Before Luke Skywalker, there was Doug McClure... His John Dark-Kevin Connor fantasy adventures were a mainstay of Summer holiday movies in the days before Star Wars: they weren't masterpieces, they didn't boast state-of-the-art special effects, but they were exactly what an audience of kids wanted from a film back in the mid 70s.
At the Earth's Core is by far the most enjoyable of the bunch, catching just the right tone for the appropriately named Burroughs' pulp adventure about Victorian inventor Peter Cushing and the inevitable Doug McClure ending up in the underground world of Pelucidar and battling its evil telepathic fighting dinosaurs. This time the puppets are gone in favor of men in monster suits, which is a lot more fun if you're willing to suspend your disbelief, and if you're not there's always Caroline Munro's cleavage to look at. Aside from what may well be Peter Cushing's worst performance, an irritating but dottier rehash of his movie Dr Who ("You can't mesmerize me, I'm British!"), it's easily the best of the John Dark-Kevin Connor-Doug McClure fantasy adventures, surprisingly well directed and boasting an atmospheric use of color. Never especially good at exterior scenes, Alan Hume's photography gains immensely from the control a studio set gives him (the film was shot entirely on soundstages) to paint a luridly vivid world worthy of a pulp novel cover. Not high art but definitely great Saturday matinee fun.
The original UK DVD from Cnema Club boasts a decent but not outstanding widescreen print with UK theatrical trailer and stills gallery: the subsequent UK release by StudioCanal appears to use the same master but has no extras. The US DVD The only extra is the US trailer - which sells it as a horror film! - but the film has a very good widescreen transfer, although there is briefly a slight tramline in one scene at the end. The US DVD can also be found double-billed with War-Gods of the Deep/City Beneath the Sea - but please bear in mind that while Amazon have lumped the reviews or variuous editions together, this supporting feature is only included on the NTSC double-bill:
War-Gods of the Deep aka The City Under the Sea scared the heck out of me me as a very small kid, but then I did live in a coastal town that was rumored to have it's own sunken town... Vincent Price and his immortal band of smugglers living in a somewhat mislocated Babylonian city under the Cornish stretch of the English Channel didn't have the same effect this time, but Jacques Tourneur's vaguely Poe-inspired subterranean/underwater adventure is still a fun romp thanks to superb production design which makes the film look ten times more expensive than it probably was and great Scope photography with a good use of color from Zulu's Stephen Dade. It's not a masterpiece, but it's a brisk and enjoyable period adventure with more than a passing nod to both Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Plus it has David Tomlinson sharing a diving suit with a chicken while pursued by gill men, and not many films can say that.
Aside from a couple of moments of negative damage the 2.35:1 widescreen transfer on MGM/UA's NTSC DVD is surprisingly good. The only extra is the US theatrical trailer.