Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Clearing Through The To-Watch List #4: Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1988)

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Dirs. Rusty Lemorande and Albert Pyun

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth really takes the biscuit for how unfinished a film can actually be when its released. Like an unfinished building being opened up to the public, the complete lack of solid foundations despite the thing still being able to support itself tentatively is startling, and the holes are so obvious its more interesting to ask yourself what was supposed to be in the spaces missing. Rusty Lemorande has actually (presumably?) put up a brief piece of information on this film's IMDB page stating that only eight minutes of this film, at the beginning, are actually his own creation, the rest presumably that of b-film director Albert Pyun. Originally an update of the Jules Verne story, only for something significant issue to take place that, believing Lemorande's thoughts, caused the project to become a Frankenstein stitched-up creation, it's a case that, only seventy or so minutes long without the end credits, the whole piece is an utter mess.

A British nanny ends up travelling all the way to Hawaii for a job, only to end up having to look after a washed up rock star's dog rather than a child like her job suggests. In screwy, illogical circumstances she ends up in a cave, stuck, with two American brothers and said dog. The film is pretty dreadful in the beginning, to the point frankly that even if Rusty Lemorande got to make his film, it may have been a poorer film than what it is now. Completely leaden dialogue and character interaction that comes off as lame, with a broad performance style that is wooden. Abruptly, as the characters sleep, there are clips in dreams that feel like, in hindsight, scenes originally recorded for the original context of the film. If not, how do you explain an amusingly ghastly rescue sequence with a lazer gun, eighties hair, and troll men who are literally giant rubber ornaments you can also wear, who can only waddle around side-by-side and have no other form of movement let alone bendable limbs to do so? It's incredibly generic filmmaking through this beginning, everything that I really cannot enjoy despite there being a lot of people who delight in these sort of eighties and nineties films. I view this without the nostalgia of films like this being on video, because I grew up as an adolescent with DVDs, nor the real interest in this kind of filmmaking because it feels rudimentary than creative or insane like I prefer it to be. It's the churning of gristle into dust. Creation of film for product only.

Things get a little bit more interesting when, so far removed from an attempt at a Jules Verne story already, it completely abandons the notion of being such a thing and turns into something different. It's still set for the rest of the film in the middle of the Earth's core, so the title is still appropriate, but after that questions have to be asked about what "adaptation" actually means against this film's results. The perverse thing is that this is, technically, deep into the material Albert Pyun added, but I actually found it more interesting than what the film may have supposed to have been. Suddenly the centre of the world is Atlantis, (water, water not everywhere though, but let's not ask about that), a totalitarian city populated by punks, new wavers and proto-steam punk fetishes. It's still got a terrible broad sense of humour, especially when it comes to jokes about the dictatorship of the city, Judge Dread this isn't, but finally this gristle of movie has some layers on of some curiosity. Elaborate sets and costumes even if made on the cheap and baring in mind the possible production history of this whole work. Vaguely interesting characters. A legitimately interesting idea where, after encountering an "alien" from the surface world, a blonde female Californian, the Atlantis military squandered its resources to transform willing participants into exact duplicates of her, even in height and vernacular by rack and vocal couching respectively, to spy on the surface without actually thinking duplicates of a single person would immediately send off alarm bells above.

Then suddenly there's a freeze frame. Random moments of a post apocalypse motorised gang attacking ruined cityscape. Then we're back on the surface in front of a television screen, a peaceful truce between Earth's surface and Atlantis having taken place. An entire catalogue of possible events taking place in-between completely skipped. The film just ends. Its befuddling honestly. Right when a film got vaguely interesting, it suddenly ends because there wasn't enough material and/or time to finish it. It vanishes half way through a sketch you paid to see and no one knows what happened in the rest of the story to improvise, because it was already garbled in its storytelling before it legged it. It fosters the realisation you could release anything to cinemas even if its incomplete. It's actually a Cannon Pictures release, but their logo doesn't appear in the beginning. Only a few years later they would close down, making this film's creation an ill omen in many ways. Either way, even if it was finished properly, it would have either been vaguely interesting but average, or just awful. Frankly as the mess it is its probably memorable for a brief months, but would have disappeared in my mind immediately if it was properly completed. 

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