Journeys to the Center of the Earth

May 7, 2015 | By

Journey2CenterEarth_pic_featured_mI can’t recall if I read Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth in school or on my own (probably the former), but it remains one of my favourite books, mostly because it represents the best in adventure tales where a simple accident leads to a discovery, a secret, a dangerous race, and all kinds of mortal dangers involving villains, monsters, and dangerous environments.

I’m pretty sure I read Verne’s book cover-to-cover very fast, and the 1959 movie was one of the definitive fun movie experiences of my childhood; the fact the film still works in evoking adventure and wonderment in an adult is pretty amazing, since not all childhood favourites have aged well nor manage to elicit repeat viewings. I still want to catch the film with audience some day, but until then, there’s Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray which showcases a great 4K scan from Fox, plus a newly recorded audio commentary with Bernard Herrmann biographer Steven C. Smith and actress Diane Baker, a personal favourite.

Baker’s role in the film is small – her best parts during the sixties include the smarmy sister-in-law in Alfred Hitchcock’s flawed, psychologically messed up but fascinating Marnie (1964); and Gregory Peck’s sort of love interest in the suspenseful amnesia thriller Mirage (1965) – but she’s memorable in Journey, and in her commentary provides plenty of anecdotes for classic Hollywood fans.

I’ve upgraded the extant review with details on the new extras in Twilight Time’s Blu-ray, limited to a larger 5000 copy run.

HerculesHauntedWorld_poster

Ported over from the old KQEK.com database is an expanded review of Mario Bava’s fun Hercules in the Haunted World / aka Hercules in the Center of the Earth / aka Hercules vs. the Vampires, which also happens to be his first directorial effort in colour.

Made for nothing using mostly four walls and some props, Bava transcended cheapness and pulled off a surprisingly engaging film with stunning colour cinematography and some great set-pieces. There are no vampires, but Christopher Lee is the foil to Reg Park’s Hercules, and there are dead that arise in one really lengthy sequence involving flying and marauding cadavers.

Sadly, the film hasn’t made its way to Blu-ray, but this Fantoma DVD from a while back is still a laudable presentation. As Arrow and Kino go through Bava’s most accessible catalogue, what’s left are the rarities which hopefully get their chance on Blu with commentaries from Bava biographer Tim Lucas.

Hercules would certainly benefit from a special edition, and I admit I chose to re-review / revisit the film because of a recent piece in L.A. Weekly regarding less than appreciative audience members who effectively ruined a rare screening in which Bava’s film was married to a live orchestra and chorus. Not a great way to treat a neat little film, and certainly not great for the musicians and composer who went on with the show regardless. There should be house rules against being a disruptive pinhead.

Incidentally, Lucas’ epic book Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark finally sold out in February of 2015. I still kick myself for not scrounging cash to buy that amazing tome, but Lucas’ Award-winning biography is also available in a digital format for $29.95 – a lot cheaper than the hardcover’s now-collector prices.

Coming next: another set of soundtrack reviews, and coming soon is a review of Arrow Video’s very excellent Massacre Gun (1967) Blu-ray.

 

 

Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com

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Category: EDITOR'S BLOG

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