Prof. Lindenbrook leads his intrepid party on an expedition to the centre of the earth, via a volcano in Iceland, encountering all manner of prehistoric monsters and life-threatening hazards on the way.
Pat Boone ... Alexander 'Alec' McKuen
James Mason ... Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook
Arlene Dahl ... Carla Göteborg
Diane Baker ... Jenny Lindenbrook
Thayer David ... Count Saknussem
Peter Ronson ... Hans Belker
Robert Adler ... Groom
Alan Napier ... Dean
Gertrude the Duck ... Gertrude
Based fairly faithfully on a classic sci-fi novel by Jules Verne, Journey To The Center Of The Earth is an inventive, splendidly-realised, smartly acted film. It must have been quite an ambitious undertaking in 1959 to try to make a film set predominantly in a mysterious, unexplored underground realm populated by fantastic creatures and filled with a host of weird 'n' wonderful sights. However, the makers have done a great job in tackling this enormously challenging source material.
A Scottish scientist, Prof Oliver Lindenbrook (James Mason) discovers that a fellow scientist recently tried to find a route to the centre of the earth. Determined to venture down the same route, Lindenbrook puts together an ambitious expedition consisting of his nephew Alec (Pat Boone), widow Carla Goetaborg (Arlene Dahl), silent but loyal guide Hans (Peter Ronson), and a duck named Gertrude. The foolhardy team begin their descent among the craggy crevices of an Icelandic glacier, and as they make their way into the bowels of the earth they make many a wondrous discovery, from mammoth-sized mushrooms to fearsome prehistoric monsters.
The film is well-paced and thoroughly entertaining. On the whole, the performances are good (Boone is a little too clean-cut, as usual, but he does all right) and the special effects are excellent for their time. Bernard Herrmann provides a crashing music score, and the set design is absolutely tremendous. This is a classic sci-fi film, and any serious fan of sci-fi movies would be a fool to miss it.
This is the first and best version of this story. Journey To the Center of the Earth has been made several times since this 1959 release.
A group of four explorers consisting of Professor Lindenbrook, his nephew, a woman and an Iclantic, Hans plus his pet duck Gertrude go on an expedition to the centre of the Earth via an extinct volcano in Iceland.They encounter all sorts of dangers and sights on the way including a large boulder that nearly crushes them, a forest of giant mushrooms, the lost city of Atlantis, an underground ocean and some prehistoric monsters including Dimetrodons and a giant red lizard, which attacks the party as they are making their escape. They get back to the surface in an ancient large dish like object via a volcano! Pat Boone is thrown off course when they reach the surface and ends up in the grounds of a monastery naked and uses a sheep to cover up his private parts! This shocked the nuns of course.
The Dimetrodons are enlarged lizards with fins attached but look good. The music score by Bernard Herrmann is excellent as it is in all his movies i've seen.
The cast is excellent too and includes James Mason (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), Pat Boone (who also sings), Arlene Dahl, Peter Ronson as Hans and Diane Baker.
I have seen this movie several times and is an excellent way to spend a couple of hours one afternoon or evening.
The great James Mason is superb as a geology professor who heads a party of five (four people and one duck) on a perilous journey into the depths of the earth. While the film's screenplay may have been a true cinematic rendering of the source novel by Jules Verne, I could have wished for a film with more subterranean adventure and less prefatory fluff.
The film's first 45 minute segment sets up the film's premise, but it takes place totally above ground, and could have been condensed to 10 or 15 minutes. There's lots of professorial bantering; a youthful Pat Boone croons his sweetheart; and he and the professor duel against adversaries in an unnecessary subplot.
But once the explorers finally get underground, the viewer is in for an absorbing cinematic experience, despite a bloated script that has the cast chattering incessantly. Cinematography and special effects effectively convey the physical surroundings as a forbidding, downward trending labyrinth characteristic of a giant cave.
The sets are elaborate and imaginative, though the "mushroom forest" is a tad too "magical"; I kept waiting for Dorothy, Toto, and the cowardly lion to drop by and say hello from the set of the Emerald City.
From start to finish the film has good acting, and there's plenty of humor. And the sound effects and grim music are terrific. The organ music, in particular, lends a strikingly Gothic touch to the nether world look of the sunken city.
Despite a too talky script, this 1959 film deserves to be watched multiple times by kids of all ages for its timeless adventure and sense of discovery.
* The screenwriter evidently thought that since English-speaking people can have surnames like London or York, then Swedes can be named Göteborg (the second largest city in Sweden) - which is most unlikely.
* Fox gave the green light to this big-budget CinemaScope production partially on the basis of the success of the recent Jules Verne adaptations, Walt Disney's 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Michael Todd's Around the World in Eighty Days (1956). As with those earlier films, the heavy cost proved to be a good investment, resulting in a big hit at the box office.
* James Mason replaced an ailing Clifton Webb in the part of Professor Lindenbrook before filming began. Alexander Scourby started shooting at Carlsbad Caverns in the Count Saknussem role, but the producers were unhappy with him and he was replaced with Thayer David.
* James Mason reportedly had very little patience with the "movie star" preening of Arlene Dahl and the relationship between the two off set was very much like what you see on screen.
* Pat Boone didn't want to make this film but was talked into it by his agent. Years later he stated he's glad he did it because of the regular residual checks it brings in and because it's the movie he'll probably be best remembered for.