Review of The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985)

Moving picture, 86 minutes

Seen in 2024.

The three main characters of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) stow away on the author’s ship as he goes to see Halley’s Comet at the end of his life.

This film is primarily a technical feat and secondarily an adaptation of Twain’s real unfinished last draft for the novel The Mysterious Stranger, a Christian-derived nihilist fantasy. The adaptation is liberal in tone and plot but faithful in theme, including the way it features Satan. Many parents in the 1980s mistakenly believed that all animated films are suitable for all children, and as a result, the eery scene with Satan became an Internet meme two decades later. The other stories included in the showcase sections of the film are not as strong. Unlike the bold inclusion of a cold, enigmatic Satan, they bring to mind Ignatius J. Reilly saying that “Veneration of Mark Twain is one of the roots of our current intellectual stalemate” in A Confederacy of Dunces (1980). The animation, however, is excellent.

moving picture animation fiction