Tuesday, August 14, 2007

JOURNEYing anew

By Rick Mitchell

Many of you visiting this website are of an age for which JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959) is more than a guilty pleasure; I know of one party who's seen it at least 62 times, so you'll will be happy to learn that the three day old print shown at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Aug. 10 was gorgeous, a perfect recreation of the high quality of work De Luxe labs could do for its then parent company in times past. And it was in stereo, the Dolby SR track perfectly reflecting Bernard Herrmann's exploitation of the dynamic range possibilities of magnetic recording in his score. As far as the discreteness of the dialog and effects, I've only heard the film in stereo once, the magnetic British print from the Eighties with the British dub, and that was about ten years ago, so I'm not certain the degree to which this version reflects the original dub. Though Dolby SR is better than straight "Dolby Stereo", the nature of the process results in a narrower dynamic range than possible with magnetic or digital, and is not quite capable of the dialog and effects channel steering that was standard with magnetic stereo films, especially in the Fifties. In the new JOURNEY print, off centered dialog is subtly in the proper channel, though off camera dialog is centered, rather than from the off-screen source side. Effects seemed to be all centered or in all front channels. I got no sense of surrounds, but their use was always a source of controversy, even in the Fifties. However, as the stereo dubs for IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and LORD JIM as heard at the Egyptian reflect, three channel stereo without surrounds can be very effective when properly done. Unfortunately, I haven't heard any original 4 track mags from the late Fifties recently, so I have no frame of reference as to how this track reflects the original dub. (I've not found video versions or earlier matrixing compatible redubs to be accurate reflections of original stereo dubs and refuse to accept them as definitive references.)

The consistent quality of the print suggests to me that it was from an internegative made off separations, which means there's a chance the film can be made available for repertory circulation, so it's possible that those of you living outside LA may be able to see it properly if there's a big wide screen near you.

Pat Boone did a Q and A after the screening. He stated he hadn't wanted to do a science-fiction film and agreed only after they agreed to give him a piece of it, hence the credit for "Cooga Mooga Productions", which has turned out to be quite lucrative. He had fond memories of making it, in spite of a few terrifying moments, including at least one life threatening one.


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