At The Earth’s Core sees seventies sci-fi hit rock bottom and start digging!

The dictionary defines “Amicus Brief” as document filed by someone who is not a party to a case but has a strong interest in the subject matter. “Amicus” is Latin for “friend,” and an Amicus Brief, is often referred to as a “friend of the court” brief. For AT THE EARTH’S CORE, my Amicus Brief was to review this classic slice of 1970s sci-fi hokum from Amicus productions for friends of the Craggus Realweegiemidget Reviews and Cinematic Catharsis’ Fourth Hammer-Amicus Blogathon.

When the maiden voyage of an experimental drilling machine goes awry, David Innes (Doug McClure) and Doctor Abner Perry (Peter Cushing) find themselves hurtling downward towards the core of the Earth only to find themselves crash landing in a strange and alien environment populated by primitive tribes and fearsome creatures.

The last time I reviewed an Amicus production for a blogathon I took a look at their two DOCTOR WHO adaptations, DOCTOR WHO AND THE DALEKS and THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH 2150AD, so it’s somewhat appropriate I’ve picked this title to review because there’s more than a whiff of the Whovian in its set-up and execution, no doubt purely coincidental despite AT THE EARTH’S CORE being loosely adapted (it’s too studio bound to realise the vast landscapes of Pellucidar) from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic novel of Edwardian adventure by the same screenwriter/ producer, Milton Subotsky. We have Peter Cushing as a slightly befuddled, eccentric scientist whose advanced machine careers out of control and brings our heroes to an exotic and dangerous new world, with Doug McClure’s David Innes very much in the same mould as Bernard Cribbens or Roy Castle interchangeable sidekicks from the Dalek movies there to take on the more physical aspects of derring-do and generally provide a family friendly serving of flavourless beefcake as the pair set out to right the injustices of the society – ruled over by the tyrannical pterodactylic Mahars, a race of psychokinetic and telepathic reptilian humanoids. There’s even something “for the Dads” in the shapely – yet woefully underused – form of Caroline Munro.

Of course, there’s a particular flavour to British adventure fiction in which the thoroughly modern DOCTOR WHO can trace clear ancestry. The works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs and H G Wells (whose THE TIME MACHINE is an obvious touchstone for AT THE EARTH’S CORE with its tale of elites versus primatives) all have a legacy which DOCTOR WHO embraced and built out from, as could be argued James Bond did too. The firm certainly doesn’t shy away from that innate sense of British Imperial sanctimony that underpinned the source material either, with the line “You can’t mesmerise me, I’m British!” a particular highlight.

While the performances certainly don’t see anybody hitting career highs, Cushing is as dependable as ever even if the script doesn’t really demand anything of him. McClure, on the other hand, is so determinedly earnest in his performance – perhaps conscious of acting opposite silver screen royalty like Peter Cushing – that he pushes his square-jawed heroism into an arena of camp that’s far, far beyond Cushing’s gently sardonic tongue-in-cheek turn. That being said, McClure’s performance never once wavers in its commitment to the reality of the world he’s in. While some performances wink at the audience at the ridiculousness of it all, McClure absolutely exists in the world we see on screen in lurid technicolor, rubber monsters and all.

Speaking of rubber monsters, it’s here – and in the production values generally – that AT THE EARTH’S CORE absolutely triumphs. Oh, it doesn’t quite come close to capturing the essence of Edgar Rice Burrough’s imagination but it delivers model work, sets and monsters that the BBC of the time could only have dreamt of for the DOCTOR. It’s technically adventurous and diverse filmmaking, combining sumptuous sets, great creature design and some almost Gerry Anderson-style miniature work to terrific effect on a modest budget.

Cheesy and charming in almost equal measure, Milton Subotsky’s AT THE EARTH’S CORE may jettison much of the source novel’s speculative science fiction (there’s no explanation of how or why Pellucidar exists) and simplifies its sociological subtext in favour of crowd-pleasing popcorn pulp action adventure but there’s enough here to pass a rainy Sunday afternoon perfectly pleasantly. It’s too good to be a guilty pleasure but not quite good enough to be a bona fide classic, instead landing at that sweet spot that earns its nostalgia-fuelled cult status.

At The Earth's Core Review
score 5

logo

Related posts

Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist Series Review

Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist Series Review

In August 28th 2003 Brian Wells enters a bank in Erie Pennsylvania armed with a gun cane. He hands a note to the teller instructing them to give him $250,000. The teller, unable to open the vault, hands him $8,000, Brian takes a lollipop and calmly strolls out into the warm sunshine.He is then...

It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for. Avengers: Endgame (2019) Review

It's the end, but the moment has been prepared for. Avengers: Endgame (2019) Review

Eleven years.Twenty-one movies.All leading up to this.In the wake of Thanos’ victory, the remaining Avengers regroup to figure out how to live up to their name. But there are no easy paths to setting things right and its only through the unexpected return of Ant-Man that an opportunity...

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) is a welcome expansion pack to the first movie’s video game.

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) is a welcome expansion pack to the first movie's video game.

Having over-achieved the unexpected in following the beloved 1995 original, suddenly all eyes were on this third Jumanji movie to see if it could repeat the success of the first sequel. And repeat it, it certainly does, perhaps with just a little too much repetition.As the gang regroup for...

The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (1974) Dractober Review

The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (1974) Dractober Review

Devoid of their Dracula, Hammer House Of Horror cast around for something else to stake their vampire franchise to. I’m guessing screenwriter Don Houghton must have been listening to the radio in his office One can only imagine that the radio was playing in writer Don Houghton’s Bray Studios...

4 Comments

  1. Realweegiemidget Reviews December 4, 2023

    Saw this film recently and it’s great fun so so glad you brought it to the blogathon. Thanks for joining.

  2. Trackback: NEWS… Discover the Last of the Fourth Hammer and Amicus Blogathon Tributes – Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more

  3. John L. Harmon December 4, 2023

    Excellent review!
    I really enjoyed how you compared this film with Doctor Who!

  4. Michael December 18, 2023

    You voiced my opinions on this film perfectly. Nobody is winning any Academy Awards for this production, but it is perfect Saturday matinee fare. It’s a great film to pop in when I want to relive those afternoons at the theatre when we would laugh, yell at the screen, and just have a good time.

Comments are closed.