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Adventure in the Center of the Earth

Entry updated 12 June 2023. Tagged: Film.

Mexican film (1965). Producciones Sotomayor. Original title Aventura al Centro de la Tierra. Directed by Alfredo B Crevenna. Written by José María Fernández Unsáin. Cast includes Carlos Cortés, Columba Domínguez, Kitty de Hoyos, José Elías Moreno, David Reynoso and Javier Solís. 79 minutes. Black and white.

Opening with a brief history of zoology since Aristotle, we are informed that all life arose instantaneously maybe 6,000 years ago (perhaps a nod to Archbishop James Ussher), "when certain elemental atoms became living tissues" (see Pseudoscience), adding that "Darwin himself based the origin of man on the ape" (see Evolution, though that word is sidestepped). Observing that primitive man fought ferocious monsters and braved earthquakes and volcanoes, the narrator concludes "the wonder of creation is the creation of man" (see Religion).

A group of tourists visit an only partially explored cave system, probably the Cacahuamilpa Caverns in Guerrero, Mexico. Two lovers sneak off to canoodle, but fall into a pit where the man is strangled by a clawed Monster. When Professor Diaz (Moreno) receives a cast of the creature's footprints he excitedly rushes to view the corpse and interview the girlfriend; but she is too shocked to be of help, so he organizes an expedition into the caves. Accompanying him will be Laura Ponce (Domínguez), geologist; Dr Pena (Cortés), doctor; Mr Rocha (Reynoso), speleologist and hunter; the Professor's assistant, Hilda Ramirez (de Hoyos) and his "black servant" who is never named (see Race in SF), apparently a great cook; Dr Rios (Solís), a writer, also joins them. The professor shows them stock footage from Dinosaur movies, including One Million B.C. (1940) and Unknown Island (1948), seemingly as a warning of what to expect.

The expedition enters the caves with two guides, intending to reach the centre of the Earth (see Underground): various adventures are had, with the guides dying first: one killed by a cyclops, the other attacked by bats whilst crossing over a stream of lava by rope. The cyclops is pursued and killed near the ruins of a City: as they examine the body the cook is carried off by a humanoid bat and dropped on to the rocks. Meanwhile, Laura has found diamonds and tells only her friend Rios of this. He is murdered by Rocha, who overheard, and demands Laura ally herself with him; but shortly after both are killed by the bat creature, who then drags Hilda into a river and takes her to his abode where she is offered a live rat to eat. However, Dr Pena has followed and shoots the creature; the couple depart, leaving it injured. They meet the Professor, who has returned with soldiers: he wonders if the creature might be some kind of missing link ("eslabón perdido") (see Apes as Human) and suggests they use Hilda – to whom it is obviously attracted – as bait. Knowing the importance of the creature to the professor for explaining the Origin of Man, she agrees. It duly appears and the soldiers fire a submachine gun at it: a rock fall results ... but when the boulders are removed the creature is not there. The professor remarks, "It ended as it begun, surrounded by mystery."

A bizarre element is the humanoid bat: in close-ups, images from another film are clumsily cut in – its features are different from those of the bat-suited man used in other shots; the backgrounds are wrong and the creature's expressions and movements do not always match the circumstances. The film's three young women exist to scream and be comforted or rescued (see Women in SF); the older Laura has a little more character but ends up screaming too. Presumably influenced by Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), though with more Horror and much blood, this is a bad film, but enjoyable as such; though this will depend on the viewer's tolerance of the uncomfortable elements, including a suspicion that the snakes burnt alive in one scene were not props. [SP]


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