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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

Journey to the Center of the Earth is epic 1950’s filmmaking at its best.  It is a family friendly, Sci-fi delight that is based on the book by Jules Verne.  The adventure begins at a university in Edinburgh, Scotland but eventually takes the audience on a trip down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the earth’s core. 

I simply admire the sheer ambition of making such a film in 1959.  Pre-CGI means the filmmakers have to work really hard at creating exotic landscapes.  The sets look gorgeous and the cinematography is simply flawless.  The colors in Journey really pop and would look amazing on the big screen.  Yes, the giant lizards are a bit much to take but, hey, that’s all anyone had to work with back in the day!

The cast also does a great job at bringing this story to life.  Veteran actor James Mason [20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, North by Northwest] plays Dr. Lindenbrook who leads the expedition.  His performance grounds the film and makes all the science seem believable.  His associate, Alec McKuen, is played by teen heartthrob Pat Boone who does his best Team Jacob and remains shirtless for most of the film whether he needed to be or not.  Not surprisingly there’s a femme fatale in the mix played by the sultry Arlene Dahl.  She gives the guys something to look at and she is a great actress as well.

The only negative thing I can say about Journey is that the opening material is a bit too long for my taste.  I kept waiting and waiting for the grand adventure to begin but it does take a while to get there.  Fortunately, the movie is peppered with humor which helps to keep things light and fun.

The final icing on the cake is the gorgeous film score by Bernard Herrmann whose credits are too numerous to mention.  He was the John Williams [Star Wars] of his day and helps set the mood for every scene.

Regrettably a 3-D remake of Journey was done in 2008 starring Brendon Fraser.  I took my nephew to see it in the theater and while it had a few interesting and amusing moments, it pales in comparison to the original.  If you love Sci-fi, this one is a must see.

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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