Review Date: 2/7/15
Director: Kevin Connor
Writer: Edgar Rice Burroughs
Cast: Doug McClure, Peter Cushing, Caroline Munro
"You can't mesmerize me! I'm British!"
The trailer for this adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel describes it as "a host of Satan, nourished by the flesh of sacrificial maidens." Sadly, it doesn't quite live up to that hype, and is little more than a low budget, kid friendly adventure film. Quite often, the B movie experience is defined by the female lead, which in this case is the lovely Caroline Munro. Unfortunately, while I'm a big fan of Ms. Munro, she has so little screen time that she has no chance of redeeming this utter waste of celluloid.
The film begins with an eccentric British scientist (Peter Cushing) and a brash American businessman (Doug McClure) attempting to travel underground with a fantastical boring machine they've built called "The Iron Mole." Its maiden voyage is a complete disaster, and the two men find themselves in a primordial world under the Earth's surface, populated by horned monsters, man-eating plants, fire-breathing toads, savage cavemen, and human slaves (who naturally speak perfect English). The two strangers are immediately captured and enslaved by the evil Mahars (gigantic lizard-like crows with telepathic powers), but they eventually escape and organize a rebellion to destroy their sinister captors. Naturally, a gorgeous and scantily clad princess (Caroline Munro) is thrown into the mix as a love interest, which sparks McClure's fighting spirit.
Everything about the film is a complete embarrassment, and Peter Cushing's overly irritating character is played solely for laughs. McClure does an adequate job as the hero, but his character is an unlikable idiot who prefers brawn over brains. I suppose that's the film's biggest flaw: apart from Ms. Munro, there are no likable characters to sympathize with, and the awkward attempts at humor leave a bad taste. The monsters look cheap, even by 1970s standards, and the camera spends way too much time lingering on close-ups of their features. The film uses an overabundance of rear projection, which sets low expectations right at the beginning of the story. The pacing is abysmally slow, and it's definitely a chore to sit through the entire thing. Perhaps if the material were taken more seriously, I could more easily forgive the poor visual effects, but the whole light-hearted goofiness of the film really turned me off.