Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Year: 1959
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Henry Levin
Writer: Jules Verne/Walter Reisch/Charles Brackett
Cast: James Mason, Pat Boone
The 20th Century Fox disaster/adventure films of the 50s had a flavour as distinctive as the Universal monster era of the early thirties or the Hammer heyday of the 60s and 70s – lavish, sweeping and full of melodrama. The inevitably invoke fond memories either from seeing them as teenagers at the picture theatre or repeated viewings as the Friday night movie during childhood – like most people in my generation remember them.

That the grandeur of the titles, orchestral music and steel-jawed performances overshadowed the hammy acting, shoddy duct tape effects and paper thin plot (all too visible in the cold light of the modern day) are testament to the power of movies over our imaginations and the reason we love them (also the reason kids in the 2030's will watch Lord of the Rings and Independence Day on video and laugh, saying 'it's so obviously computer generated').

Plumbing the depths of 19th century literature to slake the thirst of movie audiences hungry for anything to do with aliens or monsters, Fox breathe life into Wells' novel of a troupe of travellers who climb down a volcano in Iceland that leads to the Earth's core.

The narrative is fairly episodic as the group makes their way from one danger to the next in anything a bunch of Fox writers could come up – caverns made of crystal, an ocean (though how they ended up at the magnetic core on a flat ocean is a bit of a stretch) and the iconic giant lizards, finally stumbling upon the ruins of the lost city of Atlantis.

Corny and overacted, but the particular brand of good clean fun adventures movies were in the day.

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