Starring Pat Boone, James Mason, Arlene Dahl, Diane Baker, Thayer David
Directed by Henry Levin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)
A Scottish professor discovers an ancient clue to a pathway to the center of the Earth in Iceland, and embarks with one of his students on a race to beat his competitors there.
A classic and highly entertaining adventure film, the picture features breathtaking scenery, much of it shot in the legendary Carlsbad Caverns, as well as a worthy balance of thrills, suspense, and humor. Although better known for his more sinister roles, Mason is perfect as our protagonist, the single-minded and somewhat uncouth Professor Lindenbrook, who ignores his responsibilities in excited pursuit of this incredible adventure. It's not a faithful adaptation of the original Jules Verne novel, but screenwriters Walter Reisch and Charles Brackett add additional characters who draw the audience even more into the story and give Mason foils to play off of, including the independent-minded Carla Goteborg (well played by Dahl) who joins the expedition, and the lovable duck Gertrude brought along by their Icelandic guide Hans, while Pat Boone provides youth appeal and some pleasant singing. The music score is by the great Bernard Herrmann, whose main title expertly foreshadows the characters' descent into the darkness. Although the prehistoric creatures in the novel are scuttled in favor of lizards made giant through rear projection, their appearance is well photographed and edited, and expertly integrated into the film, helping earn the movie an Oscar nomination for visual effects.