Blu-ray Review Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, May 3, 2012.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    A grand and glorious adventure tale of the old school, Henry Levin’s Journey to the Center of Earth is loads of fun. With superb production design, sound, and special effects (all of which earned Oscar nominations for their respective artisans) and featuring an ingratiating cast and even a song or two, this Journey is definitely one worth taking.



    Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Henry Levin

    Studio: Twilight Time (Fox)
    Year: 1959
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 129 minutes
    Rating: G
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 English
    Subtitles: none

    Region: 0
    MSRP: $ 29.95


    Release Date: May 8, 2012

    Review Date: May 3, 2012




    The Film

    4/5


    Edinburgh professor Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook (James Mason) and his young student Alec McKuen (Pat Boone) lead a party of four (including the widow of one of his rivals – played by Arlene Dahl) down an Icelandic volcano encountering many natural perils along the way to their destination, the center of the Earth. One unnatural peril they face is the constant threat of sabotage by the nefarious Count Saknussem (Thayer David) whose ancestor led the original expedition below and who now takes every opportunity to send the explorers down the wrong shafts and endanger their very lives. Along the way to the center of the Earth are many surprises and one conundrum: how will they get back once they’ve reached the center?


    Lovers of action may become impatient that it takes a full forty-five minutes for the descent into the Earth’s core to begin, but the time setting up for the excursion is not wasted allowing us to get to know the personalities of the four explorers in the party (plus a pet duck who is along for the ride and more than once saves their skins). The Walter Reisch-Charles Brackett screenplay is full of incident, some taken from the Jules Verne novel and some pure Hollywood invention, but all of it is exciting and engrossing. The production design is especially inventive and eye-popping throughout (a pity the film was released the same year as Ben-Hur; some of those Oscar nominations it garnered might well have been awards in another year), and director Henry Levin never lets the momentum dawdle, even when the team gets separated: there are always interesting discoveries and risky adventures around the next turn or down the next shaft. In this age of CGI miracles, the special effects here may strike some as quaint, but they were impressive in their day and still hold up. That maelstrom at sea, the mushroom forest, and the salt and quartz caverns are still very striking.


    The cast seems to be having a whale of a good time. Though Pat Boone’s Scottish accent is rather puny, he evinces great good humor and seems game for anything (including a couple of sequences where he’s wearing next to nothing). There are also a couple of unobtrusive songs. James Mason’s natural authority and gravitas serves him well as a slightly absent-minded professor type. Arlene Dahl contributes, too, and is more than just a pretty face and, inevitably, a late reel love interest for James Mason. Thayer David’s charlatan isn’t as fully developed as it might have been with better writing, but Peter Ronson as the Icelandic guide Hans Belker is quite a gratifying presence and most welcome even though his words must be constantly translated. Diane Baker is an okay love interest for Pat Boone’s Alec even though once the expedition leaves Scotland, the occasional returns to her back home are rather intrusive.



    Video Quality

    4.5/5


    The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Apart from a few inserts and some other effects work, sharpness is excellent throughout. Color is outstandingly reproduced (one look at the theatrical trailer with its oversaturated brown tones will help the viewer appreciate what we have here; reds are especially vivid), and flesh tones look natural and appealing. Black levels are fairly good but are not the transfer’s most outstanding characteristic. There are some occasional dust specks but nothing intrusive to spoil one's enjoyment of the movie. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4.5/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 sound mix features outstanding and surprisingly gripping bass levels heard almost from the beginning and notable throughout. Dialogue has been spread across the front soundstage rather than being done directionally, but it’s always clear and precise. And the rear surround channel carries some interesting sound effects with water and waves swirling, heavy winds whirling, and avalanche-pounding rock slides being especially notable. Bernard Herrmann’s score gets woven impressively through the entire four channel mix.



    Special Features

    2.5/5


    The Bernard Herrmann music score is offered in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo isolated track which has great fidelity of its own.


    There are two theatrical trailers: the American trailer runs 3 ¼ minutes. The Spanish trailer runs for 2 minutes. Both are in 480i.


    The enclosed six-page booklet contains color and black stills, poster art for the film on the booklet’s back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s always interesting background essay on the movie.



    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)


    Journey to the Center of the Earth is an adventure lover’s paradise of a movie. Perfect for family viewing especially once the journey actually gets started, the movie comes with a strong recommendation. Only three thousand copies of the Blu-ray are available, so those interested in obtaining it should hop to www.screenarchives.com to see if copies are still available. They're also available via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.  



    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. dpippel

    dpippel HTF Premium Member
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    Thanks for the review Matt. I'm really looking forward to receiving my copy (hopefully) next week.
     
  3. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    This was the review I was waiting for, Matt.

    Thank you. So pleased to hear that the film
    looks and sounds terrific on Blu-ray.

    Looking forward to receiving my copy. This
    is a film that I plan to reserve a special day
    to watch.
     
  4. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    Waiting for Twilight Time to ship my copy to me...if I get the chance I intend to ask JTTCOTE co-star Diane Baker, who's a Dramatic Arts Professor at the Academy Of Arts University here in San Francisco, to autograph my copy for me. After I watch it, of course!!!
     
  5. RolandL

    RolandL Producer

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    Hi Matt,
    Thank you for the review.
    When you say "Dialogue has been spread across the front soundstage rather than being done directionally" do you mean the dialogue is centered in the center channel or is directional - matches the actor on the screen?
     
  6. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the fine review. Somehow I've never seen this one, even though I'm 47 and a fan of 50s sci fi. I'll now purchase...
     
  7. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Ben,

    Truly one of the greatest sci-fi classics ever made.

    I think it still holds up very well today. I am just so
    happy it's finally making a debut on Blu-ray.
     
  8. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    I've never seen it either. I got my order in when the Screen Archives servers were having a meltdown on the first day of ordering.
    Of all the Twilight Time titles, this has the potential of selling out, so if you are interested in acquiring it, don't delay.
     
  9. Jay Taylor

    Jay Taylor Supporting Actor

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    As 10-year olds in 1959 my friend and I took a bus ride with transfers in a scary part of Ft. Worth, Texas to get to the theater to see this movie. As kids, we found it fascinating.

    I still appreciate it today, especially after a dozen one-month trips to Iceland while in the Air Force.
     
  10. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    I can still remember a couple of the scenes from when I was taken to this as a child, and I now haven't seen it in a number of years. In recent months I've deliberately avoided it on DVD and cable in anticipation of savoring it on this Blu-ray. I even just triple-checked to make sure I did, in fact, pre-order it. And of course I knew I had. (Talk about yer OCD.)
     
  11. bugsy-pal

    bugsy-pal Stunt Coordinator

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    I am quite pumped about this release. I saw this movie numerous times as a kid in the 60s, including a few Saturday matinee screenings at a local cinema. It really is a great treat for young and old alike. The build-up to the 'journey' into the crater is nicely paced and very suspenseful.
    I've had the region 1 DVD for a few years and played it for my two daughters - they loved it too.
     
  12. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    It is not just in the center channel. It's in the right, center, and left front channels.
     
  13. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    Yes, but Matt, like all Fox scope films, the dialog follows the characters on screen and is highly directional, especially on this film.
     
  14. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I didn't find it directional. The dialogue seemed to be coming from all three front channels all the time, very different from my experience with, say, Demetrius last month. On the other hand, I used the PS3 sending PCM to the receiver last month and used a Panasonic this month which was bitstreaming the DTS-HD MA track. Possibly that made some kind of difference with my equipment.
     
  15. Adam Gregorich

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    Thanks Matt for a great review and Twilight Time for another great release!
     
  16. John Skoda

    John Skoda Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm gratified to hear that they used the original 4-track CinemaScope sound layout on this, with three channels across the front and one surround. For DEMETRIUS and DESIREE, for some reason, the Twilight Time blus used two front channels and two rear.
     
  17. RolandL

    RolandL Producer

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    That's terrible! Like Joe said, the dialog is supposed to follow the characters on screen, not come from all three front channels at the same time. Hopefully its not too late to cancel. Somebody screwed up the sound! The DVD sound was fine for dialog.
     
  18. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Cinematographer
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    I've also never seen this film. I think I've watched every incarnation, remake and reimagining but not the '59 version. Just ordered a copy.
     
  19. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    This is getting to be so common now; I am surprised people are outraged. I guess it is thought that directional dialog doesn't work well in a small "home theater", because the direction could make it appear that a character is on the other side of the viewing room rather than the other side of the screen. I wish they would include both the original multi-directional soundtracks for those as have larger screens and the mixdowns for those as don't.
     
  20. Guest

    To all the posters here who have never seen the film, and are about to, I envy you your first viewing. I hope it's as memorable as mine was, back in 1965.
    You are also about to experience one of the most amazing music scores ever written for the movies, courtesy of the one and only Bernard Herrmann.
     

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