Loosely based on the 1864 Jules Verne classic, the 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth is the best known film version. Directed by Henry Leven for 20th Century Fox, it stars James Mason, Arlene Dahl, Pat Boone, Diane Baker, Thayer David, Peter Ronson & Robert Adler, with an excellent score by Bernard Herrmann.
A 16th Century manuscript reveals a secret entryway to the Hollow Earth under an Icelandic volcano. Therein the explorers discover the ruins of a lost city of Atlantis, among other cool things.
Filming 1,100 feet into the Carlsbad Caverns lent an authentic weirdness to some of the sequences. Three Academy Award nominations for sound, art & set decoration, & special effects. It's a first-rate children's film, & given the competition remains the best film adaptation of the Verne novel. But a sophisticated adaptation of the story has never yet been filmed.
The 1988 version of Journey to the Center of the Earth was directed by Rusty Lemorande & Albert Pyun. This film has very few touchstones with the 1864 novel, & is much more a sequel to The Alien from L.A. (1983), incredibly even worse than that Kathy Ireland vehicle.
Two kids (Paul Carafotes & Ilan Mitchell-Smith) & their nanny (Nicola Cowper) fall through a hole under an Hawaiian volcano. They end up in a lost city of Atlantis. Though it's live action, it's very cartoony, & only very young viewers could possibly enjoy it.
There's an NBC made-for-television version of Journey to the Center of the Earth from 1993 which was a feature-length pilot to an unsold television series. There's no mystery why it wasn't picked up for a series, & no mystery as to why no one as yet has had any interest in distributing it on dvd.
Little beyond the title is Verne's. The premise is more from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar hollow earth tales, & even that is rendered moronic. Taking a silly looking cone-vehicle into the heart of an active volcano, everyone ends up in a strange world of weird creatures (including an abominable snowman & some troglodytes) & a grimoire with a terrible supernatural power.
The cheezy FX make it somewhat reminiscent of drive-in movie flicks from the 1960s. An extensive cast of nobodies probably couldn't act even if they were in something worthy of trying to act. The exception would be Professor Harlech played by F. Murray Abraham, who must not have been offered many good roles in 1993 if he had to say "yes" after reading this sorry script.
Watching for appearances by critic Joe-Bob Briggs as a navy seal veteran & filmmaker Sam Raimi is a lot more diverting than the film. It's films like this that make me sorry I'm not a stoner, as films this bad can be a lot of fun for viewers not in their right mind. Little kids might more naturally go for it.
A two-part Hallmark cable television mini-series Journey to the Center of the Earth is likewise cartoony despite being live action.
It was directed by George Miller & first aired in 1999. It starred Treat Williams, Jeremy London, Bryan Brown, Hugh Keays-Byrne, & Tushka Bergen. Each & every actor turns in an amazingly awful performance.
Dr. Lytton (Williams) leads the expedition into the hollow earth. A race of Caucasian-Pueblo-Aztecs were added to the tale to go along with the dinosaurs. Plus there is a "bad" race of lizard people.
I made every effort to watch it when first televised, but just couldn't make it clear to the end. As a two-disc dvd it can at least be speeded up from time to time to not seem quite so interminable. Little kids without critical faculties might be effectively babysat by it while mom gets snockered alone in the kitchen.
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