Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 26th, 2011
Theatrical Release Dates: Spain, 1975 (Where Time Began), USA, 1973 (Encounter with the Unknown)
Directors: Juan Piquer Simon (Where Time Began), Harry Thomason (Encounter with the Unknown)
Cast: Kenneth More, Jack Taylor, Ivonne Sentis, Pep Munne, Ana Arco, Frank Brana (Where Time Began), Rod Serling, Robert Ginnaven, Gary Brockette, James N. Harrell, Annabelle Weenick, Bill Thurman, Charlie Dell, Gene Ross, Beverly Dixon, Rosie Holotik (Encounter with the Unknown)
DVD released: March 8th, 2011
Approximate running times: 91 minutes (Where Time Began), 92 minutes (Encounter with the Unknown)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Both Films)
Rating: G (When Time Began), PG (Encounter with the Unknown)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English (Both Films)
DVD Release: Code Red / Saturn Productions
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $16.98
Encounter with the Unknown: The plot for this film is three separate tales of the supernatural. That are loosely connected because those who are featured in the three separate stories. Are all now allegedly no buried in the same cemetery. The first tale centers around a trio of high school boys. Who’s prank leads to a classmate being murdered. Thus setting in motion their own demises. The dead boy’s mother invokes her black magic powers and puts a curse on the three boys. ‘One by land and two by air’. With each boy dying seven days after each other. The second story revolves around a young boy, who’s dog fall into a mysterious hole in the ground. The boy’s father with the help of some of the other townsfolk. He ventures down into the unknown abyss. Only to lose his mind in the process. The third story centers around a young woman, who one evening appears out of nowhere on a bridge. She gets a passerby to give her ride home. Only once they arrive things are not what they seem. And the young woman vanished once again.
Content wise these three stories could be best summed up as the type of yarn one would expect from anthology T.V. series like ‘The Twilight Zone’ or ‘Night Gallery’. And in an ironic twist this film just happens to be narrated by Rod Serling, who also happened to create those two aforementioned series. Unfortunately this is also were the comparison ends. Since the quality of the three tales which make up this film. Are at best mediocre clones of the types of stories from those two aforementioned series. The opening story starts off strongly enough. Only too gets lost in its own predictability. With the mothers curse speech being regurgitated one too many times. The second story is easily the weakest. And while there have been many other films that have more effectively used. Just as little to conjure up fright. This stories uses the viewers imagination so much that it ultimately becomes a crutch. The third tale is the most eerie and enduring of the three. And even though like the previous two tales. This one also claims to have been based on actually events. It is more likely that this tale is based on the urban legend ‘Vanishing Hitchhiker legend’.
Where Time Began (Jules Verne’s The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth): While visiting a book store Professor Lindenbrock buys some beat up books from a vagrant. One of the books plot is about journeying to the center of the earth. While reading the book one day Professor Lindenbrock discovers a decoded message which explains when and how it is possible to travel to the center of the Earth. Professor Lindenbrock with his niece Glauben and her fiancé Axel travel to Iceland to begin their journey. Shortly after their arrival they find themselves a guide named Hans who helps navigate the treacherous terrain that lies ahead of them.
Spanish director Juan Piquer Simón is best known for his ultraviolet slasher film Pieces which also happens to feature a performance by Jack Taylor. Who also has a role in The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth. He has also directed some other cult favorites like the killer slugs’ movie Slugs and E.T. clone The Pod People. Juan Piquer Simón is on his best day a competent director on his best day whose films lack any distinctive style. His direction for The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth is some of his best work of his career as he keeps things simple and lets the story to all the talking.
The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth is based loosely on Jules Verne’s 1864 novel ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’. The screenplay retains the meat of Verne’s story which is a good thing since the original novel is perfect and needs no changes. The film has a pulp/serial type feel to it that harkens back to the classic Sci-Fi and action adventure serials of the 1940’s. The cast all give good performances with the stand out one being that of Jack Taylor as Olsen. His performance as Olson is one of his best of his career as he has a knack at playing mysterious brooding characters. The film also features an array of giants including an ape, mushrooms, lizards and turtles. The effects and creatures are reminiscent of Ray Harryhausen’s work on films like Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titan’s.
The film also features a love story between Glauben and Axel that plays out throughout this magical adventure. The plot gets going quickly with the majority of the film spent beneath the surface of the Earth. It is hard to believe that The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth was directed by the person who directed the notoriously violent film Pieces. And yet Juan Piquer Simón’s adaptation of Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ is an often unfairly maligned film that manages to keep things interesting despite its flaws. Overall The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth is action/adventure that can be enjoyed by viewers of all age groups.
This is yet another installment in Code Red’s ever expanding ‘Septic Cinema’ line. Both films are presented in an anamorphic widescreen. Also this release is a dual layer release (7.47 GB). The transfer for Encounter with the Unknown looks like it was taken from a worn print. And while there is print damage that varies in degree throughout. Outside of a few minor instances where things flare up. For the majority of the film the print damage is minimal. Colors tend to fluctuate and at times they look muted. Black levels are average at best and details generally look crisp. There are no problems with compression and edge enhancement is kept in check. Where Time Began had been previously released on DVD by Code Red in 2006 under the title Jules Verne’s The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth. And this transfer looks like an exact port of the transfer used for that release.
Each film comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. Dialog comes through clearly. Background noise and distortion are minimal. Range wise both are rather limited.
Extras for this release are limited to trailers for Wacky Taxi, Deliver Us From Evil, Cheering Section, Jules Verne’s The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Dragon vs. Needles of Death and Challenge the Dragon. Overall a affordable double feature from Code Red, who pairs a new title with one of its previous releases.