Coffee in hand, I'm currently watching At the Earth's Core on the glorious Horror Channel.
It's one of that strange brace of movies from the Seventies starring forgotten leading man Doug McClure. Other Doug's include The Land That Time Forgot and the People That Time Forgot. An odd lead, the boyish McClure always reminded me of a poker-faced cowboy for some reason. He never seemed right for these prehistoric romps.
The Forgot films fit into that old sub-genre which place Victorians in other worlds, times and even technologies - the beginnings of steam-punk I suppose. They often star a seasoned British actor as an august Professor desperately trying to decipher an arcane lingo, locate a lost portal or save an endangered tribe, which always fascinate them in a Vulcan sort of way.
The professors are always accompanied by a youthful but 'common' lad and often a beautiful girl in the form of a rich brat or a tribal outcast.
Personally I've always struggled with 'Victorian' Sci-Fi flicks like these. Bespectacled, waist-coated old Gentlemen of letters talking in posh British accents are inherently boring, no matter how eccentric they might be. Even the street-wise lead, whether it be Doug McClure or Kirk Douglas, struggle to make them interesting.
Films in this monocled sub-genre include the Land that Time Forgot trilogy [or are there four of them?], the First Men in the Moon and 20,000 Leagues under The Sea. There are plenty more, the lively stuff of many a youthful Easter Monday or Boxing Day morning lead in pajamas on the settee.
There is, however, one film which bucks the trend and one which I love: Journey to the Centre of the Earth; which starred James Mason as the Professor. Somehow it just works for me. I think its the absence of a lost tribe; as such it focuses solely on the rocks and monsters of the place, which fascinate me........yes, in a Vulcan sort of way!
Currently, in At The Earth's Core, McClure is once again walking through his millionth tunnel to escape the telepathic devil birds of the M'hai and Peter Cushing's Professor has proclaimed the immortal line "You cannot mesmerise me, I'm British!", which could be a rallying cry for the whole sub-genre!
Caroline Munro has entered the fray to lend it some scream queen kudos and with Cushing in his waistcoat, I can't help thinking that a Dalek will roll on at any minute!
The closing scene of a Victorian metal mole machine [nicked straight from Thunderbirds] surfacing on the Pinewood studio lawns of a 19th Century White House [or is it Buckingham Palace?] is pure steampunk! Alas, it hasn't changed my mind, Victorian Sci-Fi movies are essentially boring.
As always taste in films is totally subjective. This is just my personal opinion and I welcome counter-arguments, exceptions, views and comments from Doug McClure fans, Victorians and readers alike.