5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2004
Fox Studios was so successful with this film that they immediately made another Verne classic, "The Lost World" with Claude Raines as Professor Challenger. "Lost World" didn't fare as well. The reasons were obvious.
"Journey" was put together by a team of Hollywood professionsls at all levels: script, direction, actors, production deisgners. They were all dedicated to one goal: to entertain the audience while not pandering to them. The actors take their roles seriously, bringing them to vivid life.
This is a long film for a general release, family oriented project. It goes into good, solid character development, rather than settling for action over story, as they did with "The Lost World." The only thing both films have in common appear to be dinosaurs.
The special effects are excellent. Try not to compare them to what can be computer-generated today. Matte painting artists of the old Hollywood studio system could truly be called artists; this film is a prime example of this art.
Bernard Hermann's score is one of the true stars of the picture. It supports the film; it is like a character all its own; it complements the story rather than overpowering it.
This is a movie that can be seen over and over through the years and it still appeals. Once again, the DVD format presents the film in its original CinemaScope aspect ratio, which is the only way to appreciate a truly excellent example of the old Hollywood in its finest form.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2003
It's very surprising that Fox (which is known for putting together good DVDs) kind of played the cheap route for this movie. I would have liked to have seen a "Behind the Scenes" feature on how this movie was done. I'm sure they could have put together something for it, like they did with "The Day The Earth Stood Still". This is a good movie and deserves better treatment on the DVD format. I feel like I wasted my money.
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 November 12, 2003
I had fond memories of this for 30+ years. Sitting in front of the TV, cross-legged, stuffing popcorn in my mouth, while watching the greatest sci-fi/ adventure flick of it's time. I just watched it again and loved it! James Mason (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Lolita) is professor Lindenbrook. He leads an expedition to the earth's core after uncovering a strange artifact encased in lava rock. The group of underground explorers includes Pat Boone as Macuen, Arlene Dahl as the wife of Lindenbrook's rival (who was murdered early on), A giant icelander named Hans, a duck named Gertrude, and two evil sabotuers who plan on knocking off our heroes and cashing in on their discovery. This movie has earthquakes, rockslides, floods, a giant whirlpool, a thundering styrofoam boulder, an explosion, a volcanic eruption, AND not 1, but 2 giant lizard attacks!! Be still my heart! James Mason is pleasantly irrassible. Pat Boone is astonishingly believable (I'm not a big Pat fan). Arlene Dahl is, well, absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend JTTCOTE. Get that corn a-poppin'...
on September 5, 2003
Seeing this movie at a kiddie matinee one rainy Saturday afternoon was a formative experience. My brother and I played "Journey to the Center of the Earth" for weeks afterward on the hill behind our house. And most of it has worn extremely well, although being the jaded, post-Spielberg adult that I now am, I can't help noticing the difference between the authentic Carlsbad Cavern locations in some sets and the styrofoam rocks on Hollywood sound stages in others. But who cares? In my childhood, I already knew that the geological premise here was mistaken but happily suspended disbelief, and I'm glad to do it again for an enthralling, well-acted adventure story, especially one featuring interesting characters like an eccentric professor, a gallant young man who can sing, a beautiful, spunky woman, a loyal strong-man and a duck with a terrific sense of direction.
Oh by the way, for you younger viewers, did you think Indiana Jones was the first action hero to flee a huge, rolling boulder in a narrow chasm? Find out where Lucas and Spielberg got that, along with a lot of other set-pieces, when you watch this great old flick.
on August 5, 2003
I first saw Journey to the Center of the Earth as part of a dusty collection of VHS tapes our local library would roll out on rainy Sundays for the kids (another classic was Mysterious Island). I enjoyed it then, so I decided to pick up the DVD. Not only has the film held up over time, I actually find it more entertaining now than when I was a lad. The plot, wherein an esteemed Scottish geology professor and his earnest student (Pat Boone) discover a clue that leads them to the center of the Earth, along with a rogue's gallery of other companions, is actually almost believable. I think that's probably the best that can ever be said about this sort of film, and something that is almost never said of more recent versions. Along the way naturally the intrepid explorers overcome dangers and obstacles, encounter fabulous natural wonders, and generally have a good time. The actors really make this film stand out; the special effects are still good but it's the dialogue that speeds the plot along. I still find myself swept up in their initial hunt for the entrance to the underground caverns, as well as the interactions of our heroes with the primary villian..and of course there is a fun one. The film also has a well-manicured but playful sense of humor, including a scene where our heroes desperately try in any language to communicate with the tappings of a presumed rescuer, which turns out to be a duck, and another where one love interest is horrified when she (gasp!) accidentally reveals her shapely ankles.
Also, this film has a great sequence that catapults it high into the ranking of that little-known and vastly underappreciated sub-genre: the "giant" lizard film. You know the ones I mean. They all have iguanas, typically blue-screened and made up to look like prehistoric dinosaurs of some form, which bound around the place and generally menace our off-screen actors. Look for close-up shots of "giant" lizard mouths and then listen for the screams. Ahh, it's great.
The DVD itself is fine. Some of the other reviews take issue with obscure coloring and soundtrack elements that, frankly, I don't think are even noticeable. The soundtrack is delightfully strident and yet often solemn/morbid, conveying the gradual suffocating effects of hundreds of miles of earth piled above your head as you move deeper. All in all, I think this is about as entertaining and enjoyable as you're going to get for a premise as patently absurd as walking to the center of the earth. And that, of course, is why it's such a great film.
on July 16, 2003
I hadn't seen this film in twenty years and when I watched it again last night I was surprised at how well it's held up. The picture and audio quality in this CD are well above average and the color tones are vibrant throughout. As always, James Mason delivers a stand-out performance in a film he always disliked. His Scottish accent is a little odd and one wishes he had merely used his own voice, which was so oustanding and memorable. More surprising is the performance of Pat Boone who actually acquits himself well here. Boone is never campy, silly or contrived; he honestly delivers a good all-around performance. His relationship with Mason in the movie unfolds nicely and there's never a forced word of dialogue or campy forays into 1950's kitsch.
The sets are not cheesy at all and hold up well. The special effects are, as one would expect, rather dated, but by 1959 standards, they are exceptional. One can honestly imagine this group being in the middle of the earth. All in all, this is a quality film, hardly a classic, but entertaining for adults and children alike.
on April 27, 2003
It's a fun movie. You can argue with the the "science"; you can argue with some of the optical effects (the use of poorly matted lizards vs. stop motion animation is a minor drawback to the film)and you can argue with some of the deviations from Verne's classic novel but none of this off sets the sheer aura of fun that surrounds this 50's classic. Made at the tail end of the science fiction boom that made the cinema profitable again during the threat of television, Journey succeeds through the top flight direction, witty dialog and performances of the cast.
James Mason is perfectly cast as Professor Lidenbrook and Arlene Dahl plays his spirited romantic interest. The plot is fairly well known so I'll stick to the quality of the film, restoration and DVD transfer. Pat Boone's career as an actor was often blighted by his singing career. He wasn't considered a "serious" actor. He gives a energetic performance that counter balances Mason's intense take as Liddenbrook.
The direction by Hollywood vet Henry Levin sparkles with a number of inventive set pieces. Michael Todd's spare no expense production allows this lavish production to continue to shine nearly 45 years later. The art direction is often imaginative and, despite the limitations of the time, manage to convey the wonder of Verne's original novel.
The optical effects are quite good half a century later. The matte paintings and miniatures still allow one to suspend disbelief and sink into the world portrayed here. The use of redressed lizards for the grand finale does undermine the conclusion a bit. Surprisingly, Todd and director Levin opted for using this approach instead of the more time consuming stop motion animation of Ray Harryhausen or Willis O'Brien. Although it would have delayed the film a bit and increased the budget as well, this brief sequence would have been more believable and lively if it had been made using O'Brien or Harryhausen.
All of this would have been to no avail if not for Bernard Herrmann's moody, inventive and idiosyncratic score for the film. Herrmann's best scores (North by Northwest, Psycho, Citizen Kane among many other classic scores)helped elevate the quality of many films. Hitchcock, Welles, Ray Harryhausen, Brian DePalma and Martin Scorese all recognized that Herrmann's scores were important characters in the films they directed.
The transfer is beautiful given the age of the original negative and condition of many of the films from this time frame. While the restoraation isn't as rich as that given to cinematic classics like Vertigo and Spartacus, the film benefits from the restoration efforts. The colors are vibrant and rich and, with few exceptions, the transfer is sharp and not as grainy as one would expect (particulary during the optical effects sequences).
The DVD transfer is quite good as well. Again, grain problems to crop up now and again and the widescreen transfer isn't flawless but these are fairly minor complaints. Fox has, on the whole, done a marvelous job restoring this classic adventure film. Sadly, Mason, director Levin and Todd are all deceased so we don't get any first person observations about the production of the film on a second audio track. Since Pat Boone is still very much with us, it would have been interesting to hear his memories on the production of this fine film.
I have very fond memories of watching this on the 3:30 Afternoon movie on KGO-TV in San Francisco (and, if memory serves, a couple of times on John Stanley's Creature Feature program as well). It's a perfect rainy day Saturday movie. It's enjoyable for the kids and, yes, even for this adult despite the wonderous explosion in visual effects over the years. While you're at it, you might also enjoy Jon Amiel's The Core an update of sorts of this classic film. Amiel's film vividly recaptures the sense of wonder and power of this type of film with his modern day take on the same theme.