Adventure In the Centre of the Earth/Aventura al centro de la tierra (1965)

Adventure In the Centre of the Earth:Aventura al centro de la tierra (1965)‘When the substance enters a body it makes a big sleep.’

A top scientist and a crack group of experts investigate an underground cave system after a young couple from a tourist party are attacked by a strange creature. The deeper they penetrate the underground caverns, the more evidence they find that evolution there has taken a different path…

Black and white underground monster shenanigans from Mexican director Alfredo B Crevenna as a team of scientists tangle with some rather odd examples of subterranean evolution. Human conflicts within the group also conspire to cause disaster in an adventure that never strays too far from a juvenile feel but features some surprisingly gory moments.

What could be better than a 90-second text crawl providing some generalised (and vague) information about Darwinian theory? A conducted tour of a system of vast underground caverns, of course. Even better is sneaking off from the tourist party for a bit of hanky panky. Unfortunately, the romantic plans of the young lovers in question come unglued when they fall through a hole in the rock floor. Then the man has his throat ripped out by the claws of a mysterious, unseen creature. The woman is rescued afterwards but is too traumatised to tell her story. The only evidence left behind at the scene is a strange animal footprint and, rather than have the matter investigated by the police, it falls to portly zoologist Professor Diaz (Jose Elias Moreno) to take on the job.

Adventure In the Centre of the Earth:Aventura al centro de la tierra (1965)

‘I that’s your hand, I’ll knock your block off!’

Moreno assembles the usual ragtag crew to take on the mission. There’s his pretty assistant Hilda (Kitty de Hoyos), lead geologist Laura Ponce (Columba Dominguez), her writer buddy Dr Rios (Javier Solis), handsome young doctor Pena (Carlos Cortes), the famous hunter and spelunker Jaime Rocha (David Reynoso) and some assorted expendable red shirts. These characters are drawn in typically broad strokes with little shading or development. Of course, it’s not that kind of a movie but a few personality traits as well the all-too-familiar roles of ‘boffin’, ‘young hero’, ‘pretty heroine’ and ‘greedy villain’ etc. might have helped us care a little more about their respective fates.

To prepare his team for what they might face, Morena presents a film show which includes ‘a number of known species from the zoological ladder, but strange in some way.’ This turns out to be our old friends the fighting lizards from ‘One Million BC’ (1940) ending their long career in the movies as stock footage heroes by taking a trip to the backwaters of low-budget Mexican cinema. We also get some cave men from that movie plus a shot of the arthritic Tyrannosaurs from ‘Unknown Island’ (1948). In the English subtitles, Morena never provides any explanation for the origin of these clips, leaving the audience unclear as to whether this is supposed to be some kind of (inaccurate) recreation of prehistoric life, or whether the film camera was invented a few million years ago.

Adventure In the Centre of the Earth:Aventura al centro de la tierra (1965)

‘I’m looking for this guy named Sinbad…?’

Initial penetration into the cave system seems uneventful until de Hoyos wanders off on her own to take some photographs and almost falls into a pit of snakes. What they are doing there isn’t explained, but it’s ok because our heroes douse them with gasoline and burn them alive. They were obviously a clear and present danger being at the bottom of a pit one hundred feet deep. After all, why respect all forms of animal life when you can just kill them instead? Meanwhile, Dominguez has recognised that the caves are a potential diamond mine of limitless potential and shares her knowledge with Solis. He wants to report it to the authorities, but she persuades him to keep it quiet with the promise of fringe benefits to follow. Unfortunately, their conversation is overheard by the slimy Reynoso, which puts the couple on borrowed time.

The Professor starts to believe that evolution has taken a different path in the caves, but it’s kind of hard to understand how these local conditions would have produced a cyclops! Yes, it’s a one-eyed human/monster hybrid that attacks the group, and kills one of the red shirts when it’s chased deeper into the caverns. The group then spend a lot of the film’s running time tracking it down, although it’s unclear whether they are doing it for scientific purposes or just to kill it in revenge. Given this bunch, my money’s on the latter. After they fail to gas it, they decide to blow it up with some dynamite! The Professor sets the charges, and everyone seems perfectly happy with the idea, despite the obvious risk of everyone being buried alive in a massive cave-in. I guess it just goes to show that if you need to blow something up safely, then get a Professor of Zoology to do it.

Adventure In the Centre of the Earth:Aventura al centro de la tierra (1965)

It never rains but it pours.

Morena seems very determined to reach ‘the centre of the Earth’ to solve these mysteries but, as the group hasn’t thought to bring along any specialist breathing apparatus, his mission seemed destined for failure from the start. However, with about 25 minutes of the movie left, they find the ruins of a lost civilisation and are attacked by a humanoid bat creature. So there is that. They’ve already killed the cyclops by this point, of course, because that’s what scientists do. They’ve also gone hand over hand across a river of burning lava because these are one hardcore bunch of academics. Even Morena makes it over the fiery chasm, but, of course, one of the red shirts has to fall in to reinforce the seriousness of the obstacle.

In an entirely predictable development, the bat-man takes a fancy to de Hoyos and takes her on a date. However, the evening’s menu of live rats and half a big snake fail to charm the pretty brunette. She tries to bail, eventually being rescued by the clean-cut Cortes who has a magic gun that still works after a trip through an underground river. Morena has gone for help by this point and returns in five minutes flat with what looks like half the army. He persuades de Hoyos to set herself up as bait to trap the bat-man because of its scientific value to humanity as ‘a missing link.’ A missing link to what exactly I have no idea. But it doesn’t matter too much because when it shows up, everyone just shoots at it anyway.

Adventure In the Centre of the Earth:Aventura al centro de la tierra (1965)

‘You mean I’m in the wrong film?!’

This all has the potential to be a lot of cheesy fun, but, unfortunately, there are long stretches where not much happens. Some rocks do fall on Morena’s head at one point, which I particularly enjoyed as payback for his reckless endangerment by dynamite. The bat creature is particularly fine too, with close-ups, mid and long shots all being completely mismatched. In-flight, it’s a ramshackle miniature, and on the cave floor, it’s a man in a rather shabby looking monster suit. But it’s in the close-ups that the monster really scores. The makeup is quite well done, with staring eyes, tall ears and jagged fangs. Unfortunately, the blurred backgrounds in these shots appear to be part of an indoor set, including a glimpse of what seem to be some metal stairs?! So it’s almost certain that the footage has been cropped in from another (unidentified) film.

Crevenna had a very long film career wielding the megaphone, and this inevitably included some choice cult items. His introduction to the arena was via ‘Invisible Man In Mexico’ (1958), a highly respectable, sober effort that adhered rather slavishly to the standard HG Wells template. Subsequent projects such as ‘The Incredible Face of Dr. B/Rostro Infernal’ (1963), ‘Bring Me the Vampire/Échenme al vampiro’ (1963) and ‘Neutron Battles the Karate Assassins/Los asesinos del karate’ (1965) may have exhibited fewer resources and technical expertise, but a greater level of enjoyment. This was all just grounding, however, for better-known cult items such as ‘Gigantes planetarios/Planetary Giants'(1966), its’ sequel ‘Planet of Female Invaders/El planeta de las mujeres invasoras’ (1966) and, perhaps his best-known picture ‘Santo vs The Martian Invasion’ (1967). Many further film projects involving the man in the silver mask followed, including his final big-screen outings in the early 1980s. Crevenna continued working almost right up to his death in 1996, racking up an impressive 152 feature credits.

There are some moments of genuine enjoyment to be had here, even if they do come from the project’s obvious shortcomings. Unfortunately, there are a lot of dead spots too, particularly early on, which tend to make it a bit of a plod at times but it’s worth seeking out if for fans of Mexican cult cinema.