Thursday, April 21, 2011

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) (3rd 1950’s Sci-Fi review of 3)


        Welcome to the conclusion to my trilogy of classic 1950’s Sci-Fi’s based around the most famous Sci-Fi sub categories. We survived an alien invasion in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and witnessed a science experiment gone wrong in “The Fly” and now it’s time to explore the unknown in the 1959 classic “Journey to the Center of the Earth”. Of cores it was based off the novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by the legendary author/writer “Jules Verne”, and it does a great job making its own creation out of it while still keeping the story the same. Bernard Herrmann, who gave us that chillingly good score in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” gives us another terrific score for this film, the opening is equally strong, showing footage of volcanoes and caves. There are a few other songs throne in the film that are a little out of place, especially the song “My love is like a Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns which comes completely out of no ware and doesn’t feel like it belongs in the film at all but I am satisfied with the overall selection of music. This film is probably my least favorite of the three Sci-Fi’s I’ve reviewed this month but, I'm just splitting hairs, because this film is far from terrible, just not as re-watchable.

     The plot goes like this, a professor named Sir Oliver who's played very well by James Mason, receives a rock fragment from one of his best students named Alec. But this rock fragment seems to have mysteriously traveled from one end of the world to another and further tests on it causes them to discover a man made object inside. According to the professor, this object belonged to a famous explorer and according to the inscriptions, he traveled to the center of the earth but died and never saw his journey through to the end. One thing we immediately learn about Professor Oliver is that he’s obsessed with discovering things that are unknown to man and what could be more fascinating than an underground cavern that leads to the other side of the world. Immediately he decides to go on this expedition himself to prove this theory and his student Alec is willing to join him. There’s also a woman named Carla who goes on the expedition to honor the name of her husband who also died trying to prove this exploration to be true. Finally, there’s this big Icelandic man named Hans who goes along to help and for some reason he brings his pet duck along (don’t ask). So the four brave travelers set off on their journey to discover the unknown world beneath us.

    The characters themselves aren’t amazing but there still classic leading hero’s and they do keep the film going. Alec makes for a good supporting character, Carla is a terrific token female to come along for the trip and the professor is excellent in the role of a man who loves science and has a wonder for unearthing what is yet to be discovered. He also has a beautiful niece named Jenny but unfortunately she doesn’t join the expedition. Now I’m not going to lie, the film feels very slow at first, because the first half is spent developing the characters and showing how they plan on surviving in the underground caves, but it’s all necessary build up because it makes the journey all the more exciting when you get a good idea of who these characters are and what kind of devises they plan to use. Too many movies today just start with the adventure and don’t take the time to build things up. 

    When they begin their expedition to the center of the earth, the movie officially begins and things get exciting. The special effects and all the big sets are extraordinary, you really lose yourself in all these amazing props, visuals, set’s, colors and fascinating locations. It brings to mind films like “The Wizard of Oz” or “Forbidden Planet”, where the sets are so impressive and huge that they almost become characters themselves. The team comes across many interesting locations including, a room full of diamonds, an underground ocean, the lost city of “Atlantes” and the “Mushroom Kingdome”, well ... obviously not the one from the video game, but an entire field of Mushrooms.

    Things aren’t going to be easy for the travelers because there’s all kinds of exciting obstacles that they have to face. A bolder goes chasing after them, they get trapped in a cave that slowly fills up with water, a volcano is about to erupt, a team member gets lost and there’s all kinds of giant monsters that are hungry for humans. The monsters are supposed to be dinosaurs but there really just big lizards and to be honest there pretty cool. There’s nothing like seeing a cheap monster from the 1950’s to heighten the enjoyment of a film. This movie uses real lizards, supposedly, there Komodo Dragons, and puts additional make up on them to look more prehistoric. It’s very obvious and outdated but I still think they’re fun to watch. Finally, there’s a classic villain named Count Saknussem who wants all the credit for this discovery and is determined to make sure that the professor receives none. He may seem like a cliché, card board cut out villain at first but he’s actually pretty cool, delivering some awesome lines of dialog with this passionate and menacing tone of voice. He definitely made for a really fun wild card to throw in the mix.  

     This film does have a lame abundance of dry hummer, especially this one really stupid joke at the end, and while it doesn’t flat out kill the film, it does give it an awkward feel that clashes with the tone of the film. But there are lots of elements were this movie really shines. For example, I’d highly recommend it to a class on earth science because there’s several moments when the characters get into discussion about all kinds of interesting, scientific topics, like how some things can generate their own light or how things can grow in areas that would seem impossible to live in. It’s all a perfect blend of Science Fiction and Science Fact. Just like the other two Sci-Fi’s I reviewed, this film had a remake and not just one but 4, the most popular one being the 2008 “Journey to the Center of the Earth” staring Brendan Fraser. To be fare, it was a very entertaining and fast paced remake but it didn’t have the same charm or scientifically sophisticated feel of the original. It was definitely better than the remake to “The Day the Earth Stood Still” but it wasn’t nearly as great as the 1980’s remake to “The Fly”. The original Journey to the Center of the Earth” is undeniably very silly but it’s everything you’d want from a classic Sci-Fi blockbuster and its more than worthy of watching more than once. 

                        I give the original 1959 “Journey to the Center of the Earth” 3 stars.
     So concludes my trilogy of reviews based around classic 1950’s Sci-Fi’s and there most popular sub categories, thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed, found them interesting and stay tuned for more reviews coming up.      

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