Friday, October 5, 2012

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

So I bought a bag of the Pumpkin (shaped) Reese's for an October candy bowl. Mostly I have been eating them myself, one piece at night. But I just had one now and all I can think about is running over to get another and another and another. Sugar and salt and peanut butter--they're just tempting me right now.

But I didn't actually set out to talk about Reese's today; it's time I gave my thoughts on the 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth. I read the Jules Verne book about a year or so ago, and it's very delightful. It's adventure in its purest form. There are two usual themes in literature (or art): death and sex (and sometimes they're brought together into one idea, which can be odd, but whatever). But in this book, sure the characters often face the possibility of death and Axel has a girl back home, but that's it: the usual themes aren't a big deal. It's just pure adventure, in a very wonderful way.

As you move into the 1959 movie, the differences from the book are very great. Axel (renamed Alec) is no longer the professor's nephew, but a student who basically agrees to go along on the excursion because he hopes to gain the professor's favor and marry his niece. And then there is the addition of villains other than the perils of adventure: another scholar, then another wants to beat the group into uncharted territory and fame. And, most strange of all, suddenly we have a woman, Carla, accompanying them on the journey. Hollywoodization, anyone?

However, once the troupe is in the caverns of the earth, I wondered how little these details mattered. The story was still about adventures in the unknown, uncovering strange crystals, plants, and creatures. I don't know what a big budget was for 1959, but everything about this movie suggested to me that it was a big budget movie. Some of the sets are beautiful and the effects aren't too bad (yes, this movie is 53 years old, get over it). So it all comes back to adventure and simplicity, even if the start was a little different.

I haven't watched any other movie versions of this story, but somehow I doubt that one made now would necessarily be better. (And I deny that a second Reese's wrapper has joined the first in the time it took me to write this post. It's just an optical illusion.)

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