Film Review – AT THE EARTH’S CORE (1976)

Peter Cushing, Doug McClure, and Caroline Munro in At the Earth's Core (1976)AT THE EARTH’S CORE (UK/USA, 1976) ***
      Distributor: British Lion Film Corporation (UK) / American International Pictures (A.I.P.) (USA); Production Company: Amicus Productions; Release Date: July 1976 (USA), 22 August 1976 (UK); Filming Dates: 26 January 1976 – mid April 1976; Running Time: 90m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Kevin Connor; Writer: Milton Subotsky (based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs); Executive Producer: Harry N. Blum; Producer: John Dark, Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky; Director of Photography: Alan Hume; Music Composer: Michael Vickers; Film Editor: John Ireland, Barry Peters; Production Designer: Maurice Carter; Art Director: Bert Davey; Costumes: Rosemary Burrows; Make-up: Robin Grantham, Neville Smallwood; Sound: Jim Atkinson, George Stephenson; Special Effects: Ian Wingrove; Visual Effects: Charles Staffell.
      Cast: Doug McClure (David Innes), Peter Cushing (Dr. Abner Perry), Caroline Munro (Dia), Cy Grant (Ra), Godfrey James (Ghak), Sean Lynch (Hoojah), Keith Barron (Dowsett), Helen Gill (Maisie), Anthony Verner (Gadsby), Robert Gillespie (Photographer), Michael Crane (Jubal), Bobby Parr (Sagoth Chief), Andee Cromarty (Girl Slave).
      Synopsis: A Victorian era scientist and his assistant take a test run in their Iron Mole drilling machine and end up in a strange underground labyrinth ruled by a species of giant telepathic bird and full of prehistoric monsters and cavemen.
      Comment: Scatty, juvenile and low-budget fantasy adventure gets by on its camp approach to the material with Cushing excelling in one of his lightly comic and eccentric scientist roles. McClure makes for an effective and likeable hero and Munro is stunning as one of the scantily clad natives. The monsters betray the lack of funds, but the action is well-edited to disguise some of the limitations this presents the production. The script is tight but lacks any depth or set-up. Vickers provides an eerie electronic score and Connor directs with a great sense of fun which he balances with the eerie atmosphere created by the imaginative production design and Hume’s photography.
      Notes: Last film produced by Amicus, Hammer’s chief rival during the 1960s and ’70s.

Film Review – THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)

Spy Who Loved Me, The (1977; UK; Colour; 125m) ∗∗∗½  d. Lewis Gilbert; w. Christopher Wood, Richard Maibaum; ph. Claude Renoir; m. Marvin Hamlisch.  Cast: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Walter Gotell, Geoffrey Keen, Bernard Lee, George Baker, Michael Billington, Olga Bisera, Desmond Llewelyn, Edward de Souza, Vernon Dobtcheff, Valerie Leon, Lois Maxwell. James Bond investigates the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads with the help of a KGB agent whose lover he killed. Moore finds his feet in his third outing as agent 007. The plot involves a global threat and the action set-pieces are exceptionally well-handled. Kiel makes a memorable heavy as the steel-toothed Jaws. Benefits from exceptional production design and exotic locations. There are still occasional lapses into slapstick and heavy-handed humour, but overall this is perhaps Moore’s strongest outing. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review – THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974)

THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974, Morningside Productions, Inc., UK/Spain/USA, 105 mins, Colour, 1.66:1, Mono, Cert: U, Fantasy Adventure) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: John Phillip Law (Sinbad), Caroline Munro (Margiana), Tom Baker (Koura), Douglas Wilmer (Vizier), Martin Shaw (Rachid), Grégoire Aslan (Hakim), Kurt Christian (Haroun), Takis Emmanuel (Achmed), David Garfield (Abdul), Aldo Sambrell (Omar).
      Producer: Charles H. Schneer, Ray Harryhausen; Director: Gordon Hessler; Writer: Brian Clemens (from a story by Clemens and Harryhausen); Director of Photography: Ted Moore; Music: Miklos Rozsa; Film Editor: Roy Watts; Product ion Designer: John Stoll; Art Director: Fernando Gonzalez; Set Decorator: Julian Mateos; Special Visual Effects: Ray Harryhausen.

golden_voyage_of_sinbadA throwback to the adventures of the late fifties and early sixties that at the time of its release was a welcome departure from the urban thrillers dominating early 1970s cinema. Here, Sinbad (Law) and his crew intercept a homunculus carrying a golden tablet. Koura (a pre-Doctor Who Baker), the homunculus’ creator and practitioner of evil magic, wants the tablet back and pursues Sinbad. Meanwhile Sinbad meets the Vizier (Wilmer) who has another part of the interlocking golden map, and they mount a quest across the seas to solve the riddle of the map, accompanied by a slave girl (Munro) with a mysterious tattoo of an eye on her palm. They encounter strange beasts, tempests, and the dark interference of Koura along the way.

Whilst the effects may seem quaint compared to the modern-day CGI approach, they also give this tale its charm and the creatures carry more personality as a result of Harryhausen’s legendary stop-motion approach to animation. The pace improves as the story progresses with good action scenes centred around battles with mythological creatures pumped along by a strong score from Rozsa. The quest plot is a familiar hook for fans of the genre and whilst the film does not match the heights of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS or even THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. This is still pleasingly entertaining escapism for kids of all ages.

Robert Shaw had pitched for the role of Sinbad but settled for an uncredited role as the Oracle, for which his face was heavily swathed in make-up and his voice electronically altered by a sound engineer. Followed by SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER in 1977.