Journey to the Center of the Earth
Directed by Henry Levin
Written by Walter Reisch and Charles Brackett from the novel by Jules Verne
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Cooga Mooga/Joseph M. Schenk Enterprises
First viewing/Netflix rental
Sir Oliver Lindenbrook: Do you realize we know less about the earth we live on than about the stars and the galaxies of outer space? The greatest mystery is right here, right under our feet!
I thought this was fairly dull for what is supposed to be a fabulous adventure yarn. James Mason stars, though, and that is never a bad thing.
Sir Oliver Lindenbrook (Mason) has just received a knighthood. He is also a professor of geology at the University of Edinburgh. A student, Alec McEwan (Pat Boone), is in love with Lindenbrook’s ward (?) Jenny (Diane Baker). Alec gives Lindenbrook a piece of volcanic rock which turns out to have evidence that an Icelandic scientist found a route to the center of the earth. Lindenbrook is now determined to explore himself. He takes Alec with him.
They set out for Iceland. There he finds that all the equipment necessary for his mission has been scooped up by a rival scientist. That scientist has been murdered and Lindenbrook gets the equipment only on the condition that he, a confirmed misogynist, take the widow Carla (Arlene Dahl) along. The party is rounded out by a husky young Icelander and his pet duck Gertrude (who won a PATSY award for animal acting).
Eventually, the party makes it deep underground where they are hounded by the evil son of the Icelander who came before them. There are a number of fantastic happenings in the surprisingly well-lit earth’s core, including encounters with giagantic beasts (played by large lizards), discovery of the lost continent of Atlantis, etc.
As the plot description might indicate, this movie takes awhile to get going. By the time it did, I was pretty distracted. I just never felt these people were at any risk or believed they were at the center of the earth. There is some witty repartee, however, and the movie was a big hit so it must have got a lot of people’s juices flowing at the time.
Crooner Pat Boone actually has top billing and sings a couple of tunes which do not enhance the period vibe of the picture.
Journey to the Center of the Earth was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color; Best Sound; and Best Effects, Special Effects.