So, the other week, I saw the classic 1959 movie Journey to the Center of the Earth. And surprisingly, it still holds up as a decent movie! Both because of the somewhat-coherent plot, and because of the humor factor, thanks to how dated the clothing, special effects and acting roles are.
The movie title is an example of the TV trope exactly what it says on the tin. In the film, a professor is trying to journey to the center of the Earth, after his assistant brings back a volcanic rock from the ruins of Atlantis. Well, maybe it’s the ruins of Atlantis. He sets off for Iceland with his assistant, and before going into a volcano slash mountain range, they enlist the help of a strong Icelandic dude who doesn’t speak English, and the widow of the professor’s rival. (It, uh… Kind of makes sense in the context of the movie.) They’re followed by a creepy rich dude from an Icelandic village who thinks he owns the center of the Earth.
Along the way, they journey through gemstone caverns, hot springs and an ocean, and they also slay some dragon-looking creatures. And by “dragon-looking creatures,” it’s like super-zoom shots of iguanas or something. The professor falls in love with the widow, and amazingly, they’re missing for more than a year, as they survive on stored food and giant mushrooms. (Note: This is pre-hippies, so they weren’t getting far out or anything.) It’s a simple yarn of a story, and you can definitely see that it’s the predecessor to some things like the escapes of Indiana Jones.
It was awesome to finally see a movie with James Mason in it, since he was one of my favorite impersonations by Bill Hader during his time on Saturday Night Live. This was even though I hadn’t seen any of Mason’s actual work. However, the tone of voice and mannerisms just made Journey so much more enjoyable. (By the way though, Jon Hamm also does a good James Mason.)
The other casting surprise – Pat Boone! I only know him as the aging country crooner who lost all of his money a bunch of times. I didn’t realize was kind of, sort of an actor as well. He plays the hunky, often-shirtless assistant to the professor. It’s a good thing he’s shirtless, at least for the ladies, because he isn’t really much of an actor. Mason and Arlene Dahl, the female lead that plays the widow, are doing the heavy lifting in this film.
Also, character actor Diane Baker pops up as the love interest of Boone, and wears some utterly ridiculous outfits. I used a photo from here for this entry, although this pink number isn’t bad either. (The blog it’s from, Soulish Exhortations, also has a review here.) By the way, that grey and white polka dot number goes allllll the way down. I don't even think you can see her ankles - not until her wedding night, boys!
Anyway! The film is definitely worth checking out. It’s free on Netflix, available for digital download for about $2.99 on other sites, and at pretty much every library ever. And if you like this movie, might I also suggest MST3K movies like The Mole People and the Kathy Ireland vehicle Alien from L.A.?