The Charles Brackett production takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the Jules Verne story, but there are times when it is difficult to determine whether the film-makers are kidding or playing it straight. The actors neither take themselves nor the picture seriously, which is all on the plus side.
The story concerns an expedition, led by James Mason, who plays a dedicated scientist, to the center of the earth. Among those who descend to the depths with Mason are Pat Boone, one of his students; Arlene Dahl, the widow of a Swedish geologist who steals Mason’s information and tries to beat him to the ‘underworld’; and Peter Ronson, an Icelandic guide and jack-of-all-trades.
The descent is a treacherous one, filled with all kinds of dangers – underground floods, unusual winds, excessive heat, devious paths. Before reaching their goal, the intrepid explorers confront prehistoric monsters, a forest of mushrooms, a cavern of quartz crystals, and a salt vortex.
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Boone is given an opportunity to throw in a couple of songs. Romance is not neglected. Waiting at home in Edinburgh for Boone is Diane Baker, Mason’s niece. And it’s obvious that Mason and the widow Dahl will end up in a clinch despite their constant bickering during the expedition.
1959: Nominations: Best Color Art Direction, Sound, Special Effects