AT THE EARTH'S CORE [1976 / 2015] [Blu-ray] [USA Release]
Take The Most Terrifying Journey Of Your Life!
Now they’re in deep! Marauding monsters, scantily clad prehistoric playmates and telepathic pterodactyls inhabit the centre of our world in this colourful fantasy-adventure about a manned drill-craft; boring its way to the centre of the Earth! Starring sci-fi superstars Doug McClure, Peter Cushing and Caroline Munro. This subterranean chiller thrill ride directed by sci-fi specialist Kevin Connor, is the most endearingly whimsical entertainment on – or under – the planet's surface! Prepare to journey to Pellucidar: an underground empire where gargantuan pterodactyls torture and enslave all humanoids including the lovely Dia [Caroline Munro]. But all that could change when a surface-dwelling scientist Abner Perry [Peter Cushing] and an American businessman David Innes [Doug 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!
FILM FACT: Director Kevin Connor later recalled, "we tried to get the beasts bigger so as to interact better with the actors – more one on one. We had a somewhat bigger budget thanks to the success of ‘Land.’ The beasts were specially designed so that small stunt guys could work inside the suits in a crouched position and on all-fours. Needless to say it was very cramped and the stunt guys had to take frequent breathers. Some worked better than others – but we were experimenting and trying something different."
Cast: Doug McClure, Peter Cushing, Caroline Munro, Cy Grant, Godfrey James, Sean Lynch, Keith Barron, Helen Gill, Anthony Verner, Robert Gillespie, Michael Crane, Bobby Parr and Andee Cromarty
Director: Kevin Connor
Producers: John Dark, Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky
Screenplay: Milton Subotsky and Edgar Rice Burroughs (novel)
Composer: Mike Vickers
Cinematography: Alan Hume, B.S.C. (Director of Photography)
Image Resolution: 1080p (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Running Time: 89 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / KINO LORBER
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: ‘AT THE EARTH'S CORE’  is a British feature film of the adventure, fantasy and science fiction genres. It combines elements of hollow earth; and the lost world; storytelling tropes as well as modern dinosaur fare with just a dash of “camp” fun. When the film starts the plot is already on its feet and running, so you had better be ready folks for an action packed adventurous film. What appears to be a huge auger drilling device is constructed and moved by locomotive to a promising mountain, only then do characters appear to answer some desperate questions. The massive contraption is a revolutionary drilling machine and the function tests are about to be conducted, not by a miner or engineer, but by the inventor and financier. What they do encounter is a subterranean world populated by all sorts of fantastic beasts and primitive people. Any place with lava flowing freely is hardly, but when a race of merciless creatures like the Majars rules over it things are much worse. Oppression and tyranny are everything the Victorian Man was against, so the two wayward trailblazers struggle to overthrow the Majars Empire.
‘AT THE EARTH'S CORE’ is the second film adaptation of an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel by the team of director Kevin Connor, producer John Dark, actor Doug McClure and British production house Amicus. It is not part of Edgar Rice Burroughs 'Caprona' book trilogy, on which Kevin Connor's other films, ‘The Land that Time Forgot’  and ‘The People that Time Forgot’  were based, but deals nevertheless with the theme of a lost and hidden world where the protagonists encounter humans and creatures from an ancient time. And you should have guessed it, that something is going to go wrong, overcome by heat and battered unconscious the explorers are carried deep into our planet. Despite almost hitting the centre they never encounter molten rock, it's astounding. For those of us who saw these films as youngsters, they still hold a certain nostalgic appeal that transcends their clumsy monster effects and general silliness, and most of their many faults can be blamed on the production teams' trying to do far too much with way with limited means.
Aside from Tarzan, the fantasy/adventure classics of Edgar Rice Burroughs have not fared so well on film. Since so much of Edgar Rice Burroughs' work dates from 75 to 100 years ago, and so many filmmakers, from the likes of George Lucas to James Cameron, have been inspired by and some may say begged, borrowed or just plain stole from him over the years, that when someone tries to do a more-or-less faithful rendition of one of his works.
American TV star Doug McClure was lured to the UK to work in all three of these films, though his presence is drastically reduced in `The People That Time Forgot.' But with the film `The Land that Time Forgot,' must have been so successful enough to warrant another film, and in 1976 saw Doug McClure once again back in a Edgar Rice Burroughs' fantasyland, as realised by the Amicus crew in ‘AT THE EARTH'S CORE.’
The story follows the original 1914 novel in very general outline, though much that makes the book special doesn't translate to the screen, alas. The movie opens as British scientist Abner Perry [Peter Cushing] and his former pupil David Innes [Doug McClure] are about to embark on a trial run of their Iron Mole; a drilling machine devised to explore beneath the planet's crust. Things quickly go awry and the pair eventually arrives in a vast cave world full of weird plants and even weirder beasties. No sooner have David and Perry left their machine then they are set upon by some strange sort of dinosaur-like creature. Fleeing the monster, they are quickly captured by the pig-faced Sagoths, a humanoid henchman race who do the bidding of the mysterious, reptilian Mahars, who hold dominion over the native human population.
The prisoners finally arrive at the Mahar city and are brought before the winged overlords, who seem to communicate with the Sagoths via telepathy. After a period slaving away in the mines with the other captives, David manages to escape through a disused cave tunnel and encounters Ra, a chieftain of one of the human tribes. In time-honoured fashion, the two fight and become fast friends once David rescues Ra from the clutches of a carnivorous plant. Thinking to dissuade David from his plan to free Perry and the rest of the humans from the Mahars' rule, Ra brings him back into the Mahar city to witness their hideous ritual of feasting upon the more comely female captives. This just strengthens David's resolve to bring the various warring human factions together and eliminate the Mahars for once and all. But first, he is reunited with the lovely Dia and must fight Jubal the Ugly One [Michael Crane], the most ferocious warrior in the land, for her hand.
Let's get this right out of the way, even in the mid-70s, this was cheese-tastic stuff. Edgar Rice Burroughs' original tale is a terrific piece of pulp storytelling, full of action, derring-do and a plethora of monsters, both of the traditional dinosaur variety plus all manner of other unique and original creations, such as the nasty Mahars. Not only do the creatures in ‘AT THE EARTH'S CORE’ does not bear any resemblance whatsoever to any sort of dinosaur known to science, they are nearly all portrayed by men in rubber suits. The design of the various monster suits do show some kind of inspired, oddball imagination, but realistic they are not. Coupled with the entire film taking place on Pinewood Studios sound stages, on cramped jungle or cave sets not greatly more lavish than the average classic Doctor Who serial, and one is left with a general air of goofiness that can't be ignored.
The rest of the cast is decent enough, considering what's required, and the script, by producer Subotsky, is perfectly serviceable for this kind of fare. Director Kevin Connor perhaps wisely keeps the frame tight in on his stars' faces for the most part, which sometimes works in tandem with the cramped feel of the sets to make this feel like a very small lost world, but otherwise does a competent enough job moving the story forward, which clocks in at a brisk 90 minutes. What really lets the side down is the aforementioned poor effects work; it might be unfair to compare this with the marvels of Star Wars which came out a mere year later, as the budget here is surely less than a tenth of other films, but after Star Wars, effects-heavy films would never be the same, and pretty much sounded the death knell for the sort of old-fashioned yet cheap monster mayhem seen here. There are also a number of plot holes and other head-scratching moments, such as how the denizens of Pellucidar manage to speak English, for one . . . and where exactly did Perry get that bow and arrow for another? Taken as a proper adaptation of its far superior source, there's no denying that ‘AT THE EARTH'S CORE’ falls way short of the mark.
Still, the sets, have colourful lighting, rubber monsters and actually quite effective sound design all work together to give the film a strange, otherworldly atmosphere that kind of works in spite of the budgetary shortcomings, resulting in an almost hallucinatory quality; taken on the level of a kind of trippy 1970s fever dream, the film remains pretty diverting stuff. Its goofy fun aimed at 10-year-olds, and if like me and you still have a ghost of that 10-year-old self-hanging around, you might enjoy it too. And, if all else fails, there's always Caroline Munro. Extravagant, colourful and thoroughly preposterous, ‘AT THE EARTH'S CORE’ is utterly without pretension but has the exuberant charm of the best of its decade.
Blu-ray Image Quality – This Blu-ray release has been given a very nice 1080p encoded image transfer and displayed with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The colours are very 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 and reds and greens also stand out really well. 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. Shooting was shot entirely indoors, and cinematographer Alan Hume uses a shallow depth of field to help hide the walls of legendary Pinewood Studios. 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, but despite this, it still does not spoil the enjoyment of this film.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The audio situation arrives in the form of 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo. Composer Mike Vickers predominantly creates electronic music for the score, and it comes through with a good fidelity. The dialogue is exceptionally clear, but unfortunately Peter Cushing's voice suffers the most from dubbing, sounding hollow early on, as if talking into a can at times. 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.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary by Director Kevin Connor: This has got to be the most unintentionally funny commentary I have ever heard. Whoever was supposed to do the interview director Kevin Connor was unable to make the recording session, so Bill Olsen was the replacement but why he was chosen is totally unclear? Bill Olsen is very knowledgeable about all aspects of the film, but obviously hasn't done any kind of research to conduct this conversation. Bill Olsen frustrated Kevin Connor because he doesn't always listen to what Kevin Connor informed him what to say and definitely has a very oddball sense of humour, making him come across like a stranger straying into the conversation.
Special Feature: On Camera Interview with Actress Caroline Munro  [1080p] [1.78:1] [28:40] The actress talks about getting the role of Dia and working on this film as well as others like 'The Devil Within Her.' This is a very fascinating interview and this wonderful actress comes over as a very nice lady. Caroline Munro also talks fondly about the director Kevin Connor, who says he was a very nice person to work with.
Special Feature: On Camera Interview with Director Kevin Connor  [1080p] [1.78:1] [22:00] Kevin Connor talks about his long career in films, and as both an editor and director, and also about working on the film. He also comes across as a very nice person as a director and that goes for all the actors that worked with him on all his films, saying he was really nice to work with.
Special Feature: A Special Art: Monsters  [480i] [1.37:1] [5:42] This very short black-and-white archival piece looks at different aspects of this film, and especially such as what went into creating the prehistoric monsters.
Theatrical Trailer  [1080p] [1.85:1] [2:52] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘AT THE EARTH'S CORE.’
Finally, ‘AT THE EARTH'S CORE’ is nearly wall-to-wall action, rarely interested in slowing down, possibly out of fear that any break will lose the attention of today’s younger audience. Perhaps it's best to have the film careening along, processing strange sights at top speed, as ‘AT THE EARTH'S CORE’ doesn't have the dramatic weight to fully interoperate the wonders of Edgar Rice Burroughs's novel. Instead, the feature film emphasises monster marauding around and also encountering menacing birds, giving us enough action of daring-do to satisfy as pure “camp” escapism and if feeling there is nothing to watch on your Television, then put this Blu-ray disc on and it will take you away on a journey of 89 minutes of pure glorious escapism of a fun action packed film. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso