Journey to the Center of the Earth (also called Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth) is a 1959 adventure film adapted by Charles Brackett from the novel of the same name by Jules Verne. Journey to the Center of the Earth was directed by Henry Levin and stars James Mason, Pat Boone and Arlene Dahl.
A strange artefact
In 1880, Professor Sir Oliver Lindenbrook (James Mason) is a geologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He has just been knighted for service to the Crown, and is attending a suprise party given by his staff and students. As the others leave, one student, the handsome Alec McEwan (Pat Boone), remains behind to give the professor another gift: a piece of unusually heavy volcanic rock he acquired at a curiosity shop in Glasgow. Pleased, and intrigued, Lindenbrook invites Alec to dinner at his home that evening. He gladly accepts, especially as he has designs on Lindenbrook's neice, Jenny.
Alec arrives at Lindenbrook's house that evening, but finds only Jenny, angry and worried that the Professor has not come home. Alec and Jenny go to the University and find the Professor and his assistant Mr Paisley in the lab, feverishly experimenting on the piece of rock Alec gave him earlier. Lindenbrook shows Alec that he has chipped away a piece of lava to reveal a manmade object, marked with notches, inside. He is about to melt off the lava to discover what the object might be, but the careless Paisley puts too much fuel in the stove, causing an explosion. Fortunately, the explosion blasts the lava free of the object, revealing a plumb bob with a few Nordic words scratched onto it. Everyone is amazed when they realised that the artefact was left by a scientist named Arne Saknussemm who, almost 300 years earlier, had claimed to have found a passage to the center of the Earth in western Iceland, but had never returned.
Lindenbrook devotes the next few weeks to translating the inscription on the plumb bob. When the Dean and Rector of the University visit him to ask why he's neglecting his teaching duties, he reveals what he has discovered. The translated message reads: "I am dying but my life's work must not be lost. Whoever descends into the crater of Sneffels Yokul can reach the center of the earth. At sunrise on the last day of May, the Mountain Scartaris will point the path." Lindenbook explains that Sneffels Yokul is an extinct volcano, and Scartaris a nearby mountain peak. He has written to the eminent Professor Goteborg of Sweden informing him of the find, and plans to mount a mission to Iceland as soon as Goteborg confirms its feasibility.
No reply from Goteborg materialises, despite Lindenbrook's repeated efforts to contact him. A letter arrives from the University of Sweden informing them that Goteborg has disappeared suddenly without explanation. Lindenbrook immediately suspects that Goteborg intends to mount an expedition of his own and claim the discovery for himself. He decides to leave for Iceland at once, and invites Alec to accompany him.
Lindenbrook and Alec visit Sneffels Yokul, and realise that Goteborg has indeed been surveying there. Lindenbrook sends Alec back to town to pick up supplies while he makes his own observations of the crater. Goteborg has been watching them since their arrival and, desperate to delay them, arranges for them to be abducted and detained in a remote storage shed. Fortunately, they are discovered there by a young Icelandic man, Hans Belker, and his pet duck, Gertrude. Hans frees them and takes them back to Reykjavik.
It turns out that they are staying at the same hotel as Goteborg. They ask after him at the front desk, but the hotel proprietress is evasive, stating first that Goteborg is not there, then that he cannot be disturbed. Lindenbrook gives her his business card, asking for it to be passed on to Goteborg. They watch as she puts it in his pigeonhole, thus learning his room number. They go to Goteborg's room, but there is no sign of him. Hans picks the lock, and they enter the room. Amid the expedition supplies, they discover Goteborg's lifeless body, neatly laid out and covered with a blanket. They realise that his death was not a natrual one when they discover traces of potassium cyanide on his beard.
Meanwhile, Goteborg's wife, Karla, has travelled from Sweden and arrived at the hotel. When she asks after her husband, the proprietress shows her into her office and breaks the news. Lindenbrook, coming downstairs to tell her what has happened, overhears the conversation and steps in to reveal that Goteborg has been murdered. The proprietress discloses that the last person to see Goteborg was Count Saknussem, a descendant of Arne Saknussem and a well-known scientist in his own right. She goes off to inform the authorities, leaving Lindenbrook and Alec to tend to the distraught Karla.
Lindenbrook asks Karla if she will sell him the professor's equipment, but she is too upset to discuss the matter and tries to put him off. This angers Lindenbrook, who demands the equipment - even stating that it is his by right as Goteborg was only using it to try and cheat him out of credit for his discovery. Madame Goteborg is outraged and refuses to have anything more to do with him. Later, however, she reads her late husband's diary and learns that Lindenbrook was telling the truth. She agrees to sell him the equipment on the condition that he allows her to join them on the expediton. Lindenbrook is reluctant, but he knows he has no option: Goteborg had bought up all the equipment in town; there is no other available. Additionally, because she speaks Icelandic, she will be able to translate for Hans - he is needed for his physical strength and local knowledge, but speaks no English. The four make final preparations for the expedition and Hans, at the last minute, decides to bring his duck Getrude along for good luck.
Into the Earth
At dawn, the party gathers on the rim of the volcanic crater, waiting for Saknussem's sign. At the precise moment of sunrise, a single ray of light shines through the crags of Scartaris, marking the gateway. The expedition sets off into the crater, unaware that Count Saknussem and his servant have been watching - and will follow. The count believes that only he has the right to enter the center of the Earth, and vows to frustrate Lindenbrook’s attempt, just as he did Goteborg’s.
Lindenbrook, Alec, Karla and Hans soon discover that Arne Saknussem marked his progress with his three-notches signature, and that they only need to look for these to keep on the right path. One night, the Count and his servant creep past them as they sleep. At the next set of notches, the Count chisels new marks in the rock that point in a different direction while his servant conceals the original ones. The Lindenbrook party arrives at the fork and are confused when the marks lead in the opposite direction to that which their (and Gertrude's) instinct told them. They follow the false marks down a dead end, and Alec is nearly killed in a fall. They backtrack, and discover where and why they went wrong. Everyone realises that they are now in a race with a dangerous enemy.
They continue their descent, and make camp at a spectacular crystalline rock formation next to a mineral spring. While exploring, Alec drops his lantern through a crevice in the rock. He climbs in to retrieve it, but misjudges the way back and ends up in a new passageway. Meanwhile, Lindenbrook chisels off a sample from one of the rock formations. As he does so, he dislodges the entire wall and the chamber quickly begins to flood with water. Lindenbrook, Madam Goteburg and Hans scramble to escape and in the panic they fail to notice that Alec is not with them until they are out of the flooded chamber.
Alec wanders separately from the others for days as they look for each other. Lindenbrook, Karla and Hans find that the underground chambers play tricks on their eyes and ears, with the strange acoustics and the half-light confusing their sense of direction. Alec, meanwhile, descends through sweltering salt caverns where, unable to stand the heat, he removes most of his clothes. Eventually he stumbles across Count Saknussem, who offers him food and water. Alec sees the body of the Count's servant, who has just died of "too much heat, too much load and too much fear." The Count orders Alec to pick up his servant's burden, which he refuses to do. Angered, the Count mocks the nearly-naked Alec, stating that he is not in any position to claim pride, and lectures him about trespassing in "his domain". Alec goes to walk away, but the Count shoots him in the arm with his revolver. The reverberating sound of the shot allows Lindenbrook, Madam Goteborg and Hans to locate them. The joy of the reunion is short-lived, however, as the Count holds them all at gunpoint. He tells the others to go back, leaving Hans behind to serve him. Lindenbrook pretends to agree, then tricks and disarms him. They debate on what to do with him: They all agree he is guilty of murder and mayhem, but they are all too civilized to do away with him or leave him behind to die. They reluctantly allow him to join their group.
The Subterranean Sea
They continue on their journey for many weeks, growing increasingly deshevelled and running short of supplies. One day they enter a forest of mushrooms. Some are as large as trees, but Alec finds smaller ones that are edible, and everyone is grateful for a change in diet. While the others rest, Count Saknussem goes off exploring beyond the forest. He returns briefly, ordering Hans to build a raft, then leaves again. Lindenbrook follows him, and finds out that Sankussem has discovered a vast underground ocean. To continue their journey they most cross it - hence the need for a raft. They construct a raft from the stalks of the giant mushrooms and are about to set sail when they are attacked by giant fin-backed lizards that live on the beach. Hans manages to severely wound one of them with a spear, and the other lizards immediately turn on it to devour it. With the lizards rapt in their feeding frenzy, the party escapes onto the subterranean sea. After days drifting on the water, they suddenly encounter a magnetic force so powerful that it rips away anything made of metal - even Madam Goteborg's wedding ring and Hans's gold tooth! But they have reached the center of the Earth at last! Their joy is short lived, however, as a violent malestrom whips up and destroys their tiny craft. They just make it to the opposite beach, alive but with no food or equipment. They collapse, too exhausted to decide what to do, and fall asleep. Early the next morning, while everyone is still asleep, Gertrude wriggles out of Hans's arms and wanders down the beach.The Count wakes and, seeing her, decides to follow. When Hans wakes up, he sees Getrude's tracks leading down the beach and goes to look for her. He finds a lone white feather at the mouth of a cave. Inside the cave there are more feathers tinged with blood. A furious Hans realises that the Count has eaten his best friend, and when he sees him scratching something on the cave wall with a rock, begins to climb after him. Hans tries to strangle the Count, but Alec and Lindenbrook pull him away. The Count, angry and frightened, rants at them all, accusing them of being ungrateful fools. In his rage he stumbles backwards into the cave wall, which collapses on top of him, killing him.
Escaping the center of the Earth
The collapse of the cave reveals a hidden chamber beyond. Inside they find the ruins of an ancient city, which Lindenbrook speculates may have been part the lost civilisation of Atlantis. As they explore, they discover the skeleton of Arne Saknussem - which has a broken leg, explaining why he never made it back to the surface. Madam Goteborg notices that Suknussem's hand seems to be pointing, and they turn to see the opening of a volcanic shaft, with a tremendous updraft that indicates that it may be a direct route to the surface. Unfortunately the shaft is blocked by a gigantic boulder, but they then discover that Saknussem's backpack contains a quantity of gunpowder. They forage through the ruined city, and manage to find a flint, iron and some crude tools, which they use to make a fuse. Lindenbrook lights it, then joins the others as they take refuge in a bowl-shaped altar stone. The exposion dislodges the boulder, but also triggers a gigantic volcanic eruption. The altar stone, which is fortunately able to withstand the heat, is propelled upwards at a tremendous speed towards the surface. The altar stone bursts out of a long-extinct volcano in the Lipari Islands and Lindenbrook, Karla and Hans land in the Mediterranean Sea, and are soon rescued by a group of very confused fishermen. Alec, it turns out, was thrown out of the altar stone early, with the blast destroying what little clothing he was wearing. He lands completely naked in a tree, from which he is rescued by a group of shocked nuns.
Back in Edinburgh
The expedition is greeted enthusiastically on their return to Edinburgh. Lindenbrook thanks everyone, but tells them that all of his notes and samples were destroyed in the blast and he will not embarrass the University by claiming credit for an accomplishment he cannot prove.
Alec is there, in a wheelchair with a cast on his leg, having married Jenny. It turns out that his injury is nothing to do with the expedition: he was so desperate to get Jenny home after the wedding that he tripped on his way out of the church, breaking his leg. Lindenbrook welcomes him into the family. Hans is also there, but is leaving shortly for Iceland. Lindenbrook thanks him warmly, and Hans replies - in laboriously-learned English - that if ever he decides to descend into the center of the Earth again, he will gladly accompany him. They shake hands and bid each other farewell. Madam Goteborg tells everyone that she is going to return to Sweden. Lindenbrook protests, asking her to stay and help him write up the expedition. As they argue about the terms on which she will stay, they finally realise that they care for each other and want to stay together. They kiss, and the crowd cheers.
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