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At the Earth's Core (1976) - Blu-ray Review

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At the Earth's Core - Blu-ray Review

3 stars

"You can't hypnotize me...I'm British!"

Burned by Roger Ebert upon its original release but made popular by British audiences, At the Earth’s Core is a harmless rubber-suited monster party for children and B-movie lovers.  Set below the earth’s crust, this is the second sci-fi adventure based on a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs produced by Amicus Productions and directed by Kevin Connor (of Motel Hell fame).  To the filmmakers’ credit, the fantasy film hits the ground running and never looks back.  Kept a float by a fun performance from Peter Cushing, At the Earth’s Core will never win any awards for being the best in anything (especially effects) but, courtesy of Kino-Lorber, the film is granted a crisp and shiny new life on blu-ray.

Written by Milton Subotsky, this Burroughs adaptation feels kin to a Hanna Barbara Saturday morning cartoon and, with the random fire-breathing frog popping up, there’s no place it’s afraid to traverse.  Of course, when you discover floppy-footed dinosaurs and two new human races below the surface within minutes of the film’s opening, all logic gets thrown out the proverbial window.  Just settle in and enjoy the bumpy ride aboard a massive drill that can drill deep into the earth’s core, below Hell itself. 

Piloted by Dr. Abner Perry (Peter Cushing), an eccentric English scientist, and joined by his thrill-seeking American backer, David Innes (Doug McClure of The Virginian), the earth-drilling expedition into the unknown via The Iron Mole is far more of a bumpy ride than the two could ever have imagined.  The journey to the earth’s core knocks both of them unconscious halfway through the drilling and they wake to find they are captives of a telepathic parrot-worshipping civilization.  Shackled next to the beautiful native Dia (Caroline Munro) who is to be sacrificed to these flying monsters by The Sagoths, the two explorers discover the ancient and mysterious land of Pellucidar is far more treacherous and bizarre than the one up above.

Cushing delivers another beautifully goofy performance and nails the eccentricity of the aging scientist.  His wit shines through in classic one-liners that are guffaw-producing moments.  While he disappears for half of the movie, his performance is essential to the fun vibe the film exudes.  As the leading man, The Virginian, however, mostly bombs.  His lug-headed heroics and standard quips are eye-rolling faire, with the actor’s obvious stand-in doing most of the fighting.  While McClure gets to smooch Munro, his performance is as regrettable as the film’s budget.

The shining champion of the film is Mike Vickers soundtrack.  It’s a sonic atmosphere where anything can happen.  Once a guitarist, flautist and saxophonist with the 1960s band, Manfred Mann, Vickers’ electronic soundtrack pulses with blips and bleeps of otherworldly excitement.  Such sounds!  The actual music has never been released and that, my freakish friends, is a shame.  So much of Vickers work in At the Earth’s Core is phenomenally weird and effective.  It’s ripe for re-discovery.

At the Earth’s Core is pulp storytelling at its Gorgan-sized cheesiest.  There’s nothing remotely realistic about it.  Think Doctor Who during the Pertwee/Baker era and you get the picture.  This is classic, British science-fiction goofiness that shouldn’t be ignored; a dumb fun masterpiece.

At the Earth's Core (1976) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: PG.
Runtime:
89 mins
Director
: Kevin Connor
Writer:
Milton Subotsky
Cast:
Doug McClure, Peter Cushing, Caroline Munro
Genre
: Sci-fi | Fantasy
Tagline:
4,000 miles to the center of the Earth to a world within a world
Memorable Movie Quote: "I have a firm grip upon your trousers, David."
Distributor:
American International Pictures (AIP)
Official Site:
Release Date:
July, 1976
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 13, 2015
Synopsis: A Victorian era scientist and his assistant take a test run in their Iron Mole drilling machine and end up in a strange underground labyrinth ruled by a species of giant telepathic bird and full of prehistoric monsters and cavemen.

At the Earth's Core - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - January 15, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

It could be argued that the 1080P transfer from Kino-Lorber is far superior to the film itself.  Perhaps some would say much better than the film deserves.  This is dual-layered with a max'ed bitrate and is easily as good as the film has ever looked on digital.  There is a tightness and depth - skin tones and colors look balanced. The only issue is that the high resolution further identifies the modest effects.  Contrast is layered with no noise or damage and overall the video is quite solid.  The linear DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel does a competent job of exporting the film's verbose effects of 'creature' and 'native' sounds without being too weak.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Kevin Connor provides the film’s excellent commentary.  He might be a bit dissatisfied with the special effects of the film, but you won’t be dissatisfied with his robust memory as he recounts the making of the film.

Special Features:

Kino produces two new featurettes.  They are interviews with Caroline Munro and the film’s director Kevin Conner.  Also included is the film’s original trailer.  There is also a vintage Making of Featurette showing some storyboarding and production details and lastly an original trailer.  All in all, there’s nothing much but certainly nothing wrong with what’s included.

  • Vintage Making-Of Featurette (20 min)
  • New on-camera interview with co-star Caroline Munro (30 min)
  • New on-camera interview with director Kevin Connor (22 min)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

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