Home > Reviews > JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH – Bernard Herrmann



Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century Fox studio executives sought to cash in on the recent commercial success of two fantasy-adventure films, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days. They envisioned a big budget CinemaScope production, which would once again draw upon a story by famous French novelist Jules Verne, in this case, his 1864 novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. Charles Brackett was given the reins to produce the film, and would collaborate with Walter Reisch to write the screenplay. Henry Levin was tasked with directing, and ultimately secured a fine cast, despite some recasting problems. James Mason would play Professor Sir Oliver Lindenbrook, with Pat Boone joining as his apprentice Alec McEwan, Diane Baker as Jenny Lindenbrook, Arlene Dahl as Carla Goteborg, Peter Ronson as Hans Bjelke and Thayer David as Count Arne Saknussemm.

The story is set in Edinburgh Scotland circa 1880. Geologist Professor Lindenbrook is given a volcanic rock for his birthday, only to discover within it, a plumb bob with a cryptic message from Arne Saknussemm alluding to a path to the center of the earth. Lindenbrook seeks confirmation from Professor Goteborg of Stockholm, only to be betrayed. A race unfolds between the two professors who travel to Iceland to start their descent via the volcano Snæfellsjökull. Yet Lindenbrook is kidnapped, and professor Goteborg is murdered by a third competitor, Count Arne Saknussemm, a descendent of the famed explorer. Lindenberg manages to escape, reluctantly joins forces with Goteborg’s widow Carla, his apprentice Alec and local man Hans. They descend into the bowels of the extinct volcano, following in the marked path of Saknussemm, pursued by his malevolent descendent who it determined to stop them at all costs so he might claim the honor. Along the way they encounter many amazing natural wonders, terrifying beasts, an inland sea and the ruins of the ancient city of Atlantis. A volcanic eruption commences, which they manage to escape in an altar dish, which is pushed to the surface by lava and expelled into the sea. Back in Edinburgh Lindenbrook declines the accolades bestowed on him as he lost all his notes, but all ends well as he proposes to Carla and Alec and Jenny marry. The film was a commercial success, earning $10 million, or almost three times its production cost of $3.4 million. It also received critical acclaim, securing three Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Sound and Best Special Effects.

Fox Studio director of music Alfred Newman assigned Bernard Herrmann to the project, given his success in the fantasy genre. Herrmann viewed this as passion project as he was intrigued by the story. In an interview he related;

“I decided to evoke the mood and feeling of the inner Earth, by only using instruments played in low registers. I utilized an orchestra of woodwinds and brass, with a large percussion section and many harps. But the truly unique feature of this score is the inclusion of five organs, one large cathedral and four electronic. These organs were used in many adroit ways to suggest ascent and descent.” … “I wanted to create an atmosphere with absolutely no human contact – the film had no emotion, only terror.”

Herrmann did not banish strings from the entire score, choosing to utilize them for scenes in Edinburgh, and for support of Boone’s singing. Given that Boone was cast to showcase his singing, Herrmann included a number of songs in his soundscape. Additionally, he brought in a unique musical instrument, the Serpent, a bass wind instrument, which shared musical qualities of both horns and woodwinds. He would employ its primal sounds to instill terror for scenes that featured giant lizards.

Herrmann provides a multiplicity of themes and motifs including the Love Theme, which speaks to the affections of Jenny and Alec, and is carried gently by strings tenero. There is yearning in the notes, but also a subtle tinge of sadness as Alec, unlike Jenny is tempered by his finances. The melody is interpolated from the song “The Faithful Heart” by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. Count Saknussemm’s Theme supports our villain and emotes as a diabolical, bone-chilling four-note construct by dire woodwinds and horns, replete with flutter-tongue horn accents. The Earth Motif resounds darkly on grim horns and woodwinds using a declarative three-note statement, answered by a three-note statement. It is full of foreboding and speaks to the dangers hidden in the Earth’s subterranean depths. The Mystery Motif, offers a simple two-note misterioso by ethereal vibraphone and us used to evoke the hidden mysteries during the journey. The Danger Motif offers a foreboding two-note descent by dark woodwinds or horns, which speaks to the perils of the subterranean world. The Skartaris Motif offers a dramatic fanfare emblematic of its imposing grandeur. Trumpets brilliante resound with a three-note declaration, answered by a two-not descent. The Lizard Motif offers a primal two-note sounding by the Serpent instrument attended by grim bass clarinet and contrabassoon, which perfectly captures its lurking, ravenous nature. The Dimetrodon Motif is kindred to the Lizard Motif as it also offers a primal two-note sounding by the tubas, grim bass clarinet and contrabassoon. The difference is that the Lizard Motif is lurking and sinister, while the Dimetrodon Motif is overtly aggressive and threatening.

“Prelude” offers a score highlight, a perfectly conceived cue where Herrmann captures the film’s emotional core. We open with the display of the Earth from space, which serves as a backdrop for the roll of the opening credits. Herrmann powerfully sets the tone of the film with a repeating declarative three-note motif by organ cupo and cymbal clashes, answered by an equally grim descending three-note motif by horns and woodwinds. Visually we move closer and closer to the earth, with each declaration of the motif descending in register. We descend deeper and deeper into the abyssal depths of the orchestra as a bubbling cauldron of red flamed magma fills the screen, and the credits end. In “The Lovers” Edinburgh – 1880 displays on the screen as we see the city’s skyline at sunrise. A Scottish pipe band marches proudly out of Edinburgh castle (music not found on the album) as we see recently Knighted Sir Oliver Lindenbrook receiving numerous congratulations. As he enters his Geology classroom his students break out and sing with fulsome praise the song “Here’s To Prof of Geology” (also not on the album). Alec presents him with a gift, a lava rock and Lindenbrook in thanks invites him to dinner. After he departs the Mystery Motif sounds as Lindenbrook begins to examine the rock, which is too dense to be lava (not found on the album). The album cue opens with strings tenero gently emoting the Love Theme as Jenny greets Alec and welcomes him for dinner.

“My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose” reveals Alec playing the exquisitely romantic song, lyrics by Robert Burns and music by Jimmy Van Heusen. Boone’s gorgeous baritone vocals finds a beautiful confluence with the song’s lyrics and melody, and we see longing in Jenny’s eyes. We close tenderly on a reprise of the melody on lush violins romantico as guest arrive and end the interlude. In “The Explosion” Oliver has not come home to dinner, so Alec and Jenny visit his laboratory and find him in the middle of an experiment. He relates that he has found a metallic object with symbols encased in Iceland lava, that is itself encased in Mediterranean lava. He places it in a furnace, but his assistant pours in an accelerant too fast, and the furnace explodes. Herrmann scores the aftermath as a dark misterioso using the Mystery Motif with interplay of the three-note declarative motif of the Prelude cue. “The Message” reveals an inscription by Arne Saknussemm, who Oliver asserts postulated a path to the center of the Earth. Herrmann intones a dark rendering of the Mystery Motif, which repeats with shifting orchestral auras and intensities by low register woodwinds and horns as Oliver states that Saknussemm disappeared and was never seen again.

In “Duo” Alec has come calling and commits to Jenny that he will advise Sir Oliver of their love, and intention to marry. Herrmann supports the intimate moment with the Love Theme born by strings passionate, which blossoms as they kiss. Yet the moment is shattered as an enraged Sir Oliver curses news that he has been betrayed by Professor Goteborg. “The Ladder” reveals Jenny climbing the library ladder as the raging Sir Oliver enters his study. He announces his intention to beat Goteborg to Iceland and commands Alec to purchase tickets for the next boat departing. The Love Theme is reprised as Jenny anticipates Alec informing Sir Oliver of their intention to marry. Yet she is stunned at 0:22 as he instead declares his intention to join the expedition! Herrmann supports with a folk gig tune as Jenny slides down the ladder and plops ingloriously on the floor. “The Mountain” reveals Alec at the base of the volcano. As begins his ascent, Trumpets brilliante resound with the Skartaris Motif, which speaks to its imposing grandeur. The film offers a reprise at a lower register that is not on the album. At 0:20 we segue into “My Heart’s in the Highlands” atop Boone’s warm, booming voice as he sings the classic song by Robert Burns to carry his ascent.

In “The Mountain Slopes” the Earth Motif resounds on grim horns and woodwinds (not found on the album) as Alec is overcome by the depth of the crater and sits down to compose himself. As Sir Oliver explains how deep they will descend, Herrmann sow’s mystery of the unknown with ever shifting ethereal statements of the Mystery Theme on vibraphone. Interplay with the grim Danger Motif is not found on the album. Sir Oliver commands Alec to buy up all the supplies he can and his departure is supported with him playing “My Heart’s in the Highlands” on a small accordion (not found on the album). As Lindenbrook observes Skartaris through a telescope, trumpets declare its motif (not found on the album). At 0:37 grim horns sound as we see Professor Goteborg observing Alec’s descent. We close with shifting statements of the Mystery Theme on vibraphone. “The Abduction” reveals Sir Oliver returning to a coach, and requesting a moderate pace back to town. Instead the coachman whips his horse into a fast gallop. Herrmann propels the ride with a vigorous galloping construct supported by trilling woodwinds, wood block slaps, and dire blaring trumpets. At 0:57 the coach stops, supported dire trumpets and woodwinds. At 1:10 a shifting two-note phrase by dire horns and ominous woodwinds sow danger as Sir Oliver exits the carriage, is clubbed unconscious and tossed into a feather repository. He discovers Alec and they manage to escape thanks to the assistance of local man Hans and his pet duck Gertrude.

Sir Oliver and Alec return to their inn, discover the room Professor Goteborg is staying, and break in with Han’s assistance. They discover a treasure trove of hiking supplies, as well as the corpse of Professor Goteborg, who they discover died from ingesting cyanide. “The Count and the Groom” reveals Count Saknussemm and his servant emerging from the dark depths of night on Mount Snæfellsjökull with torch light. Herrmann introduces his malevolent theme with woodwinds sinistre as we see a diabolical resolve. Carla Goteborg arrives, is advised of husband’s murder and after a bad introduction with Sir Oliver, agrees to gift him all her husband’s equipment on condition she joins the expedition. Sir Oliver is flummoxed but acquiesces under the duress of the deadline tomorrow. “The Mountain Top” reveals the four ascending the slope of Mount Snæfellsjökull. The Skartaris Motif resounds followed by an echo statement. At 0:16 repeating statements of the grim Danger Motif sounds as they reach the crest and behold the massive depths of the caldera. At 1:36 we segue into “Sunrise” a magnificent score highlight, where Herrmann’s music shines gloriously. Alec points to a portal on Mount Skartaris through which ascends the sun. We bear witness to a glorious horn ascent that rise in register, culminating with trumpets brilliante draped with refulgent harp glissandi as the sun enters the portal and unleashes a shimmering ray of light. A chorus of luminous horns dramatico resound, joined by organ, twinkling chimes and glockenspiel as the sun ray illuminates the gateway to the underworld, slowly dissipating in a shimmering flurry of harp glissandi. Sir Oliver marks the location on his map, as does a hidden Count Saknussemm lurking below them. The magnificence of this confluence of music and cinematography is astounding!

“The Rope” reveals Alec, Carla and Hans descending by rope into a massive shaft with a ledge. Herrmann supports each descent with a flurry of descending ethereal harp glissandi, with each lower in register. At 0:42 we segue into “The Torch” as Sir Oliver tosses a torch into the shaft, which disappears in its abyssal depths. Low register harp glissandi support the torches fall and slowly dissipate as it vanishes. At 0:54 we segue into “The Entrance” atop a series of ascending, shimmering harp glissandi as Gertrude discovers a hidden entry to an adjacent tunnel, and the party joins her. At 1:25 we conclude with “March” as the team commences their descent to destiny. A diegetic wordless song of merriment using the melody of the song “Twice As Tall” by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, with each of them singing, which carries their first steps with confident anticipation. In “The Count Arnes” he and his servant are ahead on the trail and Herrmann speaks to this with a sinister rendering of his theme by an ominous contrabassoon. At 0:21 we shift to Edinburgh in “Saint Giles” atop religioso organ as Jenny exits the cathedral and is joined by the Dean. He informs her of the last news about her father and Alec, which indicates that they did indeed descend into the earth. The cue’s organ music volume was reduced significantly so as to not intrude into the dialogue.

“The Sign” reveals the group narrowly escaping a massive rolling boulder set in motion by an earthquake. They jump and land on a ledge, which bears the three lines symbol left by Saknussemm to mark the path. Herrmann speaks to this revelation with dissonant blaring horns. Repeated statements by the Danger Motif shift to and fro among foreboding woodwinds and horns. At 0:31 revelatory horns sound as Sir Oliver matches the etchings in the cave floor to those on the plumb bob. A repeating four-note motif enters on elegiac horns and rolling timpani to honor the great explorer. We segue at 0:59 into “Sleep” where we see the Count and his servant moving aloft as the expedition sleeps. Carla is startled, states she hears footsteps and sounds the alarm, only to be dismissed by Sir Oliver. Herrmann sow’s the anxiety caused by the lurking menace of the Count with repeating intangible statements by woodwinds and horns of a variant of the Count’s Theme and the Danger Motif. In “False Arrows” the Count covers the next set of trail markers to divert them from the correct path. His nefarious actions are supported by a resounding declaration of his malevolent theme, which joins in unholy communion with the Danger Motif. The joining of upper register horns and growling woodwinds sow’s menace as we see the expedition approach the forked juncture. At 0:57 dire horns and a woodwind chorus portend doom as they proceed on the wrong path. At 1:19 we segue into “The Fall” atop portentous low woodwinds as we see Alec walk off a ledge. A shifting staccato line of alarm by woodwinds with grim woodwind counters supports his rescue by Hans. At 1:57 the motif shifts, becoming aggrieved as we see confusion in the ranks. We close pensively on repeating phrases of the Danger Motif as Carla discovers the true etchings and Sir Oliver realizes that Count Saknussemm is now a direct threat to the expedition.

“The Grotto” offers a resplendent score highlight, which awes and creates feelings of astonishment. Hans calls them back to the site of Alec’s fall and with his lamp lite we behold a wondrous grotto alight with crystalline walls of countless colors. Herrmann creates feelings of wonder and exhilaration using a choir of ascending ethereal harp glissandi and bubbling woodwinds, which crest atop a joyous fanfare by horns brilliante, chimes and glockenspiel as we behold the shimmering beauty of the grotto. At 0:41 we segue into “Twice As Tall” which again showcase Boone’s baritone vocals. The song was excised from the film and replaced by a short humming version. We end on a grim diminuendo of uncertainty as Alec become lost retrieving his lantern, which fell down a chute. In “The Flood” Sir Oliver chisels off a crystal as a souvenir, which triggers the crystalline wall to collapse and unleash a torrent of water. They are trapped and slowly begin climbing the grotto walls to escape the ever-rising waters. Herrmann sow’s anxiety using a grim ascending line of woodwinds, which mirror the waters ascent. The music become increasingly dire as the reach the grotto roof where there is no escape. Fortuitously, a stalactite on which Carla is grasping breaks and opens an escape hole in the ceiling. They climb to safety, only to realize they have lost Alec. The music for this scene is not found on the album.

“Lost” reveals Alec separated from the expedition and lost. A grim Danger Motif sounds by dire horns replete with harp glissandi adornment as he tries to find his way. At 0:29 we segue into “The Bridge” as we see Alec cross a rock bridge. The Danger Motif ushers in a portentous four-note motif by ominous woodwinds, which rise and fall. We crest at 1:14 as the bridge collapses and he falls back to safety. A dire descent motif carries the bridge rock fall into a luminous pool below. We see fear in his eyes, amplified by repeated statements of the Danger Motif as he realizes there is no path back. At 2:13 we conclude with “Gas Cave” where Herrmann creates another-worldly misterioso emoting the Mystery Motif by vibraphone as we see Alec struggling in a hot gaseous cave. In “The Vines” Alec trudges on alone and uncertain supported by the oppressive rising and falling four-note motif by forlorn woodwinds. He is suffering in the stifling heat. He takes off his shirt to insulate his hands carrying his metallic gear. “Salt Slides” reveals an exhausted Alec who sets his equipment down in a salt bank as he cuts his pants to make shorts. His backpack is swallowed by a salt pit, and as he reaches to retrieves it, he falls through. Trilling woodwinds, harp glissandi and flutter-tongue horns carry his descent. At 0:18 a second more severe fall occurs with dissonant and opposing woodwind trilling fiercely, replete with harp glissandi as he crashes to the floor below. A horn crash carries his landing, and as he recovers and restarts walking a bleak soundscape by aggrieved horns and forlorn woodwinds carry his progress. At 1:30 we segue darkly atop grim repeating phrases of the Danger Motif with interplay with a forlorn three-note motif of despair as the expedition searches in vain for Alec.

In “The Pool” they reach a rock bridge with a fresh break, which they believe took him to his death below. A grim contrabassoon and bassoon intone a dark narrative as they gaze below into the black depths below. At 0:30 Sir Oliver tosses a rock, which on impact evokes luminescence from the waters of the phosphorous pool. While they grieve for his loss, Herrmann supports with a threnody by a woodwind chorus as Sir Oliver commemorates him by renaming the expedition the Alec McEwan Expedition. In “The Spear” the Mystery and Danger Motifs carry Alec’s progress until he runs into the Count, which is marked at 0:18 by three harsh orchestral strikes. He commands Alec to refresh himself with water and food, but Alec soon discovers the dead body of the Count’s Servant in “Dead Groom”, which is supported at 0:37 by an elegy of horns. At 1:23 we segue into “The Gun” as woodwinds irato and horns bellicoso surge when Alec refuses the Count’s command to carry his supplies and proceeds to leave, only to be shot in the arm. Sir Oliver triangulates the source of the sound and they race to Alec’s aid. He uses a ruse to disarm the Count and then reluctantly decides to continue the expedition with him as prisoner.

“The Canyon” reveals a steady descent, which is supported by a wave like motif of three rising and three falling notes by woodwinds. The motif shifts to harp as the Count discovers a dust-like luminescent material coating the walls. They realize at 1:12 that their lamps are slowly dying as strummed harp dances in the background. We end on a dark sustain as Sir Oliver relates that the expedition dies in the darkness when their lamps die. At 1:36 we segue into “The Cave Glow” when the Count returns, and asks Sir Oliver to turn off his lamp, and when he does, the cavern is illuminated by luminescent algae. Herrmann supports the revelation with a twinkling radiance by a choir of harps. They depart, and as they continue to descend, descending harp glissandi carry their progress. “Mushroom Forest” offers a resplendent score highlight, where once again Herrmann awes us with his capacity to evoke a sense of wonderment. Alec enters a cave and discovers small mushrooms. As he eats one a stirring woodwind ascent in scale unfolds, and achieves a radiant climax. As he eats another the woodwind ascent repeats. He moves on and enters a large cavern where he discovers at 0:30 a forest of massive mushrooms, which Herrmann supports with a shimmering effervescence of ethereal harp glissandi, sparkling chimes, glistening glockenspiel and bubbling woodwinds. He calls out and the rest join him, all marveling at his discovery. At 1:43 we segue into “March” as they all begin a celebratory dance supported by the festive melody of the song “Twice as Tall”. At 2:10 we conclude with “The Lizard” as the camera pans up and we see through a portal a massive lizard eye. Herrmann sow’s terror with the grim sounds of the Serpent instrument, which joins with woodwinds sinistre to perfectly evoke the danger of the massive beast.

In “Underworld Ocean” the Count has ordered Hans to chop down the mushroom trees. Sir Oliver exits the cave to demand answers, only to be awestruck by the discovery of a massive subterranean ocean. As he approaches the Count on the beach horns solenne sound over rumbling timpani, with reprises joined by muted trumpets. As the Count relates the creation of this primordial ocean, and his christening it the “Saknussemm Ocean”, the melody is transferred to woodwinds solenne. At 1:17 we segue harshly atop ferocious guttural horns into “Dimetrodon’s Attack” as a massive, carnivorous Dimetrodon roars. The primal two-note Dinosaur Motif resounds over deep rumbling organ, with the second note fortissimo. As the men slowly back up and take to the water the motif roars with monstrous power. At 2:17 the beast departs and the men race back to the cave. We see the beast raising the alarm and countless others emerging from their dens. The motif dissociates into a primal, guttural, cacophony of terror as the beast swarm. The expedition drags their raft and attempt to flee to the sea but are cut off. Carla falls, entangled by a rope, but is saved by Hans who mortally wounds one of the beasts with two spears. As the beasts ravage their fallen brother, drum strikes join the cacophony in a horrific swell. We close at 4:30 atop a tense ascending motif as the team is able to pull the raft to the ocean and escape.

In “The Snow” we return to Edinburgh where a forlorn Jenny looks out the window at falling snow. Plaintive tremolo violins so full of yearning emote the Love Theme we see in her eyes the sad realization that Alec and Sir Oliver may never return. We segue at 0:41 into “The Faithful Heart” where Alec continues the Love Theme on accordion as we see the expedition sailing on the raft. We segue at 1:06 into Boone singing the song, “The Faithful Heart”, which was excised from the film when the scene was edited and shortened. Shrill horns resound in “Magnetic Storm” as we see all metallic objects yanked off the raft – what Sir Oliver describes as the convergence of the north and south magnetic poles – the center of the Earth! An eerie diminuendo of dissociated sounds follows the initial shock until 0:31 when we segue into “Whirlpool”. Herrmann creates an intensifying swirling vortex, which supports the whirlpool threatening to suck down the raft. At 1:23 a rogue wave propels them out of the whirlpool to safety and we close on a diminuendo of uncertainty. “The Beach” reveals the exhausted team staggering onto the beach and collapsing. A repeating three-note motif descends from trumpets to woodwinds. The repeating statements by shifting woodwinds speak to a sense of fatigue as we see the team fall to sleep.

In “The Duck” Gertrude waddles past the Count, who follows with dark purpose. Herrmann supports texturally, creating a bleak soundscape with repeating five and four-note motifs by forlorn woodwinds. “The Count’s Death” reveals Hans waking up, and raising the alarm as he cries out for Gertrude in vain. Herrmann reprises the prior cues motif, but now there is malevolence in the notes. As Hans follows the tracks the motif intensifies as he first finds feathers, and then a bloody wing. At 1:10 dire trumpets sound as Hand reaches the Count with rage in his eyes. When the count states that he was hungry and needed food, Hans reaches the Count at 1:31 and the motif becomes violent as he begins to strangle him. They pull Hans away, and the motif crescendos as the Count rages in fury. We close on a diminuendo of death as the Count dislodges some rock and tumbles into a pit to his doom. “Lost City” opens darkly as they inspect the rockfall that crushed the Count. At 0:23 a diminuendo slowly dissipates as Hans alerts Sir Oliver to a Lost City. At 0:41 we segue into “Atlantis” as they behold what Sir Oliver describes as the lost city of Atlantis. Herrmann creates a religioso ambiance using organ and vibraphone as they explore its ruins. At 1:46 the Mystery Motif joins as they discover the skeleton or Arne Saknussemm. His right hand points to a shaft, and when they investigate they discover a strong updraft, which suggests a path to the surface. We conclude atop the Mystery Motif as Hans climbs up to confirm a patent pathway of escape.

“Giant Chameleon” reveals a dormant giant chameleon lizard who has been stirred to life by the team walking across its large fleshy tail. Herrmann uses the Serpent instrument, joined in unholy communion with a retinue of bass clarinet and contrabassoon. Once again, Herrmann’s conception results in the music and a beast becoming one. When Hans reports that a massive boulder obstructs the passage, Sir Oliver decides to dislodge it with an explosion using gun powder found in Saknussemm’s backpack. They plant the charge and attach a long cloth fuse. They light the fuse and climb into an altar dish for safety, but as it enters the shaft, the fuse is extinguished. At 1:01 we segue into “The Fight” as Sir Oliver runs to relight the fuse only to be attacked by the chameleon beast. He is snared by its tongue but Alec and Hans rescue him, taking safety in the altar dish. Herrmann supports the scene with the horrific Lizard Motif, joined with harsh guttural woodwinds and horns, which crescendos monstrously as we see the fuse reach the gunpowder, triggering a massive explosion.

In “The Earthquake” we see lava force its way through the stone floor as the explosion has triggered and earthquake, which initiates the start of a volcanic eruption. We see the city collapsing, and the chameleon consumed by lava as the altar dish is slowly carried toward the shaft. Herrmann supports with a cacophony of abyssal woodwinds and primal horns, dire organ, and timpani. At 1:30 we segue into “The Shaft” as we see the Altar dish being powerfully propelled upwards through the volcanic shaft towards the cone. A dramatic kinetic ascent motif propels them ever upwards as we see the welcoming light at the end of the shaft. We climax powerfully on resounding horns dramatico as they are expelled from the volcano and we see the altar disk sink to the sea floor. The film concludes when the expedition returns to Edinburgh, and received with great accolades. Alec has married Jenny, and Sir Oliver proposes to Carla, bringing the story to a happy ending. As Sir Oliver and Carla kiss, the students reprise the celebratory song “Here’s To Prof of Geology” (not on the album). We close with “Finale” with the powerful opening fanfare, replete with organ and cymbal crashes as script displays 20th Century Fox Studio thanks to the National Park Service, and U.S. Department of the interior for allowing filming in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

I would like to commend Robert Townson and the late Nick Redman for this outstanding reissue of Bernard’s Herrmann’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. The digital mastering by Dan Hersch and the remix by Brian Resner are superb and provide an excellent listening experience. Herrmann stated that he wanted to create an atmosphere with absolutely no human contact, one with no emotion, only terror. Well, he succeeded on all counts, fully evoking the danger, inhospitable and mystery of the Earth’s subterranean realm. Yet Herrmann understood that there was also natural wonders within this realm and his capacity to evoke their refulgent beauty was peerless. No one has ever been able to create a sense of awestruck wonderment, like Herrmann, dazzling us with choirs of shimmering ethereal harp glissandi, twinkling chimes, glistening glockenspiel and bubbling woodwinds. In these scenes of breath-taking natural beauty, the confluence of music and cinematography was sublime. Lastly, his mastery in using music to animate beasts, both natural and mythological was again on display. We bear witness to music so masterfully conceived as to be embedded in their DNA, again creating a synergy where the beast and music become one. In the 1950s and 1960s, Herrmann was peerless in composing for the fantasy genre, elevating film after film with creative, innovative and audacious scores. His use of non-traditional instrument sonorities served to bring unusual auras to films, which make them standout to this day. This film offers fun, adventure, mystery and danger, which is fully realized thanks to Herrmann’s magnificently crafted and executed score. I consider this one of the finest fantasy film scores of the Golden Age, and another testament to Herrmann’s genius. I highly recommend you purchase this album for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a magnificent 15 minute suite: https://youtu.be/t74TokI8qy4

Buy the Journey to the Center of the Earth soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Prelude (1:50)
  • The Lovers (0:53)
  • My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose (written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Robert Burns, performed by Pat Boone) (2:19)
  • The Explosion (0:47)
  • The Message (0:47)
  • Duo (0:42)
  • The Ladder (0:33)
  • The Mountain/My Heart’s In The Highlands (traditional, performed by Pat Boone) (2:10)
  • The Mountain Slopes (1:16)
  • The Abduction (1:36)
  • The Count and The Groom (0:25)
  • The Mountain Top/Sunrise (1:41)
  • The Rope/The Torch/The Entrance/March (‘March’ written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn) (2:08)
  • The Count Arnes/Saint Giles (1:36)
  • The Sign/Sleep (1:36)
  • False Arrows/The Fall (2:53)
  • The Grotto/Twice As Tall (written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, performed by Pat Boone) (3:15)
  • Lost/The Bridge/Gas Cave (2:46)
  • The Vines (1:58)
  • Salt Slides (2:18)
  • The Pool (1:10)
  • The Spear/Dead Groom/The Gun (1:49)
  • The Canyon/The Cave Glow (2:27)
  • Mushroom Forest/March/The Lizard (‘March’ written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn) (2:42)
  • Underworld Ocean/Dimetrodon’s Attack (5:23)
  • The Snow/The Faithful Heart (written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, performed by Pat Boone) (4:32)
  • Magnetic Storm/Whirlpool (1:37)
  • The Beach (1:19)
  • The Duck (1:41)
  • The Count’s Death (2:01)
  • Lost City/Atlantis (3:49)
  • Giant Chameleon/The Fight (1:48)
  • The Earthquake/The Shaft (2:16)
  • Finale (0:30)
  • The Abduction (Alternate) (1:50) BONUS
  • Twice As Tall (Short Version) (written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, performed by Pat Boone) (2:56) BONUS

Running Time: 71 minutes 19 seconds

Varese Sarabande 302-063-502-2 (1959/2017)

Music composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann. Orchestrations by Bernard Herrmann. Score produced by Bernard Herrmann. Album produced by Nick Redman and Robert Townson.

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