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Journey to the Center of the Earth
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78 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2003
OK, there's been some controversy here about the quality of this release, so let me put it to rest. This DVD is spledid! I think this adaptation of Jules Verne's 1864 French novel is a prime example of 1950's wide-screen motion picture family entertainment -- it's wholesome and has a little something for everyone. This is the best film version of this story, the most recent of which was done for the USA Channel on cable in 1999 and was very campy. They couldn't match the 1959 production values of this 20th Century-Fox film that has excellent color photography and art direction, and Bernard Herrmann's wonderfully atmospheric music score. These elements have continued to make it a favorite with fantasy film fans who can appreciate older movies, though it's true that some of it is silly at times, but I don't think the film's makers were trying for a serious movie. It also contains one of James Mason's best performances (He was always good). It's wonderful "Cinemascope" escapism from the bygone Eisenhower-era of the 1950s. Even though I've been watching it on TV since I was a kid in the sixties, I'd only seen pan&scan versions, and it wasn't until I got it letterboxed on laserdisc that I finally saw what a big-screen entertainment this movie was meant to be. It has splendid scope and a score by Bernard Herrmann that takes you right down into the bowels of the earth. Listen to it and you'll notice what I mean, as the movie progresses the music keeps going into a lower and lower register. Five organs were used, including one meant for a Cathedral. (The complete original recordings of the score are available on CD from Varese Sarabande.) Sure it's long in the telling and takes a while to get you down that extinct volcano in Iceland, but it's fun all the way with great special effects work by L.B. Abbott and matte paintings by Emil Kosa Jr. It's been a long wait for this to come out on DVD but it's now worth it. Although Fox should have known that fans would want more extras, including a production and poster still gallery and audio commentary by Pat Boone and Arlene Dahl perhaps?, or an expert on the production? (Perhaps we'll get it in a future release?), they have thankfully included the original theatrical trailer, whic is a lot of fun. They've also gone to great efforts to restore the color negative, and this 16X9 ANAMORPHIC TRANSFER has been struck from a newly made interpositive print, and has been further enhanced with digital video. The original 4-track MagOptical soundtrack is here offered in Dolby Digital 4.0 surround. Although the directionalized dialogue is often off the mark, the aged soundtrack sounds great and will really rumble your room if you've got a subwoofer. If you are a fan of 1959's JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, you'll be very happy with this DVD. I'd give this DVD five stars but for Fox skimping on the extras. Boy, you people at Fox can be real dummies!
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87 of 99 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.
- C.J.
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134 of 160 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 14, 2003
A 19th century French businessman, Jules Verne decided rather late in life to give up the stock market and write children's fantasy novels. I'm so glad he did. The movie version of his "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea", in 1954, set off an explosion of major Jules Verne film adaptions(over 12 movies in 10 years). One of the finest was "Journey to the Center of the Earth". As the story opens, an Edinburgh professor receives a gift; a meteorite fragment from his student. Intuition fires Prof. Lindenbrook's imagination: Could an historic scientific message be hidden inside? After testing, the rock explodes. Lindenbrook assembles an expedition to follow an explorer's trail down into an extinct Icelandic volcano. Enemies surround him. Mysterious creatures are everywhere. For Prof. Lindenbrook and his party, a fantastic adventure is about to begin. "Journey to the Center of the Earth" stars Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl, Thayer David, Alan Napier, and the magnificent James Mason. But the real "star" is composer Bernard Herrmann, who's thundering, booming film score is nothing short of classic(and actually, only one of many). Director Henry Levin fashioned a lively, colorful saga in 1959's "Journey to the Center of the Earth". Extensive shooting in Hollywood, Scotland, and Carlsbad Caverns produced sweeping set-pieces of subterranean caverns, a giant mushroom forest, and even the lost temples of Atlantis. Special effects include miniature constructions, matte painting, and more. Sadly, the film's main draw-back is a horde of painted lizard "dinosaurs" thrown at the camera in the exciting finale. This brand new widescreen anamorphic (2.35:1) DVD is an excellent transfer. Fox found the original 1959 camera negative worn and faded. A search for viable film elements led to a black-and-white silver print; from this came a 35mm interpositive. Finally came digital restoration and video enhancement. DVD extras include 40 chapter stops, 8 trailers, and a conclusive restoration documentary. Famous and wealthy in his time, Jules Verne predicted the future use of submarines, space-travel, and crustaceous exploration. Over 80 motion picture and TV productions around the world have heralded his work. The first science-fiction movie was made in 1902 by George Melies. And yes, you're right. It was written by Jules Verne.
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33 of 38 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.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 1999
I LOVE it!. There's absolutely nothing bad to be said about this wonderful film. It's one of the 10 best movies ever made, and it's lost none of its magic.(I like it just a tiny bit more, than that other famous 50's fantasy/adventure favorite of mine: "20.000 Leagues Under The Sea".) When I'm with Mason & co., I'm like a little kid again. There are movies you never stop loving; and this is one of them for me. They just don't make 'em like this anymore. If you're "old and wise", I trust you'll agree.(I'm 32, by the way.) -They can show me all their latest computer effects, I don't care, they're all empty like a balloon, and they have no soul. Any kind of real and interesting magical atmosphere, is almost impossible to capture in modern movies. Older films have a facinating, almost other-worldly quality to them. It all boils down to the look of a movie, and today they all look the same. Sad, but true. -At least one can spend the rest of his or hers life, watching nothing but old movies; and that's just exactly what I intend to do.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2012
Backed by a superb score from Bernard Herrmann, 20th Century Fox's old-fashioned Jules Verne adventure JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH arrives on Blu-Ray this month from Twilight Time in a limited edition release that ought to be gobbled up by Golden Age fans and genre aficionados alike.

The free adaptation of Verne's novel from writer-producer Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch and director Henry Levin stars James Mason as a Victorian era professor who, after getting his hands on a meteorite with an inscription from a long-lost explorer, leads an expedition into the center of the Earth including student Pat Boone, widow Arlene Dahl, and a precocious duck named Gertrude.

Shot after Disney's classic "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," Fox's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" isn't on the level of that Richard Fleischer-directed `50s staple, but it's an engaging and leisurely paced fantasy that will primarily appeal to nostalgic viewers (I'm not sure younger viewers will be able to tolerate the at-times languid pacing, though the humor and adventure is certainly suitable for kids). In fact, lighthearted humor and engaging turns from Mason and Boone carry us through the film's first third; once the journey gets cracking, nearly a full hour has passed before the group engage in a series of adventures through dark caverns, underground waterfalls, giant mushrooms and, ultimately, decidedly less-than-fantastic lizards masquerading as dinosaurs (effects that I was quite disappointed in when I saw the film on TV, as a kid, back in the `80s).

"Journey" seems to be most admired by baby boomers who grew up on the picture, with its strongest attribute being Herrmann's majestic, marvelous score, which kept me glued through a fresh viewing via Twilight Time's superb Blu-Ray package.

The AVC encoded 1080p transfer from the Fox vaults generally displays a good deal of HD detail compared to its DVD counterpart. The print itself isn't in completely pristine condition - a line (just off-center to the right) of the frame appears for several minutes beginning at the 40 minute mark, and there are assorted speckles and understandable issues stemming from the myriad of different special effects processes involved - but the framing is accurate, colors are strong and very little DNR has been applied. This "Journey" resembles real, honest to goodness film, and looks so much better than my ancient laserdisc release that it appears to be a different film altogether (credit a restoration Fox performed on the film over a decade ago). The 4.0 DTS MA soundtrack effectively conveys Herrmann's score and boasts directional dialogue faithful to its original stereo mix, while two trailers, an isolated score track, and Julie Kirgo's retrospective notes add the perfect touch to the package.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 1999
If there is a way for a 40 year old movie to still hold the intrest of a modern audience, one that has become jaded with large blockbuster productions and state of the art special effects,it is through the magnificent soundtrack composed by Bernard Herrmann.The film just would not have had the same impact.This soundtrack elevates and sets the tone and atmosphere to the degree that I do not think the film would have been as successful without it.Although I was too young to have seen" Journey" when it was first released in 59, my first impression upon seeing it on tv in the early 60`s was"wow the music in this movie is great". I was then later to discover (not surprisingly) that Herrmann had scored many other favorites of mine including"7 th Voyage of Sinbad","Jason and the Argonauts", "mysterious Island", and "Psyco".There are some film composers today that are keeping the tradition going,like James Horner and John Williams just to name two, but I think in many of todays movies, the film score is severely down played or replaced with the use of recording artists current pop hits(to insure the sales and profits of actually releasing a soundtrack album for a particular film.Watch the film "Journey to the Center of the Earth", don`t compare the special effects to today`s technology,have patience in the classic "slow Build up " in plot,but most importantly,LISTEN to the soundtrack while the story unfolds and you willbe treated to a thoroughly entertaining family film from start to finish.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2003
First Jason and the Argonauts, The Time Machine, Mysterious Island; and finally BOTH The Day the Earth Stood Still and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, released on the same day!! And all in glorious letterbox (except TDTESS; it's in a class of it's own). Journey to the Centre of the Earth is great fantasy movie for for the whole family with beautiful photography and a fantastic musical score provided by THE composer of all time, Bernard Herrmann. A perfect addition to any scifi collection.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
It has been over 50 years since Twentieth Century Fox ventured below the earth's surface - riding on the coat-tails of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "Around the World in Eighty Days". With on-location shooting at Carlsbad Caverns, Edinburgh, Scotland (and environs), and other locations in and around southern California, the fabulous journey was enhanced with the appearances of James Mason as Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook, Arlene Dahl as Carla Guteberg, Pat Boone as Alexander "Alec" McKuen, Peter Ronson as Hans Belker, Thayer David as Count Saknussem, Diane Baker as Jenny Lindenbrook, and Ivan Triesault as Professor Guteberg and the superior settings that reflect the overly adequate budget. Even the dimetrodons reflect some realistic ingenuity - while it may have been a temptation to look to Super Dynamation.

This was to be my favorite adventure as a youngster - although, later in life, it was evident that the journey was, in reality, quite improbable. I can only imagine how many times I've seen it - thoroughly enjoying it in every format. The fact that Bernard Herrmann scored this film with a brilliant composition adds to the awesome "depth" of the picture. The superlative score exists as an isolated track with this restoration. The fantasy of it all - a virtual cast of volcanoes, colorful precipices, a jewel-laden grotto, three men alone with Arlene Dahl (and a duck) - it just doesn't get any better than this.

This Twilight Time offering is crisp and flawless - with magnificent scene enhancement. The scenes at the underground, jewel-encrusted grotto, the scene with the adventurers clinging along a rock escarpment, and the scene where the expedition gathers near the fallen arch where it is assumed that Alec McKuen has fallen to his death are great examples where this restoration really sparkles. The picture is actually much better than I remember it as a kid and I am really looking forward to what Twilight Time has in mind for future restorations/releases - maybe "The Time Machine"...
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39 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Back when I was younger, I dug a hole in the field behind my parent's house...for what reason? Who knows? Perhaps it was a meager attempt to uncover fabulous booty left by some long since dead pirates...or maybe I wanted tunnel my way to the kingdom of the mole people, assert my dominance and become their king, but alas I found no such peoples (in retrospect, given the fact I only dug about three feet down, its not surprising the lack of my findings)...but it wasn't a total bust as I did find a decent size ceramic pipe, which I accidentally broke...so what's my point? I think it relates to this film, Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) in that man has always had a curious fascination with the unknown and a desire for understand of that which has yet to be explained...based on a novel by Jules Verne and directed by Henry Levin (Where the Boys Are, That Man Bolt), the film stars James Mason (20000 Leagues Under the Sea, North by Northwest), 50's and 60's crooner Pat Boone (State Fair), and Arlene Dahl (Three Little Words), mother of actor Lorenzo Lamas. Also appearing is Diane Baker (Strait-Jacket, Marnie), Peter Ronson, in his only film role, and Thayer David (House of Dark Shadows, Little Big Man).

The story begins in 1880's Edinburgh as Professor Oliver Lindenbrook (Mason) makes an interesting discovery from a piece of lava rock given to him as a gift from one of his students named Alec McEwen (Boone). From within the rock comes evidence that a long lost explorer/scientist made it to where no one thought was possible, the very center of the Earth. Lindenbrook seeks validation from a fellow scientist in Stockholm, but learns the unscrupulous man has taken Lindenbrook's find and plans to exploit it for his own gain. This forces Linderbrook to mount his own expedition, but the going is difficult as it turns out there is yet a third party interested, one that will resort to any means necessary, even murder, to claim the undiscovered treasures that lie beneath the Earth.

Alright, I'm no science whiz, but I have a pretty good idea this type of journey would be impossible due to the plain fact that as once travels closer to the center of the Earth, the pressure increases...I mean, think about what's involved to turn a piece of coal into a diamond. Given this, the film requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief, which I had no problem in allowing as this was not only a fantastic production, but also just a really fun movie. Mason is wonderful as the driven, yet thoughtful scientist not so much interested in personal fame or glory, but the true advancement of science and adding to the collective pool of knowledge for all mankind. Given the overall importance of the character to the story, the casting of Mason was probably one of the strongest factors in helping create a sense of believability, despite the completely fantastic nature of the story. As far as Pat Boone as his student, I was a little wary at first, but I think he did very well overcoming any bias I may have had...of course, I don't think you could have had a film in the late 50's with Boone and not have him perform a musical number, but it was worked into the story, and not just a matter of him breaking out into song for no apparent reason. Given his characters ability, one would think he was missing his calling as a musical artist rather than a junior scientist. As far as Arlene Dahl, well, I thought she also did well, and if I were going to be stuck under the Earth for an extended period of time, she would certainly be a fine choice as a companion in all of her bosomy goodness. I really liked the antagonistic character played by Thayer David, although I wished his part was a little bigger, and the character expanded on a little more. Another aspect that worked really well was the use of the Carlsbad Caverns and the completely alien and otherworldly sets populated by grotesquely huge creatures ravenous for fresh meat. Which brings me to the one aspect that kind of drew me out of the film in the use of lizards to represent prehistoric creatures. It did look a little hokey, but then given the film was released in 1959, I think it's a bit like shooting ducks in a barrel to be overly critical of this point, and, I think, one can feel the ambitious nature and effort put into the film which counts for a lot in my book. Despite the nearly 2 hour and 10 minute run time, director Levin keeps the story moving along well focusing not only on the external forces, but the internal conflicts within the group as the expedition is not a short one, but one taking approximately a year to complete. Which brought forth the question what happens if and when the group actually reaches the center of the Earth? How in the heck do you get out?

The widescreen picture (2.35:1) looks beautiful on this Fox Home Entertainment DVD, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround comes through very clear. In terms of the picture quality, there is a special feature that provides a visual restoration comparison showing exactly how poor the source elements were, and the amazing efforts put forth to present what is shown on this DVD. Given the amount of work done to clean the film up, I was surprised to see so little in terms of other extras, but I am pleased just to have a really good-looking version. As far as the extras available, there is a trailer for the film, along with trailers for other Fox films including The Abyss (1989), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Enemy Mine (1985), Independence Day (1996), One Million Years B.C. (1966), Planet of the Apes (both the 1968 and 2001 versions), Wing Commander (1999), and Zardoz (1974). All in all, if you are looking for a visually exciting, well produced, charming tale of adventure, you can't go wrong with this film.

Cookieman108
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