JOURNEY TO THE BEGINNING OF TIME
(Cesta do Praveku)
Coming to Journey to the Beginning of Time after having seen some of Karel Zemans subsequent films, you expect that he will deliver something in the same vein. Instead, what he makes is a juvenile moreover, one that has been intended with the dread purpose of educating youth. It is a live-action film with some occasional animation and stop-motion animation. Certainly, the animation is of a reasonable standard and with effects that would have been on a par with work being produced in Hollywood during this period in films such as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and, the effort this most resembles, the dinosaur sequences in Irwin Allens Animal World (1956). On the other hand, there is none of the visually dazzling blends of animation and live-action that mark all of Zemans other films. You keep expecting it to be but the animation has only been intended to blend into the live-action footage, not engage in the visually playful games that Zeman does elsewhere. Certainly, you can see some of the inspiration that Zeman took when it came to his Verne adaptations with there being a scene early on with the young heroes looking through some of the Verne lithographs that he later literally brought to life.
Journey to the Beginning of Time is a nicely made film. The effects are good for the era the film was made and do the intended job of producing a modest degree of wow. On the other hand, the film is dramatically inert. It has been intended not unakin to a natural history tour of a museum like the one the boys take at the start of the film. It is essentially a live-action trip back through the prehistoric eras where dioramas that have been arranged so that they can learn things, while the boys spend the time busily taking notes on what they see. All that seems missing from this is the tour guide going Now we shall move onto the Cambrian Wing where .... Crucially, there is very little drama to any of it just the boys moving from era to era, viewing the sights and continuing on. The most dramatic the film ever gets are a couple of occasions when one of them is separated from the main party. It is hard to find anything more to the film beyond that of the juvenile naturalism tour brought to life.
The film received a dubbed international release in 1960. In 1966, the film received a re-release where new scenes were directed by Fred Ladd with American kids during the wraparound scenes that were made to blend in with the footage here.
US release trailer here:-