The fabulous Jules Verne meets Cinemascope in 1959’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. James Mason, who starred in Disney’s hit Verne adaptation 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, had to take second billing to then current pop star Pat Boone, because his Cooga Mooga Productions got behind the film, released by 20th Century Fox. Despite the presence of a singing Boone, the sci-fi fantasy shines, helped along by some cool special effects and a decidedly whimsical approach to storytelling.

Mason plays Scottish professor Oliver Lindenbrook, a geologist ceremoniously knighted in the film’s opening scenes. One student, Alec McEwan (Boone), gifts his teacher with a piece of volcanic rock. Strangely heavy, Lindenbrook discovers the rock holds a secret: a plumb bob baring the signature of the explorer Arnie Saccnuson who disappeared into the depths of the earth three hundred years before.

Determined to follow in Saccnuson’s footsteps, Lindenbrook plots his own expedition to become the first man in recorded history to reach the center of the earth and return safely. Along for the adventure are his young student Alec McEwan, the widow of a rival scientist Carla Göteborg (Arlene Dahl) and an athletic Icelander, Hans Bjelke (former Olympic hurdler Pétur Ronson). Predictably, danger greets them at every turn, some natural, some not. Floods and gigantic monsters are par for the course. One constant fear is the threat of sabotage by Count Saknussemm (Thayer David) an ancestor of Saccnuson who now takes pleasure in sending explorers down the wrong shafts whenever he can.

A methodical film, we watch step by step as Lindenbrook and his team enter the unknown, facing various dangers along the way. Journey to the Center of the Earth earned three academy award nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Sound, and Best Special Effects—and it’s easy to see why. A huge undertaking for its time, miniatures, matte paintings, practical sets, animation and more were all combined to create a look and feel that is still completely absorbing more than fifty years after the film’s original theatrical release.

Kudos go to James Mason, whose mere appearance adds a certain gravitas to the proceedings. He is also totally believable in his role, bringing a real sense of wonder to his character that also helps to drive the plot. Pat Boone does a fine job with his role, and his songs, though largely unnecessary, don’t hurt the film. Arlene Dahl’s Carla Göteborg serves as an early feminist role model in a film otherwise dominated by men. Pétur Ronson’s Hans Bjelke is an atypical strongman, in that he cares for his duck more than anything else in the world; a duck that plays an important role in the journey.

Faithfully rendered in the 2.35:1 theatrical Cinemascope aspect ratio, Journey to the Center of the Earth has undergone a 4K remastering and looks fabulous. Sharpness is very good, with the exception of some occasional softness on long shots. Color is vibrant without ever feeling overblown. Flesh tones look especially natural. Black levels are generally pleasing and the image is clean throughout.

The disc offers two sound mixes: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround mixes. While both mixes are fine, I preferred the 5.1 mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and Bernard Herrmann’s unforgettable score is spread evenly throughout the soundfield. The track also has nice rumble.

English SDH subtitles are included.

The following extras are included:

  • Audio Commentary: features actress Diane Baker, Bernard Herrmann biographer Steven C. Smith and Twilight Time’s Nick Redman. The three have a rather lively discussion that makes for an interesting listen.
  • Isolated Score Track: Bernard Herrmann’s music score is offered in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:20)
  • Six-Page Booklet: Contains color and black and white stills, poster art for the film on the booklet’s back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s always informative essay on the film.


Only five thousand copies of this new Blu-ray restoration edition have been produced, so those interested in obtaining it should go to to see if copies are still available. They’re also available via Facebook at