See the 1959 version of ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth,’ and meet stars Arlene Dahl, Diane Baker and Pat Boone at the USA Film Festival on Saturday evening

 

The stars of ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ investigate something intriguing and probably quite dangerous.
 

Already got plans for Saturday night? Cancel them. I have something SO MUCH BETTER for you. As part of its 2015 series, the 45th annual USA Film Festival will be showing a new digital print of the 1959 sci-fi classic Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Arlene Dahl, Diane Baker and Pat Boone, all of whom will be in attendance. It also starred the sexy, iinimitable, sadly departed James Mason (who I’m sure will be there in spirit).

Local film historian and all-around fabulous guy Kyle Hall spearheaded the showing, which is one of the festival’s marquee events. It’s at 7 p.m. Saturday (April 25) at the Angelika Film Center/Dallas, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane at Central Expressway, Dallas. Parking is available in the garage at the north end of the shopping center, adjacent to the theater. Best part: Tickets are a mere $10 (cash only; there’s an ATM in the lobby) and are available ONLY at the door, day of show only, starting at 6 p.m. So get there early!

Just forget about the far inferior 2008 remake. Really, forget it. THIS is the one you want to see. Steven Spielberg has said many times that the 1959 Journey was one of his favorite movies, and you’ll see influences to his 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark all through it. We really should have a drinking game for every time there’s an Indiana Jones precursor-reference. I would vote for whisky shots like the scene where Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) totally outdrank that Nepali guy early in Indiana. Alas, the Angelika doesn’t serve such spirits, but I suppose a chug of Heineken would do, as it at least pays reference to the Nazi villains of the film.

  

The original poster for Journey billed the story, based on a story by Jules Verne and directed by Henry Levin, as “a fabulous world below the world,” and I don’t want to give anything away, but it has one of the most poignant endings I’ve ever seen on film. The synopsis, in brief, courtesy of the Film Festival’s flyer (I can’t improve on their description!):  “James Mason stars as professor of geology Oliver Linderbrook, whose niece Jenny (Diane Baker), lives with him and captures the affections of the professor’s star student Alec (Pat Boone). Following the discovery of a tool bearing a message from an Icelandic explorer who disappeared years earlier, Linderbrook mounts an expedition into an extinct volcano in search of the earth’s core.
“Accompanying him are Alec, along with the widow (Arlene Dahl) of an ill-fated explorer; an Icelandic guide (Peter Ronson) with a pet duck named Gertrude; and shady Count Saknussemm (Thayer David). Ahead of them are giant lizards, a mammoth mushroom forest, whirlpools, the remains of Atlantis and other exotic dangers. (Honestly: I defy you to find a more intriguing synopsis than that. AND a pet duck named Gertrude? Perhaps another Spielberg callout via Gertie (Drew Barrymore) in 1982’s E.T the Extra-Terrestrial.)

“Bernard Hermann’s lush score almost steals the show from the beautiful images by cinematographer Leo Tover and Academy-Award nominated effects by Johnny Borgese.”

It’ll be 132 minutes of pure family-friendly (it’s unrated) bliss. I’ll personally sing you a song of woe and apology if you don’t love it.

The USA Film Festival continues through April. See the full schedule at usafilmfestival.com. You can also call the festival offices at 214-821-3456, although I’m unsure if anyone will be answering the phone on Saturday.

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