Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

JourneyPosterBy: Oberst Von Berauscht (Three Beers) –
How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Geology Professor Lindenbrook (James Mason) and his student assistant Alec McEwan (Pat Boone) stumble upon an object with writing on it hidden inside a lava rock.  The writing on the object is identified as belonging to Arne Saknussemm; an Icelandic Geologist who disappeared nearly 300 years earlier after claiming to have discovered a traversable pathway to the center of Earth.  Lindenbrook organizes an expedition to follow Saknussemm’s directions, and hopefully to make the biggest scientific discovery in history.

A Toast

This was a sizable hit for Fox studios, capitalizing on the Jules Verne craze started by Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Much like that film, this created a whole alien world for its characters to move within. Much effort was put into the visuals; from the mountains of Iceland, to the caverns and canyons inside Earth’s crust, every scene is immaculately designed with an eye for splendor.  The matte paintings are quite obvious by modern standards, and the transition between practical location shoots in real caverns contrast quite dramatically with those shot on a soundstage, but scientific realism shouldn’t be expected from the story written over 100 years ago.  Countless jokes have been made about the “Dinosaurs”, which are clearly iguanas with rubber costumes glued on.  I’d argue this isn’t any less realistic looking than CGI.  One is a cartoon, the other is a rubber suit, you pick which is more fake (and at least the lizard moves realistically).

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“What is all this shit?”- Iguana

Beer Two

I’m unsure of whose hair-brained idea it was to cast Pat Boone as a Scotsman, and I’m even more concerned that they allowed him to use his regular American accent.  Everyone knows Scotsmen sound like this:

As an actor, Boone handles the physicality of his role admirably enough, particularly in a sequence where he is separated from the group, and has to appear increasingly deranged and weather-beaten.  Dialogue, on the other hand, is not his strong suit.  The early scenes in Edinburgh, particularly those involving his romantic interest character, are nothing short of excruciating.  Thankfully, the film pushes this cookie-cutter romance way out of focus, only occasionally referencing it.

Beer Three

While the special effects are forgivable relics of the era, the misogynistic tone of its lead character does not get a free pass.  Profesor Lindenbrook objects to having a woman on the expedition, but “the plot” forces him too have one.  The second act of the film is dominated by Lindenbrook taking every opportune moment to rip into her, and womankind in general.  This ages the film so considerably that it does significant harm to its watchability.

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A woman’s place is not in this movie

Actor James Mason reportedly did not get along with actress Arlene Dahl, which may explain the obsessive nature by which he dresses her character down with demeaning remarks.  Thankfully, these elements have more or less petered out by the 3rd act.

Verdict

3beers

Woman-hating aside, this is an immensely fun adventure story which can be enjoyed for the gorgeous production design and smooth pacing.  The special effects are very representative of the period, making this a historically important film as well.

 

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: when Lindenbrook makes misogynistic comments.

Take a Drink: for the Duck

Do a Shot: each time the name Arne Saknussemm is mentioned

Do a Shot: for “The Three Notches”

About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they're confused about something) at least a few times a week. I've gotten way off track here... The point is, Oberst is one of the website's founders, so... yeah

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