Murderous monsters, scantily clad prehistoric playmates and telepathic pterodactyls inhabit the center of our world in this "colorful fantasy-adventure" (Leonard Maltin) about a manned "drill-craft" boring its way to the center of the Earth! Starring sci-fi superstars Doug McClure, Peter Cushing and Caroline Munro, this subterranean chiller is the most "endearingly whimsical" (Los Angeles Times) entertainment on - or under - the planet's surface!
There's more than lava at the Earth's core. There's also Pellucidar: an underground empire where gargantuan pterodactyls torture and enslave all humanoids - including the lovely Dia (Munro). But all that could change when a surface-dwelling scientist (Cushing) and an American businessman (McClure) drive their powerful "Iron Mole" straight into Pellucidar...stirring up a great deal more than dirt, rocks and lava!
'At the Earth's Core' is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs's 1914 fantasy novel of the same name, which was the first of seven in his Pellucidar series. It is the second of three 1970s films based on the Burroughs' work by British production company Amicus Productions. All three, which includes 'The Land That Time Forgot' and its sequel The People That Time Forgot', were directed by Kevin Connor and feature American actor Doug McClure.
Set in the Victorian age, the film opens with British scientist Dr. Abner Perry (Peter Cushing) and his American financier David Innes (McClure) setting out on a test drive the Iron Mole, an earth-burrowing device. Shortly after the machine enters the ground, both men pass out and awake to find the machine digging through the planet's outer core. After passing through a body of water, they quickly discover an interior portion of the planet is hollow.
Soon after disembarking, they encounter a large creature, a dinosaur/bird hybrid, which chases after them. While it and other creatures that appear in the film don't offer the seamless believability and integration of many modern films due to technological advances, there remains a charm in seeing artists and craftsman of the time working within the restraints of their era and budget. With that consideration, the suit looked great, as do many of the creatures that follow.
David and the Doctor are captured and tied up along with a group of primitive humans who, through the magic of movies, also speak English. Their captors are the Saggoths, a humanoid race with enlarged foreheads and noses that resemble pig snouts. They speak an undecipherable language that has been manipulated on the audio track, to create a stuttered echoing emanating from them.
David and the Doctor learn they are to be sacrificed to the Mahars, reptilian bird creatures, whose leader has hypnotic powers. That's assuming they make it to the Mahar lair past all Pellucidar's dangerous flora and fauna, which there's no guarantee.
Not sure its intended audience of the time, but 'At the Earth's Core' makes for an entertaining children's film. The flaws, such as the simplicity of the story, the one-dimensional characters, and McClure's lackluster performance, might not bother younger viewers. And while the pacing drags in places, the movie offers plenty of adventure and thrills. So much in fact it'll make you wish they had spent more time on the script. The crew does an outstanding job bringing this fantastic world to life with some stunning sets. I enjoyed it and will share it nieces and nephews.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Scorpio Releasing/Kino Lorber presents 'At the Earth's Core' on a 50GB Region A Blu-ray disc housed in a standard blue case. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 1.85:1. The colors are impressive and reveal themselves to be right from the opening credits as a very bright orange hue is seen in the shots of molten metal. Reds and greens also stand out in the Iron Mole cabin. The Pellucidar jungle is shot under pink lights and the foliage is a mix of brown and green. Blacks are inky and contribute to one end of the image's strong contrast.
The objects offer very fine texture details, from the creature costumes to the miniatures that appear within the front projection, a technique is used a great deal throughout the movie. Some items within the visual effect blend well with the actors, while other times, even within the same shot, the high definition reveals the artificiality of the trick.
Shooting entirely indoors, cinematographer Alan Hume uses a shallow depth of field to help hide the walls of legendary Pinewood Studios, so while there is depth, it is limited. This also limits the sharpness to the items in the foreground. In addition to the film grain, minor specks of black and white appear throughout.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. At quieter moments during the movie, a faint hiss can be heard. Composer Mike Vickers predominantly creates electronic music for the score, and it comes through with a good fidelity. The dialogue is clear other than when purposefully altered as mentioned above. Cushing's voice suffers the most from dubbing, sounding hollow early on, as if talking into a can. The explosions effects come through with adequate, but not overwhelming, bass. The audio elements are balanced well together and present a satisfactory dynamic range, although a high-pitched train whistle gets so loud it distorts, but that's likely a source issue.
While it might be too old fashioned for modern audiences, 'At the Earth's Core' is an entertaining adventure film, especially for families. The Blu-ray presentation is as good as can be expected without the source being given a restoration, and the bizarrely entertaining commentary track alone is enough for me to recommend it.