August 10, 2019


(ABC, September 9-December 30, 1967)

Filmation Associates, 20th Century Fox Television

Ted Knight – Professor Oliver Lindenbrook, Count Saccunson, various
Pat Harrington Jr. – Alec McEwin, Torg, Lars, Gertrude, various
Jane Webb – Cindy Lindenbrook

            Journey to the Center of the Earth (Voyage au centre de la Terre in the original French title) is an 1864 science-fiction novel written by Jules Verne. It was greatly influenced by geologists abandoning the biblical account of Earth’s development and new published findings on the origins of mankind. The novel focused on German scientist Professor Otto Lindenbrock who purchased an original runic manuscript of an Icelandic saga and discovered a coded message on it from 16th-century alchemist Arne Saknussemm. After deciphering the message that revealed a way to the center of the Earth, Lindenbrock, his nephew Axel, and their guide Hans Bjelke, entered a series of tunnels that led them to an entire subterranean world populated with long-thought extinct prehistoric creatures.

The book cover circa 1874.

            Since its initial publication, Journey has been translated into various languages and published around the world. It had influenced other authors to explore similar themes, as well as led to adaptations of the novel into various media. One of those adaptations was the 1959 film released by 20th Century Fox. Written by Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch and directed by Brackett, the film took some liberties with Verne’s original story. Lindenbrock became Sir Oliver Lindenbrook (James Mason, replacing Clifton Webb), a Scottish scientist as 19th-century Scots were regarded as the best field geologists. Similarly, Axel became Alec McEwan (Pat Boone) and was more adventurous than his cowardly portrayal in the text. Feeling the story needed an antagonist, Brackett created Count Saknussemm (Thayer David, replacing Alexander Scourby); the evil brother of Arne who wanted to conquer and rule the inner world. Other new characters included female explorer Carla Goteborg (Arlene Dahl) and Hans Bejelke’s (Peter Ronson) pet duck Gertrude serving as comic relief.

            The only reason Fox greenlit the film was because two other Verne-based films—20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days—became box office successes. Journey proved no different when it opened in theaters on December 16, 1959. It took in more than double its production budget and was nominated for several awards.

Oliver, Gertrude, Lars, Cindy and Alec in their animated forms.

            Nearly a decade later, Filmation and Fox came together about turning the film into an animated series. It would be their second following The New Adventures of Superman. Filmation made a few alterations of their own to the material. While still featuring Oliver (Ted Knight), Alec and Gertrude (both Pat Harrington Jr.), Carla would be replaced by Oliver’s niece, Cindy (named Jenny in the film, voiced by Jane Webb), and Hans would be renamed Lars (Harrington). The evil Count Saccunson (Knight) would not only get the spelling of his last name changed, but his henchman would finally gain the name Torg (Harrington).

The Count and Torg.

            Journey to the Center of the Earth debuted on ABC on September 9, 1967. The show’s intro, narrated in character by Knight, introduced the audience to the fact that the characters were all trapped underground after the Count and Torg destroyed the entrance and were in a race to find the center of the Earth and the way back out. Along the way, they all encountered various types of human offshoots and prehistoric creatures on top of threats posed by the Count and Torg. The series was written by Bill Keenan, Ralph Goodman, Ken Sobol, Don Christensen, Barry Gaines, Lawrence L. Goldman, Fred Halliday, Ken Rotcop and Marshall Williams with music by Gordon Zahler.

Druids vs. Wolfmen.

            The series only ran for a single season of 17 episodes. It would be rerun on the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) as part of their Cartoon Quest (later named The Animation Station) programming block from 1993-96. A 10-page story based on the show appeared in the promotional comic America’s Best TV Comics, which was packaged by Marvel Comics and featured stories and ads related to ABC’s upcoming television season. It was drawn by Paul Reinman with letters by Jean Izzo. Whitman Publishing published a tie-in book as part of their Big Little Book series, as well as jigsaw puzzles and coloring books.

“Arena of Fear” (9/9/67) – A giant captures Oliver and puts him into an arena surrounded by cages full of savage creatures for his amusement.

“Caveman Captives” (9/16/67) – While attempting to escape a pit trap, Alec and Oliver are captured by a group of cavemen leaving Lars and Cindy stranded.

“The Creative World” (9/23/67) – After being separated, Lars and Cindy befriend descendants of the ancient druids and help train them to battle sinister wolfmen.

“Creatures of the Swamp” (9/30/67) – The explorers find themselves at the mercy of a tribe that lives in a dangerous swamp.

“The Doomed Island” (10/7/67) – Spider creatures cause the explorers to crash onto an unstable island that can sink at any moment.

“The Frozen Furies” (10/14/67) – The explorers come upon the furies drilling into a glacier that threatens the people living on the surface.

“The Labyrinth Builders” (10/21/67) – Bee people capture the explorers and take them into their hive.

“Land of the Dead” (10/28/67) – A river leads the explorers to a lost civilization that takes the Count, Torg and Alec captive.

“The Living City” (11/4/67) – Having to find an alternate path leads the explorers to a city full of strange creatures.

“The Living Totems” (11/11/67) – Cindy and Alec are charged with retrieving a brilliant diamond from some snow beasts to return it to a group of living totem poles.

“Moths of Doom” (11/18/67) – While Alec and Cindy deal with giant moths, Oliver, the Count, Torg and Lars end up prisoners of beings that call themselves The Controllers.

“Ocean of Destruction” (11/25/67) – The explorers find themselves at the mercy of a group of humanoid creatures that fancy themselves old fashioned pirates.

“Perils of Volcano Island” (12/2/67) – Arne’s trail leads the explorers to a volcanic cavern full of a gas that puts Alec, Cindy and Gertrude into suspended animation.

“Return of Gulliver” (12/9/67) – The explorers find themselves trapped between a giant and a group of tiny people.

“Revenge of the Fossils” (12/16/67) – While investigating some fossils the explorers inadvertently bring them back to life.

“Sleeping Slaves of Zeerah” (12/23/67) – The explorers come across a queen that seems to possess magical powers.

“Trail of Gold” (12/30/67) – The explorers find the gold-filled lost city of Atlantis, but they realize that things aren’t quite what they seem.

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