"Beautiful Transfer of an SF Classic"
The 1959 James Mason-starring version of Jules Verne's novel gets a spectacular 4k restoration and transfer to Blu-ray from Eureka.
Edinburgh in the late nineteenth century. 1950s teen heartthrob, pop singer and geology student Alec McEwan (Pat Boone) brings a lump of volcanic rock to Professor Lindenbrook (James Mason). Lindenbrook finds a plum-bob buried in the middle of it, and the writing on its metal surface suggests its owner undertook an expedition to the centre of the earth.
Lindenbrook plans a similar journey through an extinct Icelandic volcano, with widowed Carla (Arlene Dahl), beefcake local Hans (Peter Ronson), Pat Boone and his squeezebox in case a song is needed (it apparently might be) and a duck called Gertrude. But they reckon without Count Saknussemm (Thayer David) who is there to provide a bit of antagonism in a story that is otherwise essentially 'There And Back Again' but to Centre Earth rather than Middle Earth (sorry).
Coming in at over two hours, Henry Levin's film is epic late 1950s cinema of the very best kind, shot in Cinemascope and with plenty of wide open vistas, endearing acting, a fabulous Bernard Herrmann score (which sounds great here) and some trippy sets and effects that still hold up pretty well. Verne's ideas like an ocean beneath the earth and the buried city of Atlantis would influence fantasy writers from H P Lovecraft to Michael Moorcock and beyond, and they're rendered beautifully (and quite otherworldly) here. While the dimetrodons are just lizards with fins stuck on them, they're photographed as effectively as possible for the era.
Eureka's 4k restoration looks fabulous. Turn off the lights, put this on, and revel in the warm colours of an age of cinema long past while Bernard's bass clarinets vibrate your sound system in either 5.1 or stereo PCM (I preferred the 5.1). There's also an isolated music and effects track and so there should be.
You also get a commentary track with Diane Baker who plays James Mason's daughter in the film (I'll always remember her best as playing opposite Joan Crawford in William Castle's 1964 STRAIT JACKET). Baker is accompanied by film historians Steven C Smith and Nick Redman. There's a talking head piece from Kim Newman that lasts just over 20 minutes and covers plenty of aspects of the film, a restoration featurette and trailer. Finally, the disc comes with a booklet featuring archive images, a poster gallery and a review of the film from the time.
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH is out on
Blu-ray from Eureka on Monday 18th September 2017