Coincidences can be funny things. Take today’s movie for example. Now my first experience with this movie was a brief clip that was in a video tribute to B-Movie monsters I saw on Youtube. Now I have used that video as a sort of shopping list for movies to watch and or buy, and I will almost own all of the movies in it. But when I bought this movie, I didn’t realize that I was also completing a trifecta of movies. See in the 70’s, actor Doug McClure made three movies based on Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. I have already reviewed the other two so let’s see how At The Earth’s Core stacks up to them.
The plot: a large crowd has turned out to see Dr. Abner Perry and his former student, and financial backer, David Innes test their new device, a giant drill David calls the Iron Mole.As they begin drilling down through a large hillside, the drill goes out of control and ends up going further down than they intended, causing them to briefly pass out as they approach the earth’s core. When they regain consciousness, they manage to get the drill to start heading upward, but as they pass through an underground lake, the water causes the drill to lose power. When David and “Doc” head out to see where they are, they find themselves in a strange underground world. When a large reptilian creature appears, the two men run from it and end up captured by a group subhumanoid creatures and chained to some human slaves. As they are forced to march through the strange jungle, David and Doc befriend one of the slaves, a girl named Dia, and she warns them about another slave that has been staring at them, Hoojah, the sly one. Later, during a rest period, Dia explains that their captors are called Sahoks, and they serve the Mahars, the creatures that rule the land. When Hoojah grabs Dia, David fends him off but for some reason, his actions upset Dia and she starts to ignore him. When they finally arrive in the city of the Mahars, David notices Dia is not with them and Ghak, another captive, explains that when David defeated Hoojah, he claimed Dia as his mate, but by doing nothing, he insulted Dia. The slaves are finally brought before the Mahars, large flying reptiles that have telepathic powers. David manages to escape from his captors and finds himself wandering in a labyrinth of passages in the mountain before he is able to find his way outside. David spots a campfire nearby and ends up fighting with a strange man but when the man is attacked by a carnivorous plant, David chooses to save him. When David asks the man, Ra, why the humans don’t fight back against the Mahars, Ra leads him to a secret chamber, where they witness some slave girls that were offered to the Mahars as sacrifices being controlled and attacked by the creatures. After witnessing the events, David realizes that the Mahars must be destroyed and Ra agrees to help him but when they try making their way back into the city, they are captured by the Sahoks. The two men are taken to an arena and while Ra is chained to a pillar, David is forced to fight a monstrous creature while Doc and the other slaves watch. David manages to kill the creature and when one of the Mahars flies at him, Ra manages to break free and strangle the creature with his chains. Seeing this, Doc and the other slaves fight back against the Sahoks and Ra manages to lead some of the slaves through the tunnels but Doc takes David and shows him the secret of the Mahars. When they make it out of the tunnels, they see Hoojah trying to take Dia but a fire breathing creature attacks them and Hoojah runs off. David tries to fend off the creature but it is eventually killed by Doc, who had managed to make a crude bow and arrows. David manages to apologize to Dia but she is worried that Hoojah will bring Jubal, the ugly one, to seize her and David decides to go ahead and fight with Jubal. Jubal does find them and while David is fighting him, Hoojah sneaks around and holds Dia captive. When David finally kills Jubal, Hoojah runs, with Doc trying to shoot him with an arrow. Meeting back up with Ra and Ghak, David and Doc manage to unite the various tribes and show them how to make bow and arrows. David explains his plan for attack, unaware that Hoojah is listening to him. When Dia asks to go and fight with David, he tells her no but when she sees Hoojah running off, she follows him. While David leads the assembled warriors into the tunnels, Doc and Ra enter a different tunnel to cut off the lava flow to the city. Dia sees Hoojah going to follow them but when she sees him captured by the Sahoks, she waits till they leave and follows them herself to warn them. Doc and Dia are captured by the Sahoks but Ra manages to continue forward. Meanwhile, David and the warriors start to cross over the extinguished fire curtain when, unknown to them, the Mahars send a signal to the Sahoks and have the fire curtain started again, splitting the war party in half. The Mahars then signal their Sahok army to attack, catching David and his warriors between the fire curtain and the Sahoks. Ra reaches the fire controls and manages to lower the fire curtain, but is mortally wounded and ends up dying when he manages to destroy the Mahars secret. David leads his war party to the sacrificial chamber, where he sees Dia and Doc are captured and being controlled by the Mahars. As the warriors use their arrows and spears to kill the Mahars, David manages to free Dia and Doc from the Mahars control, then kill the last Mahar. David and the others manage to get out of the city before the lava destroys it. Sometime later, the united tribes are celebrating their freedom and the imminent departure of David and Doc, as they plan to head back to the surface world. David wishes to take Dia with him, but though she loves him, she chooses to stay behind. David and Doc use the Iron Mole to head back to the surface, ending up surfacing in front of the White House, where a pair of Secret Service are surprised to see the giant drill erupting from the ground.
After the success of The Land That Time Forgot, Amicus Productions decided to make yet another movie based on another of Edgar Rice Burrough’s novels. At The Earth’s Core met with mostly negative reviews from the critics, holding a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there wasn’t much said among those that did not like the movie, the few that did said it that for a low budget monster movie, it was a lot of fun. The movie did find a market with the audience as it would become the 18th most profitable British film in 1976.
This was an interesting, and pretty colorful movie to watch. The acting was pretty good but I didn’t particularly care for how Peter Cushing (Doc) was made to look like a somewhat bumbling old man. The story was really good and made me want to start reading this series of books. The set design was very colorful and showed a lot of imagination as far as how the underground realm looked. However, the Mahars, as well as some of the other monsters seen, were somewhat less impressive looking. Not the best movie to come out of the 70’s, but a pretty decent sci-fi movie none the less.
Rating: 3 out of 5