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In this 1925 silent era film, a Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery)
leads a group of British explorers to South America, to prove to the
civilized world that there exists a land of living prehistoric
creatures. What the explorers find is exactly that ... a rugged Amazon
plateau inhabited by all kinds of dinosaurs. It's a wonderful film
concept befitting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's adventure novel. The
dinosaurs were brought to cinematic life via stop-motion animation, the
first time that the then new technique had been applied, on such a
grand cinematic scale. For its visuals alone, "The Lost World" is an
The problem I have is not with the film, but with the way the film has been mishandled in the eighty years since it was released. Much of the original film was lost or cut out, a sad commentary on the way our culture has underestimated the value of silent films. Recently, the film has been at least partially restored. That, in turn, has led to confusion as to the extent to which the film being watched reflects the original.
My understanding is that there is or was: (1) an original full length version, no longer available; (2) a thirty-two minute version shown as a short film; (3) a sixty-three minute original DVD version; and (4) a ninety minute restored, extended DVD version complete with soundtrack and commentary. None of these versions are exactly alike, and there may be other versions as well.
The version I watched was on DVD, and was sixty-three minutes in length; there was no soundtrack, no commentary. Since this version is vastly different from the original, and different from other versions, a conventional critique would be unfair. All that I can do is to make a couple of general observations.
The special effects were impressive for their time. But what I most liked was the film's sense of three-dimensional scale, as shown in many scenes, the tree bridge to the plateau, for example, or the rope ladder hanging down the side of the cliff with a person climbing down. Such scenes convey a sense of distance and height, important to any physical adventure or risk. What I found disconcerting was the scenes of dinosaurs detached from the characters. Most of the time, but not always, these dinosaur scenes were shown from the POV that would be optimal for the cinematic viewer, rather than from the POV of the characters. In other words, the dinosaurs were usually shown out of context to the film's narrative.
"The Lost World" (1925) is an important contribution to early cinema. Although the film may be somewhat tedious to watch and technically crude by today's standards, depending on version, the film will most surely be appreciated by film historians and by technicians interested in the evolution of cinematic special effects.
The new version released by Image Entertainment is simply the best you're going to get on this film. The image quality is excellent, a few lines & scratches here and there, but much, much better than the old worn and edited prints that have been circulating for who knows how long. The first scene you see is newly restored, giving a look at Gladys and Malone and why she won't marry him (in the old version we never saw this, instead it started out at the London Record Journal office). And there is so much more, expanding on scenes, scenes I had no idea about, and the soundtrack by the Alloy Orchestra is superb. A truly great experience, finally an acceptable version.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***WARNING SOME SPOILERS***
This is the one that started it all, before King Kong, Beast From 20,000
Fathoms, Godzilla, Jurassic Park, etc. Nearly eighty years ago, this
ambitious silent film was unleashed on an astonished public, the story
adapted from the famous novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Although there had
been silent short subjects featuring prehistoric animals before, The Lost
World was the first full-length feature to introduce the concept of such
outsized monsters invading a major metropolis. Today, such a plot seems
terribly cliched, but it's unfair to judge The Lost World by modern
standards- technically or artistically. In fact, if imitation is indeed the
sincerest form of flattery, this original version of the Lost World should
be blushing from the attention!
Willis O'Brien (who had produced many short animated subjects previously) was the primary resource behind Lost World: without his expertise and participation, the movie would likely never have been completed, or even considered. The film's producers rightly figured audiences would want to see the film primarily for the prehistoric animals, so the human cast took a supporting role. O'Brien and his crew went above and beyond Doyle's story, populating the Lost World with seemingly dozens of creatures, (only a few are mentioned in the novel). The inclusion of more dinosaurs allowed the film to feature them as the primary menaces, instead of the novel's plot of tribal warfare between natives and ape-men. Except for stuntman Bull Montana as the villainous missing link inexplicably traveling in conjunction with a chimpanzee, this portion of the novel was excluded from the film.
The film varies somewhat from Doyle's novel: a group of intrepid explorers accompany the volatile Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery) to a plateau in the jungles of South America. Beery's Challenger is probably the most interesting character in the film. He's a man driven by his convictions and unwilling to back down on his arguments. In several ways, he can be seen as a precursor to King Kong's Carl Denham. Lewis Stone as Sir John Roxton provides the only real subtlety of character, an older man in love with the sole woman of the expedition, Paula White (Bessie Love). Roxton sees his chances for romance fade as Paula falls for Ed Malone (Lloyd Hughes) a younger man who hopes to make his career as a journalist on the expedition. Roxton first conveys dismay at the budding romance, then resignation as he chivalrously bows out of this romantic triangle. It's an unexpected touch of subtlety in a film that is geared towards drama and conflict.
Inevitably- because of this emphasis on the special effects- this romantic subplot seems intrusive. If only the film could have sustained such human interaction, or managed to evoke some compassion in audiences. Sadly, though the effects themselves are quite startling, the pacing and direction of The Lost World are merely serviceable. O'Brien and his crew worked wonders to create the dinosaurs and volcano eruption, but the technical wizardry is let down by the workmanlike, unimaginative direction of Harry Hoyt, who seems completely disconnected to the possibilities inherent in such a plot. Unlike King Kong, which wisely built up suspense and tension when introducing the prehistoric denizens of Skull Island, the dinosaurs in Lost World appear abruptly and without context. The brontosaurus, for instance, is first seen grazing sedately through a simple cut away from the live action, and is not shown in scale with the players until later, almost as an afterthought. The Allosaurus that stalks into the nighttime camp, contrarily, is well handled. With its eyes eerily reflecting the glow of the campfire like a jungle cat's, the dinosaur advances from the darkness towards the explorers. Even here, however, the suspense is dissipated by the fact we've already seen the Allosaurus (or another like it) attacking first a Trachodon, then a Triceratops, so its appearance in the camp is less of a shock. (Its attack, as well, is too brief).
As for the effects themselves, it is obvious that there were many technical bugs that O'Brien worked to improve upon during production: the results are mixed. Sometimes the animation of the monsters is smooth, (most notably with the Brontosaurus running amok in London) but in earlier scenes it is obvious much of the stop motion was shot using two or even three frame exposures between moving the models. This gives the animation an uneven look, and it's odd that these more primitive scenes survived into the final version. It's also strange that a Brontosaurus was selected to be loose in the finale, especially since this sequence wasn't included in the novel. Unlike Kong, the dinosaur doesn't have much motivation other than lumber through the streets. Even the collapse of Tower Bridge seems anticlimactic rather than a spectacle highlight. People are injured, but the dinosaur provides little intentional menace. Had the filmmakers substituted a flesh-eating Allosaurus as the captive that broke loose (as shown in the posters for the film!) it would have provided far more of a threat. (Hmmm, sounds a lot like ANOTHER `Lost World made 72 years later!)
The Lost World has recently been re-released on DVD in a beautifully restored (and much extended) print, culled from several sources. Most of this restored footage is of the human drama, but there are a few significant dinosaur scenes, as well. There is more footage of the dinosaur stampede, and it appears some of the existing animation was replaced by a different `take' of the same scene featured in earlier releases. On the whole, The Lost World is one of the more interesting silent films-- mostly because one can see some of the seeds of King Kong being sown here, seven years before. This version of the Lost World, while perhaps not a true classic like King Kong, nonetheless has its moments. If you're curious about the birth and development of stop-motion, or see what inspired the more recent Jurassic Park films, I'd recommend visiting this Lost World again.
More than 80 years after its release, the first adaptation of "The Lost
World" remains as one of the most influential silent films ever, due to
Willis O'Brien pioneer advances in the field of special effects, as it
showcases the first time stop motion animation was used to create
creatures on a feature length film. These innovation was of huge
importance for this and future films, and earned Willis O'Brien and his
dinosaurs a place in history as an iconic image in film history, only
surpassed by another of O'Brien's creations: King Kong.
Based on Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of the same name, "The Lost World" is the tale of Prof. Challenger's (Wallace Beery) epic quest looking for the living dinosaurs who supposedly live in the deep Amazonic jungle, according to the journal of his fellow explorer Maple White, who disappeared in his last exploration. Maple's daughter, Paula (Bessie Love) joins the expedition looking for her missing father, as well as Sir John Roxton (Lewis Stone), an experienced hunter friend of Challenger. Prof. Summerlee (Arthur Hoyt) goes as well, hoping to prove that Challenger is a fraud, and finally, reporter Edward Malone (Lloyd Hughes) joins the expedition, hoping to prove his girlfriend Gladys (Alma Bennet) that he is brave enough to face death.
Cleverly adapted by Broadway playwright Marion Fairfax (who also adapted in 1922 another of Conan Doyle's works, "Sherlock Holmes"), the film is an excellent mix of action and adventure that even when it's not entirely faithful to the novel, keeps the spirit of wonder and fascination with the unknown. From the obsessive Challenger to the incredulous Summerlee, every character is very detailed and for the most part well constructed, giving each one of them a defined personality and a certain degree depth absent in many silent films.
However, the film's best remembered characteristic is the incredible special effects by Willis O'Brien, who after mastering his craft in short films got his first work in "The Lost World" and changed special effects forever. His imagery is very vivid, and very detailed considering the limited resources he had. Sadly, Harry O. Hoyt's direction takes zero advantage of Fairfax's story and O'Brien's effects, and delivers a simplistic and unoriginal work that adds nothing to the whole work and seems to let the cast and crew do their job. It's not a bad direction as a whole, but it feels uninterested on the many possibilities a film like this posses.
The cast is quite effective, and really does a great job with what they have, starting with legendary Wallace Beery, who as Prof. Challenger delivers one of the best performances in a silent film. Without the aid of sound, Beery shows a wide range of emotions in his complex character and is great in both drama and comedy. Lloyd Hughes is very good as the cowardly Malone, and showcases a talent for comedy as well as a romantic figure, as his character shows interest in Paula White, played by Bessie Love, who makes a fine counterpart to Hughes and delivers a natural, and fresh performance. Lewis Stone completes the cast and his dignified performance as Sir John Roxton is very effective.
It's safe to say that "The Lost World" owes more to O'Brien and Fairfax than to O'Hoyt, and that probably with a more experienced director the film would had been even better. However, the film's real problem has nothing to do with the way it was made, but with the way it was preserved during most of its history. Nowadays there is not a complete version of the movie, most home video versions are of the 64 minutes version, while one (Image) is of a 93 minutes reconstruction. And while probably that version is the closest we can be to the original runtime of the film, it sadly has modernized the dialogs, to the point that some lines are rewritten to fit our modern standards.
Hopefully, one day we'll be able to see "The Lost World" as it was intended to be, but meanwhile, we can still appreciate the enormous importance of its amazing special effects, and how it forecasts films like "Jurassic Park" in many ways. This epic tale of action, adventure and horror has probably not seen a better adaptation than this, the movie that set everything for the arrival of King Kong and changed special effects for ever. 8/10
Although the existing versions all have missing portions, and although the
film is obviously old-fashioned in several respects, the original "The Lost
World" is still a fine film and very entertaining. It has an exciting and
interesting story with some good characters and acting, and the dinosaur
action, terrific for its time, is still quite watchable.
Besides the adventure story about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, there is also some decent human drama with a few interesting characters. The earnest young journalist out to prove himself, the bad-tempered but brilliant scientist, the devoted daughter searching for her missing father, and the rest, are all slightly exaggerated, but most also contain some real substance. There is a good cast to bring these characters to life.
Naturally, the animals are the big stars, and although the special effects do not compare with what is done today, the dinosaur action is still creative, entertaining and worth watching. There are also some good shots of live animals living in the Amazon area where the expedition takes place.
This is certainly recommended for those who enjoy silent films. It would also be interesting viewing for those who are more used to modern films of the genre - you'll see a lot of the ideas that were later used in films that are more familiar today.
This first, silent version of The Lost World is the best one for
dinosaur fans as it has more dinosaurs in it than any other. I have two
VHS copies of this, an hour long version and the restored copy, which
lasts for about 100 minutes.
Professor Challenger leads a party into an uncharted part of the Amazon where prehistoric monsters still live. When there, they explore the land and see the many dinosaurs that roam it. They then decide to try and capture one of these alive and bring it back to London! They manage this and bring back a Brontosaurus, but it escapes and goes on the rampage through London, brings down Tower Bridge and then escapes down the Thames.
The stop-motion dinosaurs are done excellently by Willis O'Brien and also include Allosaurus, Tricertops and Pteranodon.
The cast includes Wallace Beery as Chellenger, Bessie Love and Lewis Stone.
This movie is a must see, especially if you are a fan of dinosaur movies like myself. Excellent.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The story has been remade so many times very few people know of the
original, and the best, in fact I had not even heard of it until I
found a copy in my dads huge collection of old video tapes, and I
decided I might as well watch it, what else to do, in the end it ended
up being one of the best films I had everseen. Filled with amazing
power, and the best visual effects that I have seen in any film from
the thirties, much less the twenties. It also has some wonderful
performances by its hole cast, and is expertly directed, in almost a
Spielberg way, with the talent of Alfred Hitchcock. No matter how
against watching old movies you are, you should watch this masterpiece,
I have watched it over and over again, it never gets old.
If you enjoyed The Lost World, you might also like, On the Waterfront, Its a Wonderful Life, and Jurasic Park.
This was the first movie I ever taped when I got my first VCR back in the 1980's. I saw it was going to be on at 3:00 a.m., so I decided to try the programming to see it it worked. It did. I was so excited. The movie is so much fun. It has Wallace Beery as a borderline madman scientist leading an expedition to a far off island to find dinosaurs. There is a subplot of a reporter who is trying to talk him into letting him go along. There are scenes where Professor Challenger (Beery) chases and assaults this man because he hates reporters. Of course, we all know the story. They do bring back a dinosaur and it gets loose (ala King Kong) and leaves a path of destruction. The special effects are like Claymation, but one could only wonder how exciting and impressive these things were in their time. As a period piece, I urge people to see this. There are full length prints of it, not just the one some have commented on, which only shows the dinosaur scenes. If you have an open mind, you will have a lot of fun.
Willis O'Brien made some early shorts utilizing his unique concept of special effects, but it was this film, The Lost World, that made his vision first come to life so to speak. O'Brien makes the lost world full of dinosaurs that seemingly do everything. They eat, fight, move, and generally live on screen. The film is a fairly good adaption of Doyle's book, with Doyle even having a cameo in the film. A raging professor named Professor Challenger, played with gusto by Wallace Beery, says that dinosaurs live on a plateau somewhere off in the Amazon. He is disbelieved by all concerned, and he, with the help and support of a rich adventurer, a cynical zoologist, a newsman, and a daughter of a lost professor on a previous journey, sets out to prove that dinosaurs do indeed exist on Earth still. The film has a nice, quick pace and is very entertaining. Beery, Lewis Stone, and Bessie Love all do fine jobs acting. The film has a new marvelous score to go with its silent action. Best of all...the film boasts the special effects of O'Brien's genius. A fine, fine film.
Hello and welcome to my first review. Let me start by saying that the
movie is not worth watching unless you see the IMAGE DVD version. Any
other version is missing half of the movie and has bad image quality
and incorrect tints. For those of you who are unfamiliar with movies
from the 20's, this is a silent film which means there is a musical
track playing throughout the film to match what is going on and in some
cases sound effects. As far as tints go, unless everything was done in
studio where the lighting and other effects could be controlled, the
technology at the time only allowed for filming during the day so
different tints were used so show that it was daytime/nighttime,
indoors/outdoors, and other events. Since the actors did not have
dialog in silent films, they had to over act a bit to show you what is
happening. Inter-titles(written speech/narration) cuts in and out of
the film. Let it be known that this means that you have to pay very
close attention to a silent film to fully enjoy and understand it.
The movie was made in 1925 and runs 93 minutes. The restoration involves the combining of 8 versions from around the world to give you the most complete version possible making this film one of the best restorations as of yet. The IMAGE DVD contains two musical scores, outtakes, audio commentary, and a reproduction of the original souvenir program in print where the insert is contained. I don't want to give anything away from the movie but I will just say that this is the first of the large monster movies and is the framework for any other movie of this kind without question not to mention that this movie is a masterpiece. Watch it a few times before you make your judgment and you will see how great it is.
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