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At The Earth's Core Review

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When a test drive of his new drilling machine, The Mole, goes awry, Victorian scientist Dr. Abner Perry and his boisterous American backer David Innes, end up in the underground world of Pellucidar. Here they find a race of humans enslaved by a telepathic parrot-dinosaur combos called Meyhas.

★★★★★

On the back of Hammer’s success in polishing up the horror genre, fellow British filmmakers decided it would be awfully good fun to transpose the similar thinking to a bit of Victoriana sci-fi, very loosely borrowed from authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs. They made sure their American backers were kept happy by always casting podgy American lunk Doug McClure as the hero, while Peter Cushing was on hand to play the necessary eccentric English genius, who never went anywhere without an umbrella.

This hugely limited set of fantasy adventure movies reached their nadir with At The Earth’s Core, in which our intrepid duo tunnels beneath the mantle to rescue an enslaved tribe, chiefly because one of their number was Caroline Munro. While the budget was slim, this was still not a time of creative ingenuity — ILM has yet to make their mark — the evil Meyhas fly by evident wires, their spring powered beaks snapping like garden shears. And let’s not even talk about the marmalade powered lava effects.

And how is it this tribe speak such good English, yet still name themselves such primitive things as Gak and Ra? The trick here is to take pleasure in its clunky limits and cheapness, something assisted by the gusto with which director Kevin Connor lets it all tumble along with. How can one not find a smidgeon of love for a film where a snotty Cushing, hamming for all his worth, defies his mouldy avian foe by shouting, “You cannot mesmerise me. I’m British!” ? However, a word to the wise — if there’s one rule in a spirited Z-movie such as this, it’s don’t trust anyone called Hoojah the Sly One.

There were a few sci-fi movies in teh 70s that managed to transcend the genre and become fairly well known in the mainstream. This weren't one of 'em and for good reason.