Journey to the Center of the Earth

Monday, 18 September 2017 19:18

Journey to the Center of the Earth - out now on Blu-rayBased on Jules Verne’s classic novel, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” is an old-school, globe-trotting adventure story. Reminiscent of the escapades of Indiana Jones and Tintin, the film stars James Mason as Sir Oliver Lindenbrook, a Scottish scientist who stumbles on a secret route to the Earth’s core, following in the footsteps of a legendary long-lost explorer.

Lindenbrook initially has student Alec McEwan (singer Pat Boone) for company on their trip to an Icelandic volcano, with the duo picking up Hans - a towering blond local (Peter Ronson) - and Carla (Arlene Dahl – The Love Boat), the Swedish wife of a fellow scientist en-route. Oh, and Han’s savvy pet duck, Gertrude. If the journey into the planet was not dangerous enough, they also have to contend with a murderous, despicable rival.

I had not seen this film before doing my review, though I had seen the likes of Doug McClure’s “The Land That Time Forgot”. “Journey” is quite similar, but a lot more robust and less trashy.

The characters go through many perilous situations, risking life and limb but they press on gamely, and look remarkably fit and healthy considering the battering they suffer. One is also encouraged to ignore the fact that their meagre supplies would probably only last days rather than weeks or months; the details are not important when the action is so entertaining.

The actors play their roles with vigour and sparkly fervour and there is plenty of hearty chemistry between them. Mason’s Scottish accent is a weak point but – as Kim Newman points out in one of the extras – he enters the spirit of the movie to make it an ensemble piece rather than risk acting the others off the screen. This is a very different character to his brooding take on Captain Nemo in another Verne classic, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. The tone is mostly upbeat, with one notable exception.

Boone gets the chance to sing, and a fine job he does of it though apparently one or two songs were cut from the final version (just as well given the film is over two hours in length).

The adventure is more about the dangerously unstable and unexplored environment than it is bizarre creatures or long-lost races, so you will not witness Ray Harryhausen-style stop motion beasties here. Instead we get a few ‘enhanced’ lizards that are not particularly terrifying or overly convincing but they just about cut it.

The locations, sets and matte backgrounds are generally of a very high standard, though the shift between real and stage-based scenes can be slightly jarring. A lot of artistry must have gone into making the film and director Henry Levin (“The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm”) pulls it all together brilliantly.

Special features include:

  • 1080p presentation from a definitive 4K restoration
  • Optional stereo PCM soundtrack and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
  • Isolated music and effects track
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary with actress Diane Baker and film historians Steven C. Smith and Nick Redman
  • New video interview with critic and author Kim Newman (23 mins approx.)
  • Featurette on the film’s restoration
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • A booklet featuring an original review of the film from 1959; a poster gallery; and a selection of rare archival imagery

Newman is typically enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the film, and perhaps a little unfair with regard to Pat Boone’s acting chops or lack thereof! The HD remaster is absolutely stunning and you do not need to see the restoration featurette to recognise the fact, though it does reveal quite how poor some prints of the film were.

“Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1959) is out now on Blu-ray, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment. The main feature has a running time of 129 minutes approx, carries a 'U' certificate and retails for £14.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com.

 

Last modified on Monday, 18 September 2017 19:23

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