(director: Henry Levin; screenwriters: Walter Reisch/Charles Brackett/based on a novel by Jules Verne; cinematographer: Leo Tover; editor: Stuart Gilmore; music: Bernard Hermann; cast: Pat Boone (Alexander ‘Alec’ McKuen), James Mason (Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook), Arlene Dahl (Carla Gteborg), Diane Baker (Jenny Lindenbrook), Thayer David (Count Saknussem), Peter Ronson (Hans Belker), Ben Wright (Paisley), Ivan Triesault (Professor Gteborg), Robert Adler (Groom), Alan Napier (Dean); Runtime: 132; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Charles Brackett; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1959)

Enjoyable hokum sci-fi tale that’s based on an 1864 Jules Verne story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Henry Levin (“The Man From Colorado”/”The Dark Avenger”/”The Ambushers”) helms this enjoyable hokum sci-fi tale that’s based on an 1864 Jules Verne story. It’s delightfully written by Walter Reisch and Charles Brackett (long-time collaborator with writer-director Billy Wilder). Despite the presence of a singing Pat Boone and a wooden Arlene Dahl, two questionable thespians, the old-fashioned fantasy adventure story sparkles. All the fine acting needed is provided by James Mason. Also included are some pretty neat special effects, lush Cinemascope and a refreshing tongue-in-cheek approach to the storytelling.

In 1880, Edinburgh science Professor Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook (James Mason) is knighted. The professor’s prize pupil Alec McEwen (Pat Boone), engaged to his sweet niece Jenny (Diane Baker), presents him with a lava paperweight as a gift to mark the occasion. The curious professor experiments on the Italian lava and discovers what made it so heavy was inside it was an Icelandic rock– a plumb-bob that has inscriptions and a message made by the famous Icelandic explorer Arne Saknussemn, an expert on volcanoes, who disappeared when trekking from an Icelandic volcano to the center of the Earth.

When the competitive Sir Oliver learns that his geologist colleague, Swedish volcano expert Professor Gteborg (Ivan Triesault), is a scoundrel, who plans to beat him to the center of the Earth after Oliver trusted him with knowledge of his lava discovery, Oliver goes in pursuit of him with Alec tagging along. In Iceland they are held as hostages in an eider storage barn, but are freed by local gentle giant farmer Hans Belker (Peter Ronson) and his duck Gertrude. When tracking Professor Gteborg, who purchased all the needed equipment and left none for them to purchase, they discover the Swede has been poisoned by another rival and his corpse is in his hotel room. Gteborg’s wife Carla (Arlene Dahl) arrives and insists she will give Oliver her husband’s valuable supplies only if she’s allowed on the Lindenbrook expedition. Oliver squawks that she’s a woman on a man’s adventure, but he reluctantly accepts her terms.

On the last day of May, the Lindenbrook expedition team of Oliver, Alec, Hans, Gertrude the duck and Carla uses the pinpoint opening in the Earth caused by the sunrise to descend into the Earth’s interior. There they must overcome the dangers from a sinister rival, Count Saknussem (Thayer David), a mad scientist relative of the noted explorer who believes only he is entitled to be the explorer to the Earth’s center. Other dangers include perilous lost trails, wrong trail markings, strong winds, prehistoric monsters, underground oceans, a rock slide, a flood, oppressive weather conditions, an unusual mushroom forest, a cave of shiny quartz crystals and a rescue by Italian fishermen of the expedition team who are ejected out of Stromboli on a tide of lava. There’s also a chaste romance developing between Dahl and Mason, a romance that moves along as a product of the Victorian age.