Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1959) Blu-ray (Twilight Time Re-release)




This is yet another movie I saw during childhood and, yes, another I was familiar with from various monster movie books before I ever saw it. My one and only memory I have of seeing this for the first time was during my grade school years, mid to late 70s is the best I can narrow it down to, and it was on a Sunday. I remember that because back then there were certain grades I had a tough time getting through (part of 5th and most of 6th) and I hated Sundays because the next day meant the start of a new school week, and I remember dreading the next day when I saw this movie.

It was in the family room, my brother might have been there, my mother definitely was. I also seem to remember my mother vouching for this movie many times prior to this viewing. It was a long movie and I remember being somewhat bored with it because I was expecting dinosaurs from start to finish. It was never my favorite afterwards for a while but you know how it is, when you get older and tastes sometimes change, I can’t remember when it finally turned into a favorite but it is now and I’ve seen it several times throughout life thanks to the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) channel.

I know this movie has been remade umpteenth number of times for the small screen as well as the big, and out of all the versions I’ve seen this is the only adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel I like to re-watch. I’ve never read the novel so I can tell you how accurate it is compared to those others, but it’s certainly a much more entertaining flick than the most current 2008 version with Brenden Fraser and it’s unnecessary and unrecognizable 2012 sequel, both of which are more concerned, I think, with “CGI eye candy,” or it could be I’m just not a fan of Brenden Frasier, probably some of both.

The catalyst to this whole adventure into the center of the earth starts in 1880 when Alec McEwan (Pat Boone) gives his geologist professor, Sir Oliver Lindenbrook (James Mason) a volcanic rock as a gift, but right off the bat Lindenbrook doesn’t like the feel of it. It’s too heavy for the type of volcanic rock it’s supposed to be, so he heats the mother up, cracks it open and surprise, surprise out pops a 300-year old plumb bob (a surveyor’s instrument). They trace this bob back to an Arne Saknussemm who disappeared when he decided to take a trip to, wait for it, wait for it . . . the center of the earth!

Excited Lindenbrook sends all this information to a colleague of his named, Professor Göteborg (Ivan Triesault), but eventually learns he has disappeared. Yes, this Goteborg turned out to be a dick, for he stole all that information and intends to be the next person to get his ass to the center of the Earth, which Lindenbrook was planning to do as well

So, off he and McEwan go to Iceland where they find Goteborg has been killed by a mysterious third party who, you guessed it, also wants to get their ass to the center of the Earth. As luck would have it Goteborg’s newly made widow, Carla (Arlene Dahl), shows up and she makes a deal with them, they can keep all the equipment her husband bought if they take her along. Reluctantly they agree. Also tagging along is an Icelandic native named, Hans Bjelke (Pétur Ronson), and his pet goose, Gertrude.

That “mysterious third party” turns out to be a Saknussemm descendant, a Count Saknussemm (Thayer David), who’s pretty much a psychopath, if you ask me. When he and McEwan first meet he tries to enslave him since his former “assistant” is now dead and there’s no one else around to carry the equipment. When he says, no, Saknussemm shoots him in the arm. And since he’s ahead of the Lindenbrook expedition and following the three marks left by Arne to signify the path he took centuries ago, he also goes about covering the old marks, making new ones and setting Lindenbrook and crew off in the wrong direction. And to really seal the deal on his reprehensible behavior towards the end of the movie he eats Gertrude, which doesn’t settle well with Hans. Don’t worry Saknussemm doesn’t live long after that. God bless Karma.

Diane Baker has a small part as Jenny, McEwan’s fiancée, who doesn’t accompany them on their expedition.

This film took place back in the day when they used real locations to make movies and according to the disclaimer at the end a lot scenes were filmed in Carlsbad Caverns. Not that I have anything really against artificially created sets via CGI it’s just there are times when I just want to see a movie that was filmed on location somewhere, something lavish, something from the golden age of movie, something like this film here.

I forgot to mention the dinosaurs. As I mentioned previously there are some, but they’re lizards, iguanas to be precise, fitted with a fin on their backs so they resemble dimetrodons. Ideally I would have preferred stop-motion creations, which would have made this flick even more memorable, but I enjoyed the giant disguised lizards nevertheless.

This particular version of Journey To The Center Of The Earth was initially released on disc back in 2003 from 20th Century Fox, then boutique DVD label Twilight Time acquired it and released it on blu-ray for the first time in 2012. It eventually went out of print and now they have decided to give it a re-release but in a new remastered 4k transfer which looks absolutely beautiful.

120306_frontVideo/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.35:1 high definition widescreen—English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, Isolated Score 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDh subs only

Extras included…

  • Audio commentary with Actress Diane Baker, Biographer Steven C. Smith and Twilight Time co-owner, Nick Redman
  • Isolated Score Track
  • Theatrical Trailer

Twilight Time only presses 3,000 units of any title they distribute but an extra 2,000 is added to certain titles they know will sell well. This re-release got the extra 2,000 pressing and as of this review it’s still in print, but if you’re a fan of this movie I wouldn’t wait too long. And before I depart this great landscape of reviews for even more lands of reviews I need to mention they only sell their movies on Screen Archives Entertainment. Never forget that, people. Never. Forget. That.


About Shawn Francis

Movie collector and horror writer.
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