An intrepid professor leads a party of explorers toward the centre of the Earth, a journey of wonder and terror that will lead to confrontations with prehistoric creatures and a lost world beneath their very feet.
An excellent science fiction fable from the Verne-adaptation school of wonder over paranoia, plain storytelling over satire. You don’t become entranced by this whimsical fable of adventurers discovering an incredible world below the surface, complete with lost cities, prehistoric creature, and an underground ocean, for any clever-clever commentary, but for the transporting power of old-fashioned fantasy. It’s what use to be deemed a ‘family adventure” but that sounds too detrimental now.
While deviating from the original Verne text considerably, Henry Levin’s tale still carries that spirit of credible connection. It wants us to believe in its science. Having the redoubtable tone of James Mason helps, he’s the brainiac geologist Lindenbrook at the head of the mission who with shades of Scott’s race to the South Pole, finds his best friend Goetaborg has ploughed on ahead of him alone. Lindenbrook, sensibly with a sturdy team behind — including crooner Pat Boone as young hero sort Alec McEwen and a fetching goose—also discovers traces of another explorer who may have ventured this way centuries before. There’s a small murder plot, and a cool spike of scientific rivalry, but the film is essentially an underground picaresque through a series of vivid sets stunning lit to give the effect of the vast and subterranean.
It has dated a fair bit, but it’s a film that takes its far-fetchedness seriously, and delivers a thrilling adventure that untrammelled by cheese, melodrama or ludicrous tribes of extras shabbily dressed bird-beings or lizard men.
Still captivating despite the obviously dated effects.
Reviewed by Ian Nathan