Thursday, 6 June 2013

At the Earth's Core (UK, 1976)



Made by Amicus Productions and often confused with Hammer Horror films. Easy to see why seeing as both companies used the same legendary stars, they both made various horror films although Hammer was more traditional mythical fables, and of course all the films shared very familiar visual styles.

This British classic really does look every bit like a Hammer horror. The start of the film shows Cushing and McClure in their dapper Victorian suits, sitting within their huge drilling machine which is decked out like Sherlock Holmes study, you half expect Chris Lee to flutter in through a port hole (I do love that drilling machine model though).

All American star Doug McClure plays the slightly brash yet tough heroic half of the lead duo, while the eminent distinguished Peter Cushing gives up his usual sinister roles for the fumbling yet likeable good doctor. Together the pair work well off each other and do give an early blockbuster-like chemistry that you see in most modern day flicks. Of course its all very quaint, charming and hammy, tongue planted firmly in cheek...and that's just Cushing's adorable little performance.

The film kicks off with a blast as the duo commence drilling deep into the earth, it all feels very much like 'The Time Machine'. No sooner have we got through the silliness of actually getting to the Earth's core the pair are attacked by huge rubber monsters much akin to Godzilla's well known 'men in suits' style. Yes it all looks incredibly tacky and pantomime-ish but remember in its day this was equivalent to a Michael Bay flick.


The general appearance of the Earth's core is pretty much your standard 'The Land That Time Forgot' type fantasy jungle with huge plants, vines, trees, primitive humanoids, sexy scantily clad females and various man eating beasties all shrouded in an eerie pink glow. It may all look terribly plastic and fake but again remember this was way before CGI so everything is real, which is pleasing to the eye, well if you ignore the horrendous blue screen live action/creature sequences.

The plot makes no real sense frankly, its all very stupid and revolves around some big rubber prehistoric eagle looking creatures that rule this interior world by controlling little Jawa type humanoids with telepathy. They enslave other regular looking humans (all black folk with daft wigs it seems, apart from the sexy women) that live in a nearby village for some reason (some kind of mining or something), and...errr I don't really know. Not sure why these creatures do this, why the little Jawa men obey them, why they like to sacrifice sexy big breasted women (do they eat them? is that what happened there??), why/how the big bird-like creatures are so telepathically powerful etc...so many plot holes you give up.

You must look past the crappy plot and its massive inconsistencies, its all about the big cool rubber monsters running amok (could of done with more), Cushing's unbelievably corny stereotypically polite British gentlemanly performance, McClure's ruffled hair and of course Caroline Munro's tanned body.

The story starts off really well but does lack severely throughout the middle as the plot goes down the toilet. You're not sure what's going on, why and if there's any point to any of it, end of the day all you know is the goodies have got to kill those big prehistoric bird things...for some reason. McClure looks buff, Cushing looked so damn thin and fragile it worried me, whilst Munro was clearly made up to try and copy the success of Raquel Welch's famous fantasy character.

Anyone notice that the screeching sound effects used for the big prehistoric bird things was reused in 'Krull' for 'Slayers', when they got killed.

6/10