At the Earth’s Core!
Based on John Carter, Warlord of Mars and Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel, this late 70′s schlocky film revels in its influences, making it an outstanding matinée adventure flick. A turn of the century science fiction fantasy, the film opens with the brash and outspoken David Innes accompanying the stodgy but brilliant scientist, Dr. Abner Perry on a journey unlike any other.
Before a gathered audience, the pair dive into the ground using a magnificent machine called the Iron Mole. Almost immediately, there are complications and the travelers find themselves struck unconscious and burrowing perilously deeper toward what they imagine must be the core of the planet.
Perry and David awaken to find themselves in a fantastic realm of wonders. As they wander about and try to gain their bearings, they encounter outlandish creatures that threaten to kill them both before they can even discover where they have arrived. Surviving this encounter, they are then enslaved by weird mole people and manacled to a chain gang of scantily humans. The mole men serve a greater evil, however, and receive telepathic symbols to push the humans into labor. Thankfully the others understand English and they get along fine, more or less. The striking Princess Dia (played by the busty Caroline John) takes a shine to David, but theirs is a love affair challenged by cultural differences and mind-controlling flying lizards.
Starring unlikely action star Doug McClure and Hammer Horror alum Peter Cushing, the movie also features the most bizarre sound effects I have ever witnessed outside of Doctor Who. McClure starred in several films hauntingly similar to At the Earth’s Core, such as The Land that Time Forgot, the People that Time Forgot and Humanoids from the Deep. He plays the bold and brave hero to the hilt in this one and while he starts off as a typical stiff Englishman, he is soon stripped to the waist and hurling spears at creatures.
Aside from his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars (1977), I had only witnessed Peter Cushing from his appearances as stern officer types and such from his Hammer films. When I saw him in the Doctor Who movies I was puzzled. I was expecting a strong and fierce scientist type and was confused by the addle-brained Doctor Who that he portrayed on the big screen. Seeing Cushing in At The Earth’s Core makes it all clear however, as it is apparent that he is drawing from a Victorian scientist character-type. It’s an entertaining performance and full of laughs. I just can’t get over the fact that the same guy who threatened the Rebellion in Star Wars and challenged Dracula as Doctor Van Helsing makes sounds like a loon while batting prehistoric birds with his umbrella.
At The Earth’s Core is the kind of film that would be playing at the local cinema in the late hours of the night or on your local UHF TV station. These days those outlets are gone (even Offbeat Cinema seems to have departed the airwaves), but magically one can watch it streaming online from your own lap top. If you are looking for a fun late night movie on a quiet Saturday night, this is the perfect choice. So order up some fast food, crack open a beer and turn the volume way up.
It’s a trip!