The Lost World
September 19, 2007
In 1960s, Irwin Allen was the king of the big budget B-movie, employing A-list actors while still retaining a pulpy vibe. In 1960, he decided to tackle Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous novel, The Lost World, about a group of adventurers that explore a hidden world inhabited by prehistoric creatures. Hollywood’s first attempt was a 1925 silent film (included in this set) starring Wallace Beery and featured impressive stop-motion animation by Willis O’Brien (who would go on to work on King Kong in 1933). For his version, Allen sought out O’Brien to work his magic again but budget and time constraints forced the filmmaker to abandon this approach.
The abrasive zoology professor George Edward Challenger (Rains) arrives in London to speak at a news conference where he reveals the presence of live dinosaurs located in the jungles around the headwaters of the Amazon River. Sadly, he has no documented proof and proposes heading up a new expedition, assembling a team of volunteers that include big game hunter Lord Roxton (Rennie), American socialite Jennifer Holmes (St. John), her brother David (Stricklyn), newspaper reporter/photographer Ed Malone (Hedison), and Challenger’s rival, professor Walter Summerlee (Haydn). There’s even the annoying dust mop dog along for the ride.
Once they arrive in South America, Challenger enlists the help of local pilot Gomez (Lamas) and shifty travel guide Costa (Novello). Pretty soon they make their way to “the land where monsters live” as Challenger proclaims in grandiose fashion. On their first night, a dinosaur lures the entire group away from their campsite and destroys their helicopter and only way out. Along the way, Challenger and his group encounter a giant, neon-green spider, a tribe of cannibals and an active volcano.
For someone who is supposed to be a zoology expert, Challenger misidentifies a dinosaur that even an eight-year-old could name and mistakenly assumes a native girl to be an aborigine. These kinds of factual errors, hilariously clunky dialogue and stereotypical characters work if you’re a kid and don’t care about these kinds of details. Maybe you saw this film at a young, impressionable age and have nostalgic memories of it. The Lost World only functions on the level of kitsch because the dialogue and characterization is so laughably bad. This includes the cheesy special effects that involve putting cheap prosthetics on lizards and then blowing up their image to dinosaur-sized proportions.
The film is certainly a product of its time. Even though Jennifer claims to be as brave as any man, she is soon reduced to a screaming damsel in distress when she’s attacked by a constricting vine. Not to mention, with all of the men in this expedition, they compete for the dominant Alpha Male position. The film also harbours some disturbing racism. The film’s two minority characters (a traitor and a coward) are conveniently killed off during the course of the story. In the end, I suppose the film amounts to nothing more than a cinematic lark and if you allow yourself to give in to the silliness (and some kind of intoxicant), you may enjoy The Lost World. It is the kind of big budget nonsense that Hollywood still makes over 40 years later (see the films of Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay).
The first disc includes “Footprints on the Sands of Time,” a promotional featurette done back in the day with a narrator spouting hyperbolic prose.
“Fox Movietone News” is a vintage newsreel of the film’s premiere for busloads of kids with some of the movie stars signing autographs.
Also included is a trailer and stills of the press book, the comic book, movie stills, various movie posters and ads, and illustrations done in pre-production.
Finally, disc two has the much superior 1925 black and white silent version. Do yourself a favour and watch this one instead.