on December 18, 2014
I naturally compare this DVD with my old clamshell VHS edition.
Obviously, the main improvement is the original aspect ratio on the DVD. The VHS either had to distort (the opening "globe" looked more like the shape of a cucumber) or chop off the edges; the DVD gives you the full image you would have seen in a theater in 1959. There is also some improvement in the colour.
The sound was better on the VHS. On the DVD, I often had to turn up the volume during the first 20 minutes or so of the film; also, more important, the musical score by Bernard Herrmann to the opening credits is seriously deformed on the DVD. The sound changes erratically in volume, and the last part, where the orchestra is hitting low, ominous notes, is weak and garbled. It is as if the DVD engineers, in order to find good film elements for the image, were forced to use bad elements for the soundtrack. It's really a discredit to the genius of Herrmann to treat his score that way -- an effort should have been made to perfect the sound as the image was perfected.
The only extras on this film are a trailer and a restoration comparison. (Some would count the trailers for other Fox DVDs as an extra, but I don't.) This film definitely deserves a commentary. It came out in 1959, and in 2003 (when the DVD came out) there were still many people alive associated with the film who could have participated. Fox took the easy way out on this one, falling below their usual excellent standard of commentary-accompanied DVDs.
The film itself is great -- superb special effects, great live photography of the Carlsbad Caverns, witty dialogue, and a good plot. Of course it is a family movie, meant to entertain children on Saturday afternoons in the theatre as much as it was meant to entertain adults. It has no "message" and the characterizations are not deep. But for what it aimed to be, it is very good, worth at least 8 out of 10.
However, though the film is good, this DVD product is not so good. The lack of commentary and the poor sound combine to make it worth only 3.x out of 5. I round it down to 3 stars.
Still, if you want to see this movie with the proper screen proportions, I don't see what alternative you have but to get this DVD. And the good news is that currently you can get it very cheaply from Amazon. If you throw in low price as a factor, then maybe it deserves 4 stars.
on April 30, 2004
This movie captured my imagination as a child, and I'm pleased to say that it retains all its adventurous charm twenty-five years later.
Based loosely on the Jules Verne novel, the movie tells the story of a group of scientists (and a scientist's widow ... and a hunky Icelander ... and a duck) as they follow the trail of a long-dead explorer into - wait for it - the center of the Earth. The film is partly a vehicle for Pat Boone's singing career, partly an excuse to design one fantastic set after another (partly filmed in Carlsbad Cavern National Park), but it's mostly a decent adventure story with the ever-wonderful James Mason leading the way. Sure, some effects are poorly done with blue screens, matte paintings, and miniatures (not bad by late '50s standards, though), but it doesn't take much suspension of disbelief to get into spirit of the thing (my 4-year-old screamed at the Dimetrodons), and an emotional connection is built between the audience and the characters (Count Saknussem's fate is richly deserved). Be sure to watch for Alfred the Butler (Alan Napier) as a University of Edinburgh dean.
The limited bonus materials are all worthwhile (as opposed to DVDs that cram in the extras, mostly mediocre). Included are movie trailers for nine Fox sci-fi movies (Sean Connery's Zardoz must be seen to be believed) as well as the trailer for Journey. The only other bonus is a before-and-after comparison of how the film was restored. There's no documentary showing the process, but the side-by-side and split-screen comparisons help you realize how close this treasure was to being lost.
This is a great film that deserves to be part of anyone's collection. The effects may be dated, but the adventure and characterizations are as powerful today as they were in 1959. If you're looking for a film the whole family can enjoy that isn't so sugary sweet it necessitates a visit to the dentist, Journey to the Center of the Earth fits the bill.
JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH  [HOLLYWOOD GOLD SERIES] [Blu-ray] [UK Release] A Fabulous World Below The World!
The accent is on fun and fantasy in this film version of Jules Verne's classic thriller that stars James Mason, Pat Boone, and Arlene Dahl. With spectacular visuals as a backdrop, the story centres on an expedition led by Professor Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook [James Mason] down into the earth's dark, threat-laden core. Members of the group include the professor's star student, Alec McEwan [Pat Boone], and the widow Mrs. Carla Göteborg [Arlene Dahl] of a colleague. Along the way lurk dangers such as kidnapping, death, sabotage by a rival explorer, and attacks by giant prehistoric reptiles. But they also encounter such magnificent wonders as a glistening cavern of quartz crystals, luminescent algae, a forest of giant mushrooms, and the lost city of Atlantis.
Cast: Pat Boone, James Mason, Arlene Dahl, Diane Baker, Thayer David, Peter Ronson, Robert Adler, Alan Napier, Mary Brady (uncredited), Alan Caillou (uncredited), Gertrude the Duck (uncredited), John Epper (uncredited), Edith Evanson (uncredited), Alex Finlayson (uncredited), Molly Glessing (uncredited), Frederick Halliday (uncredited), Kendrick Huxham (uncredited), Owen McGiveney (uncredited), Molly Roden (uncredited), Bert Stevens (uncredited), Ivan Triesault (uncredited), Red West (uncredited), Peter Wight (uncredited) and Ben Wright (uncredited)
Director: Henry Levin
Producer: Charles Brackett
Screenplay: Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch and Jules Verne (novel "Voyage au centre de la Terre")
Composer: Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography: Leo Tover, ASC
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 and Music: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Region: Region B/2
Running Time: 129 minutes
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' was a major favourite of mine in my younger years, because it is a very engaging and amusing foray into big-time adventure. It's also one of those happy accidents in which a major studio created great entertainment from a story that begged to be cheapened or ruined. For that we can thank Walt Disney's uncompromised adaptation of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,' which set the standard for high-budget Jules Verne fantasies. Producer Charles Brackett signed up Disney's Captain Nemo, James Mason and surrounded him with a capable cast that included teen crooner Pat Boone, who is not at all bad. Best of all, the script's adroit sense of humour lets the journey is reasonably serious while maintaining a borderline tongue-in-cheek tone. The result is a fantastic escapism with something for everyone. And it's funny, and of course being crammed full of dinosaurs, but its only in the last half-hour or so, after we've travelled through miles and miles of caves and tunnels, that they finally make an appearance.
Jules Verne's story proposes the existence of a vast prehistoric world existing beneath our feet. A mysterious volcanic rock leads freshly knighted Professor Sir Oliver Lindenbrook [James Mason] to Iceland to seek Arne Saknussem's secret trail to the centre of the Earth. Braving a rival who tries to steal his expedition and a haughty, duplicitous Count Saknussem heir [Thayer David], Professor Sir Oliver Lindenbrook goes bravely forward into the unknown, accompanied by his protégée Alec McEwen [Pat Boone], guide Hans Belker [Peter Ronson] and the widow of his rival, the redheaded, single-minded Mrs. Carla Göteborg [Arlene Dahl].
What 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' offers instead of scientific accuracy is adventure with a capital A, the kind that finds brave souls stepping off into the unknown with no reasonable expectation of coming back alive? It's the good-natured spirit that the great explorers and even Conquistadores must have shared: life is short and cities are dirty and dull, so why not go for broke and risk all on a mad quest? The Scots and Icelandic explorers may argue over provisions and double-dealing, but all respond to the challenge of adventure, even the dastardly villain.
James Mason's respected Professor Sir Oliver Lindenbrook sputters and throws the occasional tantrum. But he also beams like a 5 year-old at new discoveries and dances a jig upon hearing good news. Mason holds the picture together with his commanding voice, which smoothest over the roughest episodes. When the centre of the globe turns out to be a wholly illogical whirlpool in a wholly illogical, a few crackling lines of expertly delivered dialogue, and a distracting cutaway to Diane Baker back up top, get us through. James Mason treats his line, "This is it! The magnetic centre of the Earth!" as beautifully as his, "Matters of this sort are best settled from a great height" from 'North By Northwest.'
The final clincher, and a main reason why Journey keeps its sparkle, is the thunderous score by Bernard Herrmann, which it brings to life every facet of the journey and its different scenery.
The special effects are slightly old fashioned, compared to 21st Century CGI effects, but that simply serves to lend the brilliant film a certain charm, which of course never possessed when it was first released in 1959. In fact, it was no doubt an ambitious, cutting edge blockbuster in the 1950s, and despite its style, especially the special effects, it still stands up as solid entertainment more than half a century later. And, let's face it, any film in which the selfish villain dies as a consequence of eating a duck has to be worth a watch.
Blu-ray Video Quality ' The film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully rendered in this brilliant 1080p transfer. Apart from a few inserts and some other effects work, sharpness is excellent throughout. Colour is outstandingly reproduced (one look at the theatrical trailer with its oversaturated brown tones will help the viewer appreciate what we have here; reds are especially vivid), and flesh tones look natural and appealing. Black levels are fairly good but are not the transfer's most outstanding characteristic. There are some occasional dust specks but nothing intrusive to spoil one's enjoyment of the film. Please Note: Playback Region B/2 :This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.
Blu-ray Audio Quality ' The 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio sound mix features outstanding and surprisingly gripping bass levels heard almost from the beginning and notable throughout. Dialogue has been spread across the front soundstage rather than being done directionally, but it's always clear and precise. And the rear surround channel carries some interesting sound effects with water and waves swirling, heavy winds whirling, and avalanche-pounding rock slides being especially notable. Bernard Herrmann's score gets woven impressively through the entire four channel mix.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Isolated Score by Bernard Herrmann: Presented in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is a stunning rendering of one of Bernard Herrmann's most exciting pieces, one that furthers the "Harry Harryhausen" feel of this film. The organ stops are almost outrageously massed at times, and the low end of this score has to be heard to be believed, obviously Bernard Herrmann was trying to evoke an "underworld" sonic presence. The harp cues also sound magnificent. For those who don't seem to think these isolated scores are much of a supplement, simply listening to Bernard Herrmann's achievement in this film should help to dispel that misapprehension.
Theatrical Trailers: Original English Trailer [3:21] and Original Spanish Theatrical Trailer [1:56]
Finally, that old adage "they don't make 'em like that anymore" certainly has no better example than this thrilling 1959 version of 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth.' This is a film that taps into a childlike sense of wonder and presents a beautifully rendered alien world that just happens to (supposedly) that lies right beneath our feet. An impressive production design is just one of the signal pleasures of this film, which also features some fun performances and an incredibly rousing score by Bernard Herrmann. Shock Entertainment has once again provided a very solid release, with very good video culled from some less than optimal elements and incredible sounding audio and I am so once again to have this brilliant Classic film that has been an all-time favourite of mine ever since I saw its release in the cinema and also when I had the inferior NTSC DVD. Another annoying fact is, why when they released the NTSC DVD, why did they change the word 'Centre' to 'Center,' so why can't the Americans leave things well alone and use the proper word? So that is why I am pleased I have now have this Region B/2 Blu-ray disc now added to my Blu-ray Collection which is a massive bonus and will give me many hours of enjoyable entertainment. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller ' Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on August 1, 2003
To anyone considering this DVD, know that the gentleman claiming this DVD was colorized from black-and-white prints is quite mistaken. This DVD is from a new internegative, and what that means is that they made a new color film using what is known as "black-and-white separations." These separations are a B&W film of each of the 3 primary color spectrums (cyan, magenta, blue - tech talk for these separations is Y-C-M) which put together make real full color. They are made that way to preserve a color film. The B&W doesn't fade like color negatives and most prints do (the color spectrums also fade unevenly). So you'd always be able to put them together to make a fresh new color print. You can also control the color better by blending the intensity of each color spectrum. They used this technique for this movie in order preserve the badly aged and neglected negative and to use the blending ability in making a new print to compensate for much of the fading of the negative. Separations should exist for all color films but sadly they don't.
You can now figure out that the question of how this will look depends on how bad the negative was before making the "separations" from it, the quality of workmanship, and how carefully they blended the separations when making the film we see on this DVD. They did a good job. It isn't perfect, but it does more or less reflect the color scheme the filmmakers went for in 1959, which is why it might seem a little like fake color to some. If you have a good monitor, it looks colorful in a slightly artful way that many older films intentionally strove for.
The sound is a bit out of synch at times but not much. Many videos have that problem. It could be better but most people won't notice. The hiss is fine since it doesn't distract and is better left in than having the sound muffled by filtering it. There are some other strange artifacts in the sound that shouldn't be in there. What is sloppier is that they get the left and right channels reversed at times! This is also not uncommon in the second rate attention usually given older films. In fact this DVD sounds unusually good! It even allows the bass end to remain intact, a big plus in the music for this film. Fox needed to proofread this DVD. It says it is modified (cropped to fit the TV) while in fact it is in its original widescreen on this DVD. This DVD is a commendable job and far superior to the horrid junk this studio released in previous releases of this movie.
You must have an appreciation of the absurd to enjoy this movie. If you like absurd or have an appreciation of the absurd, you will find this movie amusing and enjoyable. If you expect clinical or hyper-reality, hyper-violence or gritty realism, you will not like this film. You should also be able to enjoy a story that is in no hurry and be able to enjoy hand-made special effects and some simple stage-like backdrops. I did enjoy the Atlantis setting, it's a shame it didn't make more use of that. There are many things it glosses over in favor of things I wouldn't have bothered with. You may agree. Of course the lady stays a '50's movie lady, and extravagantly made-up and coiffed no matter how long away from a salon. As you no doubt know, many shows still pull that trick. At least she is given a backbone. If the handling of the villain is a little dubious, at least the lead, James Mason's role, is well played and easy to associate with if you have that appreciation for the absurd. If you are fine with all that then you should enjoy this movie.
The score is the best element of this movie. I'm not talking of the transient ditties Pat Boone throws off. I mean the scoring by Bernard Herrmann. Many people like the score far better than the movie itself. I agree. Music and film students will find this score a must. Particularly of interest is the instrumentation. There are superb uses of organ including the seriously low registers (a subwoofer is worth using for this film). Another interesting thing is the extremely rare use of the distinctive, long-obsolete medieval instrument called a "serpent." This instrument is used for the unnerving tones portraying the (what else!) giant serpent.
This movie is not as dramatically valid or creatively solid as Walt Disney's 'Twenty-Thousand Leagues under the Sea' (1954). 'Twenty-Thousand Leagues' has also aged better. If you want a classic Jules Verne film, get the excellent DVD of 'Twenty-Thousand Leagues'. Then consider this one. 'Mysterious Island' is another, but I'd suggest it after the aforementioned. Also of possible interest to you is a film also requiring an appreciation of the absurd and a taste or tolerance of the "cheesy" in even larger measures, but possibly also stronger in its strengths than this film, 'In Search of the Castaways' (1962 - not on DVD at this time). 'First Men in the Moon' (1964) is also in a similar spirit to this. I hope you'll now be able to chose whether to buy this DVD and what to get if you enjoy this film.