My City (The Disney* Version)

JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, the Disney production, directed by Henry Levin (who helmed the fun I LOVE A MYSTERY series), and more importantly scripted and produced by Charles Brackett, for some unknown but doubtless delightful reason, shifts the protagonist’s place of residence to my own fair city of Edinburgh, affording us numerous touristic views of historical areas of interest (which can be made period-friendly with next to no effort) and a strange Irish accent from James Mason, like a badly trampled version of the stage Oirish he essayed in ODD MAN OUT and THE RECKLESS MOMENT. In one scene he impersonates his character’s grandmother and suddenly produces a cartoonish but recognisable Glasgwegian. Arlene Dahl just plays her Swedish character as American, so it’s left to Pat Boone to try to fill in some kind of otherwise absent idiomatic authenticity. This, it seems to me, is a mistake.

In fact, Pat does better than the rest of them, filtering some kind of general-purpose Scottish accent into his existing US one, resulting in a sort of Floridian burr. It’s still less convincing than the enlarged iguanas at the Earth’s core (if this movie had Harryhausen, it’d be an all-time classic) but he gets points for sort of trying, and more points for not trying too hard.

Probably none of this fauxthenticity was helped by the fact that the location shots above are all second unit with a stand-in taking Mason’s place when required.

*And by Disney it seems I mean 20th Century Fox.

36 Responses to “My City (The Disney* Version)”

  1. Are you sure we’re talkin’ Disney here? IMDB credits Twentieth Century Fox as the studio of this film. Perhaps more Disneyesque than Disney. This was a “big-budget” Cinemascope release made on the heels of Disney’s TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA and AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS. I say “big-budget” only because as you state they chose not to pay for anything as grandiose as what Harryhausen had to offer, but rather fell back on the less-than-special effects of oversized iguanas. Still, as a boy I found this a film with much to offer, and I look back on it fondly (except for Pat Boone and the duck maybe. Maybe.)

  2. Another virtue this film possesses: Bernard Hermann.

  3. I was just about to mention that, Guy.

  4. You know what I’m talkin’ about.

  5. Ha, if I could do a “my city”, it wouldn’t contain much past Steamboat Bill, Jr. and some riverboat films. There are other films that were shot here, but only a neighborhood or building were used. I remember Gary Sinise doing George Wallace and our capitol building standing in for Alabama’s, but no other shots were taken here. It was disorienting. My city is not picturesque, either ugly or beautiful. Ah, California sprawl.

  6. Fee here – I look back on the duck very fondly Guy. In fact it may be the greatest Anatidaen (Is this a word? I’m just free-styling with taxonomy here) performance ever.

  7. It’s been a while since last I’ve seen the film. I’ll have to suspend judgment until I get a chance to update. Anatidaen? Your guess is as good as mine. Avian maybe?

  8. Looks like you’re right about the Disney — maybe I can use this title for Greyfriar’s Bobby?

    The Herrmann score, the amusing script, the monsters (even if you do feel rather sorry for the lizards) the cast and the high productions values (+ Edinburgh) make the movie one of the most enjoyable Victorian sci-fi adventures put on the screen. Compares well with First Men on the Moon, which has Laurie Johnson (a Herrmann collaborator of sorts), and Harryhausen, a less stellar cast, but I suspect a better source novel.

  9. Christopher Says:

    the Scandavavian dude and his duck GERTRUDE are my favorites…”Hans says..When you go down into the hole again..Gertrude and he want to go with you”
    I can’t help thinking the seen of Boone running naked past a group of nuns was calculated to get an ironic reaction to his clean cut christian image.
    Pretty fun film overall…
    Heres Davids students singing him praise..just insert Cinema in the proper places.

  10. I didn’t get to see FIRST MEN IN THE MOON when I was a kid, but I was aware of it and wanted to see it. The humanoid insect creatures, the Selenites, I thought were very cool. Very nifty effects by Ray H., and I love when they mix the Victorian with the futuristic, a bit cockeyed but wonderful fun from a design standpoint. There’s also a giant caterpillar-like thing tossed in the mix, yet another excuse to let Ray work his magic…

  11. Tony Williams Says:

    I remember both films fondly especially James Mason, Thayer David, and the Ken Darby singers from THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARPP

  12. Randy Cook Says:

    I loved both films as a kid. Even Pat Boone works in a kind of “While-I’m-translating-the-inscription-on-this-plum-bob-Alec-why-don’t-you-sing-us-a-song?” kind of way. Herrmann certainly brought all the right colors to the piece, and helped blend the Carlsbad Caverns with the Aluminum Foil Caverns.

    FIRST MEN IN THE MOON is a real favorite, and Lionel Jeffries is adorable in it. The Mooncalf (not to be confused with “Luddy-Duddy”or “Jabbernowl”) is on display in an exhibit honoring Ray at the motion picture Academy, which opened yesterday and runs through August. Lots of Puppets and drawings and sculptures!

  13. “Ai Yi Yi Yi”!

  14. Randy Cook Says:

    Oh, almost forgot. JOURNEY originally contained two more Pat Boone songs. THE FAITHFUL HEART is a nice little ballad, but TWICE AS TALL is a real stinker…sort of a Pat Boon trio, sung to fun-house mirror type reflections of himself in the quartz crystal cavern, if my inference is right.

    The Three Pats can be heard lobbing this musical bomb on the soundtrack album, but I understand the footage is long gone.

  15. Something to be relieved about, possibly!

    Lionel Jeffries was a lovely nutty prof, and I liked that the mad scientist was more sympathetic than the lantern-jawed hero type. Some committee would prevent that happening nowadays. I thought Ray was very restrained in not filling the moon with more and more fantastical creatures (perhaps via Munchausen and other sources) — it’s pretty faithful to Wells. And the spacecraft dotted with railway bumpers is a joy. For time travel, George Pal takes the cake, but Harryhausen has my favourite retro spacecraft.

  16. Randy,
    Here’s hoping for once nobody finds that lost footage.

  17. I may have said this already but James Mason’s “Potassium Cyanide!” is the line he was born to say.

  18. Christopher Says:

    I like the Tin Tin comic book feel of ‘Journey”and First Men On The Moon..
    Master Of The World is another one of those pleasurable oddities.

  19. Peter,
    Although I’m impressed, it seems a tad cheesy as well. Well, at least it’s not commercial advertising. Projected on the castle. Hey, it could happen. In America I’m surprised landmarks all over haven’t had sold their “projection rights”. It’s just the next step towards Commercialized Everything.

    David E.,
    I’d say what I think, except I’m not supposed to say what I think. :)

  20. Randy Cook Says:

    Simon, I think “Potassium Cyanide!” is rivaled by “it IS Icelandic Peridotite!”— but neither beats the NxNW’s “…the Sheraton Johnson Hotel in Rapid City South Dakota”. What a guy to write dialog for!

    He’s also wonderful in a loopy scene after Alec is shot my Count Saknussem, the gunshot echoing thru the caverns. The Prof pulls out a convenient prop, kind of an ear-trumpet with a compass attached. The Prof states something along the lines of “The last echo will give us the direction—THERE!”, and they run toward the sound, and THE PROF TOSSES THE DEVICE CARELESSLY OVER HIS SHOULDER—it’s served its expository purpose & won’t be needed again.

    Mason would’ve been 101 today, by the way. Damn good actor who was too bright to be satisfied with his lot, really. This he makes quite clear in his witty, lucid and rather sad biography.

    I’m guessing, but the trailer features an optical at 1:38 which might have been used by The Pat Boone Trio, but maybe it’s wishful thinking.

    FIRST MEN IN THE MOON is a modest little film which I love very much, and maybe deserves its own thread, someday. I think it comes closer to being a “real” movie than any of the other Harryhausen pictures, all of which I enjoy on their own eccentric merits, of course.

  21. Simon: agree re Mason. Some good sibilants and a nice range of vowel sounds are essential for a top-notch Mason line, and a little sinister undertone also helps. “Potassium cyanide!” works perfectly. Although he also manages to inject alarming currents of malice into “Lemon tea!” in The Pumpkin Eater.

    I think most of the Castle is too bumpy to make a good projection surface, but different coloured lighting has been used in the past on special occasions, to dramatic effect. A blood-red Edinburgh Castle is an impressive sight!

    There’s that Villiers de L’Isle-Adam story about projecting ads on the moon, which I still expect to come horribly true one day…

    “Rapid City South Dakota” is delivered with a thoughtful inflection at the end, as if he’s thinking “What an incongruous place for me to be talking about!” or else “Cary Grant? In Dakota? Are you SURE?”

    I’m more than up for a FMITM discussion… maybe even a Ray Harryhausen-related Film Club!

  22. A FMITM discussion, or maybe even a Harryhausen-related Film Club. Sounds like right good fun, count me in.

    I had to ponder just what I could recall from Mason’s films that stands out phonetically, but Humbert’s reading of Poe’s “Ulalume” (sp?) to Lolita in Kubrick’s film does seem to pop up in the back of my mind. And the scene where he complains to Lo’s mother about being her “obliging lap dog scurrying behind” as he stammers in anger brings a smile to my face as well.

  23. Anything from Mason’s lips is a pleasure to listen to. Except maybe if he belched.

    Charlotte Lewis’s allegations against Polanski are perplexing in that it seems he abused her three years before she starred in a film for him, which seems an odd thing for her to have done. Her story may well be true, but I can’t see what legal value it has coming so long after the event.

    I’ve seen her interviewed and she seemed intelligent and nice. She should’ve had more success in movies. But I’d hate to think this is all about her (lack of) career.

  24. Bill Krohn writes me: “If Gloria Allred — an ambulance-chasing publicity hound who once sued the Boy Scouts for not taking girls, calling the Girl Scouts “gender apartheid” — ever figures out what she wants to sue Polanski for, she should consider naming Eddie Murphy as co-defendant.”

  25. I can see a vague case here: if by giving Charlotte Lewis a career, Polanski inadvertently made possible The Golden Child, he should probably be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

  26. Snerk!

    Uh, no. Lewis got the part in The Golden Child the same way she got the part in Pirates. Your more ambitious Phobe comes with her own Casting Couch.

  27. If so, it’s a shame she didn’t go public about the casting couch instead, which is a bigger story, potentially, and one people are reluctant to talk about.

  28. People are infinitely more reluctant to talk about parents pimping-out their childen — a far more common practice than this culture is willing to acknowledge.

  29. I think there’s a natural revulsion against saying anything when parents claim their child was abused. The story may be doubtful, but what if it’s true? So we’re reluctant to call bullshit on allegations which, were they less emotive, would not be likely to convince us.

  30. Speaking as someone who has lived and worked in Hollywood sicne 1976 there is SO MUCH parental pimping out there ! This is as one with this culture’s exualization of children — a tradition that stretches from Shirley Temple to Jon-Benet Ramsey.

  31. It’s certainly less “accepted” now (the better for newspeople to show their outraged hypocrisy, I guess), but it used to be so open that we’d see it discussed in our local newspaper and not to condemn it, either. Hell, teen sexuality stories were usually reported with a palpable leer. I think America’s attitude towards sex in general has a lot to do with this. Confused puritanism is what I’d call what we have now.

  32. The puritan and the prurient are opposite sides of the same coin. A similar attitude prevails in Britain, and is the default mode of the tabloid press: salacious condemnation.

  33. We get the same thing over here, and it’s the beating heart of the anti-Polanski jiihad.

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