We’ve traveled to outer space already this summer. How about inner space now? With Pat Boone as a headliner, how could this version of H.G. Wells’ Journey to the Center of the Earth be anything but a lightweight sojourn. James Mason is the dedicated Professor Lindenbrook, who believes another explorer, Arne Saknussen, has already reached the earth’s core. He’s got a rock with marking to prove it. Entering the earth through an Icelandic volcano, he is accompaned by a stocky Swede, a white duck, the widow of another explorer, and a student (Pat Boone). Along the way, they encounter prehistoric creatures, have a close encounter with a salt mine, and battle their way through a magma flow. Outrageous? Of course. That’s the fun of it. (1959).
One Million Years BC: Raquel Welch fills out her skimpy skins quite well in this prehistoric time trip. Tumak is a caveman banished from his tribe, finding brief sanctuary with coastal dwelling tribes. But he gets booted from there too (a pattern here?) Along the way he’s garnered the affections of Loana (Welch), who follows him into prehistory, unafraid of monsters and volcanic mayhem. (1967)
The Land That Time Forgot: How many of these has Doug McClure made? With the sinking of a British ship, a German U Boat makes a wrong turn, landing in the unknown territory of Caprona, home of Neaderthals and dinosaurs forgotten in time. (1975) It’s sister film, The People That Time Forgot (1977), Patrick Wayne battles huge fake dinosaurs while searching the Arctic for his lost girlfriend. A lot of dirt, explosions and busty cavewomen.
At The Earth’s Core: Doug McClure and horror meister Peter Cushing team up for At The Earth’s Core. Rollicking adventure and campy special effects put these two adventures into the Iron Mole, a machine that will transport them through solid rock (shades of the much newer The Core). Naturally, when you pierce the earth that deeply you find prehistoric cave woman (a lot of body, not a lot of clothes) and telepathic birds. McClure swaggers a lot and Chushing plays against type as an absent-minded professor. This film is complete with fire-breathing animals and outdated social notions. (1976)
War Gods of the Deep: A thousand fathoms beneath the sea off the Cornish coast dwell an apparently immortal underwater gang of smugglers, served by a cadre of gill-man slaves. Vincent Price and Tab Hunter lend their services to this “B” movie.(1965)
I have to add several modern films to this category:
The Core: The world’s gone wild. Weather is both explosive and freaky. The Golden Gate Bridge collapses. people with pacemakers drop in their tracks. Birds begin crashing into things. seems the core that governs the earth’s electro-magnetic field has stall. What to do? Build a machine (in just three months) that will take a band of eclectic “terrenauts” to the center of the earth to nuke it back into shape. Add to the mix stuffy military guys, a computer geek who can control the net, and whales who relate to sounds the rest of us can’t hear. Hey, I don’t write them — I just enjoy them. (2003)
The Day After Tomorrow: This one has to be a “guilty pleasure.” The world’s climate is about to shift and a new ice age is dawning. The government can’t see what the rogue scientists all already sure of. Global warming is the culprit and Dennis Quaid is the heroic dad/scientist who tries the save the world in general and his son in particular. Lots of rampaging special effects including ice balls pelting Japan, tornadoes ripping up L.A., and a storm surge swamping the big apple. What more could you want in a movie? (2004)
Drive-In Saturday Night is all about fun. Summer fun at the movies. This column appears every Friday so that you have time to shop for, browse, or rent films for your weekend viewing pleasure. Maybe this is the weekend to have pizza delivered!