After their relative success with THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, Amicus were quick to run out this unofficial 'sequel' to that film, although a year later the proper sequel, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, turned up. AT THE EARTH'S CORE in fact is reminiscent of Jules Verne stories like JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, although it is supposedly from a story by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The low-rent action and outrageous imagery make this film a must for any '70s fan. The decade's influence is clear, as a number of native tribesmen sport fetching afros!
Although the film is cheaply made (it employs VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA-style shaking cameras to simulate movement), on the plus side it is a fast-paced adventure tale which never lets up and gives in to characterisation or depth of any sort. In essence it's a series of fight scenes, which take the form of monster vs. monster, man vs. man, man vs. monster. Tacky, ludicrous and awful, this is truly the nadir of British cinema. But...it manages to be exciting, hilarious and a damned good ride through a strange, psychedelic prehistoric land, enlivened by strong performances from two genre veterans.
AT THE EARTH'S CORE has a number of spaced-out, obviously drug-induced sequences which are hilarious to watch. The first is the bit where Peter Cushing, no less, is being chased through the cardboard jungle by a giant bird man! I've seen some weird stuff in my time but this really takes the biscuit. The bird men are guys with huge rubber heads on, strange how they remain so motionless throughout the film. The second moment is when a group of people stop to watch some men in monster suits battle it out, kind of like a wacky GODZILLA moment which has been inserted in the film. For a start it's not for one minute believable or realistic, and also the bellowing noises these monsters make are hilarious!
More wackiness ensues when a psychic connection between the bird and rodent men is revealed, with the bird guys blinking their green eyes to give commands, these birds are truly strange and yet wonderfully artistic. Especially the noises that are made, which are strangely computerised! Another hilarious moment comes when Peter Cushing shoots a fire breathing, pincushion-like monster with some arrows, it falls off a cliff and explodes in a rib-tickling scene, so cheap and yet so comic. You probably have to have a weird sense of humour like me to appreciate these admittedly dodgy delights. Other merry moments include a caveman with a blatantly cardboard weapon and bird men flying around on visible wires.
You've probably grasped the kind of naïve charm this film holds for me by now, but the three main actors are also reasons to watch. Firstly we have low-budget British actress Caroline Munro as the token love interest in highly revealing costume, then there's Doug McClure as the American hero, sporting a disgusting striped jacket. McClure's charm is one which you have to view to really appreciate, but let's just say he's fun as the brawny, indestructible hero type. However it's Peter Cushing who steals the show, this time around being the comic relief, a major departure from his usually heroic or sinister roles. His doddering old man is a great creation, and his dialogue is along the lines of "they're so excitable, like all foreigners" and "You cannot mesmerise me, I'm British!" (reused from a similar line in HORROR EXPRESS). The novelty value of seeing him terrorised by these men in suits is great.
You wouldn't get away with tackiness like this in a film anymore, that's for sure. Cheap, with atrocious back projection; rubbery, cardboard, yet fun, AT THE EARTH'S CORE is one for the child in all of us - the child who truly appreciate the delights of bad film making.
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