Journey to the Center of the Earth

Tagged: Film | TV

1. Film (1959). Twentieth Century Fox. Produced by Charles Brackett. Directed by Henry Levin. Written by Walter Reisch, Brackett, based on Voyage au centre de la terre (1864) by Jules Verne. Cast includes Diane Baker, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl, Thayer David, James Mason and Peter Ronson. 132 minutes. Colour.

A lively and literate screenplay (cowritten by producer Brackett, one of the Hollywood giants), vigorous if stereotyped characterization, good performances and a charming duck called Gertrud make this superior among the numerous Verne adaptations of the 1950s. There is a real Sense of Wonder in some of the Underground sequences – which involve labyrinthine caverns, a great ocean at the centre of the Hollow Earth, the remains of Atlantis and statutory Dinosaurs (iguanas with fins attached) – though the special effects are uneven. The escape from the centre by riding a lava jet on an Atlantean altar of serpentine up a presumably 3,900-mile (6,250km) volcanic shaft is merely absurd; but, despite plot changes – including a rival expedition led by a satisfyingly villainous Icelander played by David – Journey to the Center of the Earth, set in the 1880s, is true in spirit to its stirring original. [PN]

2. Animated tv series (1967-1969). Filmation Associates with 20th Century Fox Television for ABC-TV Network. Produced by Norm Prescott and Lou Scheimer. Directors included Hal Sutherland, Norm McCabe, and Lou Zukor. Writers included Don Christensen, Barry Gaine, Ralph Goodman, Ken Sobol, and Marshall Williams. Based on Voyage au centre de la terre (1864) by Jules Verne. Cast includes Pat Harrington Jr, Ted Knight and Jane Webb. 17 30-minute episodes. Colour.

In this reworking of the classic Verne novel, Professor Oliver Lindenbrook (Knight) has mounted a second expedition into the Hollow Earth, again accompanied by student Alex McEwen (Harrington) and guide Lars, plus his niece Cindy (Webb). Altering the events portrayed in 1 above, Count Saknussen is still alive and has pursued Lindenbrook's party along with a brutish guide, Torg. Saknussen orders Torg to kills his rivals with an explosion, but the blast instead traps everyone inside, leaving them no choice but to continue deeper into the Earth's interior. Along the way, they encounter giant insects (see Great and Small), creatures made of ice, and various other Monsters. The series concludes without any resolution to the storyline. More a sequel to the 1959 film than a direct adaption of Verne's novel, the series has yet to see any home video release. It is unclear who voiced the parts of Lars, Torg, and Count Saknussen. [GSt]

3. US tv mini-series (1999). Hallmark Entertainment for the USA TV network. Produced by Connie Collins and George Miller. Directed by Miller. Teleplay by Thomas Baum loosely based on Voyage au centre de la terre (1864; trans as A Journey to the Centre of the Earth 1871) by Jules Verne. Cast includes Tushka Bergen, Bryan Brown, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Jeremy London, Treat Williams and Petra Yared. 180 minutes. Colour.

In 1868, Scientist Theodore Lytton (Williams) sets off to find a path into the interior of the Earth to help support the theories of Charles Darwin, with whom he had studied. He travels with his nephew Jonas (London) and Scottish guide McNiff (Keays-Nyrne) to New Zealand, where Alice Hastings (Bergen) offers to fully finance the expedition if she can come along to search for her missing husband, Casper Hastings. These ill-matched companions descend through caverns in a remote part of the islands into the Hollow Earth, where they discover an interior sea, complete with Dinosaurs. Jonas glimpses a human-like figure which proves to be Ralna (Yared), a young woman, part of a society of Stone Age but English-speaking humans who live alongside the Saurians, a humanoid dinosaur race. Here Alice Hasting (already enamoured of Theodore) finds her husband Casper, who has apparently been mistaken for some sort of god (see Gods and Demons), and has taken possession of both large quantities of gold, and a plant which has wonderful healing properties. He is persuaded to return with them, but dies with convenient dispatch. Earthquakes shake the inner world apart as the team safely rides a waterspout-like vortex to the surface world. Theodore and Alice marry.

This mini-series, apparently intended as a pilot for a series never made, was met with universal disappointment. The makers seem to have taken the title of Jules Verne's out-of-copyright original and travestied its story, seemingly without knowing they were doing so. [GSt]

4. Film (2006; released 2008, vt Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D). Waldean Media/New Line Cinema. Produced by Beau Flynn and Charlotte Huggins. Directed by Eric Brevig. Written by Michael D Weis, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett. Loosely based on Voyage au centre de la terre (1864) by Jules Verne. Cast includes Anita Briem, Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson. 93 minutes. Colour.

The film opens with Max Anderson (Jean-Michel Paré) fleeing a Gigantosaurus Dinosaur somewhere Underground; he falls to his death. Flashforward ten years: Max's volcanologist brother Trevor (Fraser) and thirteen-year-old son Sean (Hutcherson) examine a box of Max's belongings, including his annotated copy of Verne's A Journey to the Center of the Earth. Trevor's laboratory equipment reports activity at the "extinct" Icelandic volcano Snæfellsjökull. Travelling to Iceland in search of volcanologist Sigurbjörn Ásgeirsson, mentioned by Max, they meet instead his daughter Hannah (Briem). She tells them her father died several years ago and that both he and Max were "Vernians", cultists who believe Verne's novels are disguised nonfiction.

All three explore the volcano; an electrical storm forces them to take shelter in a cave and causes the entrance to collapse, trapping them within. They discover an apparent mine shaft whose floor gives way; a long, slow descent safely deposits them in a lake or sea far underground, part of a Lost World in the Hollow Earth. Exploring, they find traces of the nineteenth-century Lidenbrock expedition chronicled by Verne, some of Max's equipment, and then Max's body: they bury him on the shore of the underground sea. His journal leads them to seek a return route to the surface via geyser. Building a raft, they start across the sea where adventures follow: prehistoric fish attack but are chased away by aquatic reptiles; a powerful wind rips their sail and blows Sean away. On the far side of the water, still separated, Sean finds an unusual bird which leads him to a river mentioned in his father's journal, while Trevor and Hannah are attacked by carnivorous plants. They too soon locate the river, but Sean has moved on to a dry, bone-filled area where he is pursued by a Gigantosaurus; Trevor arrives in time to help him escape. Reunited with Hannah, they find the geyser seems dry. But Sean notices the walls of its crater are wet; Trevor observes that they contain magnesium and detects water flowing behind them. He uses a flare to ignite the magnesium, and the three ride the dinosaur's skull (previously used by Hannah as a crude boat) like a raft upwards to be ejected from Mount Vesuvius in Italy. They land, unhurt, in trees in a vineyard: Sean pays the owner for damages with a large diamond, one of a number brought from underground in his backpack. Trevor and Hannah, having grown closer during the action, apparently marry; at the end all three are planning a search for Atlantis.

This loose remake of 1 above with a present-day setting was fairly popular, but fails to achieve the same Sense of Wonder despite modern CGI special effects. It was shown in 3-D in considerably fewer theatres than hoped. Of sf note is the odd device that Verne's Fantastic-Voyage novels are actually accounts of real experiences. [GSt/DRL]

links

Previous versions of this entry

Website design and build: STEEL

Site ©2011 Gollancz, SFE content ©2011 SFE Ltd.