Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), directed by Henry Levin.

A cozy science fiction adventure suitable for children, although they may be impatient with the long deliberate startup: it's 22 minutes before we get to Iceland and not until minute 45 do we enter the volcano and start heading down down down. I think parts were clipped from TV broadcasts when I was young.

This is early "retro" adventure. I approve: period SF should be set in it's original era; at least it's good to see it done that way from time to time.

I say "cozy" because we are comforted by the stolid Scots rationalist geologists, confident and armed with Victorian zeal. The interior of the Earth is surprisingly well lit and the caverns often spacious. Despite that, for contrasting chills, we play up the fear of getting separated and lost and sometimes have intimations of the vast depths and profound mysteries of the inner earth. As always with a Bernard Herrmann score, the tectonic music accentuates the mood.

James Mason is perfect. I don't mind Pat Boone's semi-pro acting but he will persist in breaking into song now and then. Both make only sporadic raids on Scots accents. Not to slight the rest of the cast, but I want to mention brave, clever, doomed Gertrude the Duck. I love the way she flaps her wings to help while they're running from the rolling boulder.

We have two romance plots but they wisely limit the smooching, inserting a honeymoon joke at the end.

The monsters at the core are giant lizards; they actually look pretty good in isolation, but less so when composited with the humans. That volcanic ride up the 4000 mile shaft is tremendous fun. They erupt at Mt Stromboli. A bit of trivia: Tolkien wrote that if you superimpose the maps of Europe and Middle Earth, Mt Doom coincides with Stromboli.

Even as a kid I wondered:

I read the book long ago and thought it pretty poor, although maybe some intended comedy didn't come through in the translation. For storytelling, give me HG Wells.

Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray. Isolated score, but no subtitles. The image is a bit variable, soft in spots, but for the most part good given the source. This is the first TT title I've seen mastered by Fox; the others have been done by Sony.