Tuesday, October 14, 2014

At Earth's Core!

Over the weekend, I was reintroduced to a science fiction film from my juvenescent days.

It's called At Earth's Core. It was loosely based on a science fiction book by Edgar Rice Burroughs and starred the ominous Peter Cushing, the hottie Caroline Munro, and leading-man-guy Doug McClure (no, not Troy). As you might have deduced from the fact that it's an ERB book, the whole thing takes place in the late 19th Century Britain, giving the film a sort of steampunk appeal.

A British scientist (Cushing) backed by an American financier (McClure) has brought about a marvelous technological advancement. Called the Iron Mole, it's an enormous drilling machine that was intended to revolutionize the mining industry. They decide to test it out and drill a gigantic hole in the Welsh countryside. What they end up doing is tunneling into a strange, underground world that is populated by dinosaurs and cavemen. Please note that I abhor using the word "cavemen" but in Hollywood terms, that's exactly what they were.

Living in prehistoric times would be anything but salubrious. For these underground dwellers, however, things are made far more complicated by beings called the Mahars. These are giant flying reptiles with telepathic abilities. Many of the primitive humans are being kept as slaves and thralls by the Mahars via mind control. Unfortunately, the crew of the Iron Mole are taken prisoner by the Mahars and brought to the capitol city.

There, Doug McClure's character meets the beautiful Princess Dia (Munro) and falls in love. But oh despair! Dia has been selected by the Mahars to be a human sacrifice! Can the visitors from the topside world gather the enslaved humans and inspire them to revolt?

As a kid, I was pretty much a sucker for any movie that included dinosaurs. At Earth's Core was no exception. Making it even more appealing was the fact that it featured a race of intelligent, telepathic pterodactyls, reminding me of Sauron from Marvel Comics. Viewing the movie through my contemporary eyes, I can't help but think about the Hollow Earth theory.

This is a paranormal speculation that asserts that the Earth is something of a hollow sphere wherein an entire underground civilization flourishes (and you thought it was just lava beneath the ground.) The so-called Shaver Mysteries are an account of one man's paranormal experiences after exploring caves and encountering denizens of this civilization. No, no Mahars but he allegedly came across beings called "Deros." It is also speculated that underground dwellers may account for the origins of "little people" folklore such as gnomes and leprechauns.

While few today would place any scientific credence in such a theory, it was once widely entertained and by brilliant minds no less. The notion of a hollow Earth anyway, if not the "hidden civilization" aspect.  Astronomer Edmond Halley, the discoverer of the famed Halley's Comet, once postulated that unpredictable fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic field must be due to the fact that our world has a hollow center. He also thought that life "undoubtedly" flourished in the deep down there.

If you're looking for an entertaining book on the subject, might I recommend The Hollow Earth by Rudy Rucker? Once you've read the original Shaver Mysteries that is. It's a book that the cheeky Rudy the Elder claims is based off of an original Edgar Allen Poe manuscript found tucked away since antiquity. It tells a story similar to that of Poe's novella, The Narrative of Gordon Arthur Pym (which you should also read) where Poe accompanies an explorer named Jeremiah Reynolds to Antarctica. There beneath the ice, both men stumble upon an underground civilization full of life and humans. It's a "mirror Earth" where a "mirror Poe" writes all the surface world's Poe stories...and cashes in on them. Writerly jealously ensues. Awesome stuff.

Then again, since I know reading is becoming quite the arcane activity in America, you might just watch At Earth's Core. Quite entertaining but nowhere near as satisfying as any of the books I've just mentioned.

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