrate his capability he blows up a small island with the Raven's 'Delta beam'. Cunningham, bespectacled and cardigan-clad, is assisted by various androids including a large silver-headed one known as Tor.

Meanwhile, during US Naval exercises, two Navy officers, Porter and Franklin, while detached from their scuba reconnaissance team happen upon the submerged Nautilus, trapped under a reef since a seismic event dating back to 1877. Once on board they find an intact but inactive vessel, and the cryogenically preserved Captain Nemo, the sole survivor of the original crew.

Subsequent events prompt the newly revived Nemo to offer his services in exchange for repairs to his ship, including the pursuit and defeat of Cunningham's Raven and its crew of mechanised androids. The plot trades heavily on the concept of Nautilus being constructed years ahead of its time, even possessing laser weaponry, defensive force fields and a nuclear reactor constructed 127 years before the events of the story take place. Nemo, whose submarine is protected from the Delta beam by an electric force field, manages to intercept and destroy Raven's missile fired at Washington, with only seconds to spare, thus saving Washington and earning the repairs to his ship.
2"Duel in the Deep"Alex MarchNorman Katkov, William Keys, Mann RubinMarch 15, 1978 (March 15, 1978)

At Pearl Harbor, the Nautilus takes on board Kate, who is both a nuclear physicist and a strong feminist. She may be able to provide advice regarding the radiation cylinders. The Raven, meanwhile, is running low on fuel. Cunningham heads for the Mindanao Trench where there are radiation canisters he can 'fish' for and use to re-power the Raven. Nemo intends to sail for Atlantis, but is persuaded to delay until he can stave off the danger posed by Cunningham once again. Nautilus pursues Raven, but Cunningham leads it off course and through an underwater minefield. There is a fight between Nemo and Dr Cook; Cook is killed. Nemo gets through the mines and then creates a clone of Nautilus via 'kinetic projection'. He sends the clone into the Mindanao Trench to fool Cunningham. Cunningham destroys the clone and thinks the Nautilus destroyed momentarily but then detects signs of life still aboard the real Nautilus.

The Nautilus now heads for Atlantis and discovers its wondrous underwater ruins. Someone hails them, and Tibor, the King of Atlantis, comes aboard. He explains that Atlantis has been moved to underneath the ocean floor due to the prevalence of earthquakes. Nemo and Tibor swim out to Atlantis, while the rest of Nautilus's crew watch on viewscreens. Nemo meets the Atlantean Great Council, led by the antagonistic Trog. Nemo uses his energy weapon to destroy half a column, demonstrating his superior firepower. Tibor decides to trust Nemo, and both, with Atlantean councillors Sirak and Bork, return to the Nautilus only to find the crew 'frozen' motionless; this later proves to be due to Cunningham's 'Z ray' device.
3"Atlantis Dead Ahead"Alex MarchNorman Katkov, Robert Bloch, Larry AlexanderMarch 22, 1978 (March 22, 1978)

The Nautilus is now under outside control from Cunningham. Nemo manually activates the afterburners, but they are returned to the Raven. It is revealed that Cunningham had previously captured many Atlanteans, which is why the Great Council hates humans. Tom is already aboard the Raven and is controlled by Cunningham via a special headband. Cunningham plans to extract all of Nemo's knowledge, including of how the Nautilus' nuclear reactor works, become the foremost intellect in the world, and devastate all the world's capital cities. He plans to do this via twenty destructive orbs he calls 'crozar-elements'. Nemo projects a vision of the US Navy Head reminding Tom of their mission, and Tom manages to remove his controlling headband. He immediately 'freezes' Cunningham and his crew with the Z-ray gun and frees Nemo and King Tibor.

Tibor and his two fellow Atlanteans take the minisub back to Atlantis. Tor unfreezes Cunningham and his crew, but Nemo and Tom escape the Raven in scuba gear and head for the Nautilus, chased by members of Cunningham's crew armed with underwater lasers. Nemo and Tom overpower one scuba diver and take his flare, which explodes, killing the rest of Cunningham's agents. Back on Nautilus, they unfreeze their own crew. Raven now fires its Delta beam at Nautilus. Nautilus fires back, destroying the Raven at last. In Atlantis, King Tibor bids them farewell, and Nemo promises not to return to Atlantis - it should "remain untouched by our progress."


In 1978, The Return of Captain Nemo received two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Any Area of Creative Technical Crafts. These were for Frank Van der Veer (optical effects) and L.B. Abbott (special photographic effects).[4]


  1. ^ Michael Weldon. The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. London: Plexus, 1983, p. 10.
  2. ^ Don Harden and Tim Farley. "An Interview with Robert Bloch and David Gerrold". Sensor Readings 1 (April 1984). Online at: [1]
  3. ^ Randall Larson. Robert Bloch Starmont Reader's Guide 37. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1986), p. 139
  4. ^ "Advanced Primetime Awards Search". The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.