Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Terrifying Tuesdays: Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

From BookNode

Several of my favorite scary movies were either filmed or set in New Mexico, including the science fiction classic "Them!" (1954), which was set in New Mexico and which I have discussed in a previous post.  "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1959) is another favorite that was filmed in the state.  Some of the underground scenes were shot in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  The movie is based on a Jules Verne novel of the same name, and was a great success when first released, garnering three Academy Award nominations.

James Mason stars as Professor Oliver Lindenbrook, a geologist at the University of Edinburgh, who comes into possession of an unusual piece of rock which yields a surprising secret.  As a result the professor ends up leading an expedition into the depths of an extinct Icelandic volcano to explore the center of the earth.  Joining him are: his student Alec McEwan (Pat Boone), much to the consternation of Alec's fiancée (Diane Baker); Carla Göteborg (Arlene Dahl), the widow of a Swedish professor who unsuccessfully attempted the same quest; and Hans Bjelke (Peter Ronson), a young local resident who insists on bringing his pet duck, Gertrude.  Along the way they encounter a number of perils, including treacherous terrain, prehistoric reptiles, and an unpleasant fellow adventurer named Count Saknussem (Thayer David), who is the descendant of an unfortunate previous explorer of the same volcano.  This latter character is, in my opinion, one of the most despicable villains ever created, as I am sure all animal lovers will agree!  Aside from this, the movie combines thrills, wit, and humor in a most enjoyable way, and it was one of the most popular pictures of 1959.  It is still a great film, although the special effects are a bit dated now, and is highly rated even today.

Interesting Facts: There are many differences between the Jules Verne novel and this movie.  The Göteborgs, Count Saknussem, and Gertrude do not exist in the novel.  Alec (Axel in the novel) is the Professor's nephew rather than his student, and they live in Germany rather than Scotland.  The city of Atlantis is only found in the movie, and the denizens of the earth's center differ between the novel and the film.  James Mason replaced an ailing Clifton Webb in the leading role.  Alan Napier of Alfred the butler fame had a small role as a Univerity of Edinburgh dean.  And most important of all, Gertrude the duck retired to a small Italian farm after appearing in this movie to raise a family!

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 1 (only because of what happens to Gertrude!)

Gertrude the duck (from L'Alligatographe)

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