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Producer/director Irwin Allen had big plans for this one. He also had
the big budget needed to craft a truly spectacular remake of the
original 1925 classic silent film. And, he rightly felt that a new
movie based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's science fiction masterpiece had
better be up to the task. Allen originally intended using the
"Stop-Motion animation" technique (made popular by Ray Harryhausen) to
bring his prehistoric monsters to life. But, just as production was
about to commence, Twentieth-Century Fox, who commissioned the film
(and were then experiencing severe monetary shortages, due to
production problems with their money guzzling "Cleopatra") slashed the
budgets of nearly every film currently being produced. "The Lost World"
was no exception, and Allen's dreams of a Sci-Fi Spectacular were
crushed. Being a resourceful film maker, though, he did the best he
could with what he had, and that turned out to be very good indeed.
For his cast, he chose British character actor Claude ("The Invisible Man") Rains to play the indomitable Professor Challenger, leader of the expedition. As Playboy Johnny Roxton, he cast another British actor, Michael Rennie. David Hedison played newsman Ed Malone, Jill St. John played Jennifer Holmes, daughter of Malone's publisher and Fernando Lamas was Gomez, the expedition's pilot. Supporting them were Jay Novello, as a cowardly guide, and Vittina Marcus as a helpful island native girl. Forced to forego his original Stop-Motion technique, Allen had to make do with photographing lizards, alligators and such, adding horns and gills when necessary. The result was pretty much the way it sounds - the creatures this bunch discovered were a long way from prehistoric beasts. Nevertheless, the movie entertains, with truly beautiful wide screen photography, a fantastic collection of colors which really bring the striking sets to eerie life.
As for the performances, they are decent enough. Rains has gotten plenty of criticism over the years for his bombastic Challenger, but that's the way the character was written, and Rains is true to the material, and highly enjoyable too. Michael Rennie is a bit colorless in his big game hunter part, but he does have some good scenes as well. David Hedison is OK as Malone, who falls for Jennifer (Roxton's girlfriend) though their romance must have ended up heavily edited, as there's little evidence of it here. Ms. St John and Ms. Marcus are mainly eye candy, (this WAS the '60s after all) but act capably enough, though for a woman described as "brave as a lioness". Jill certainly does a lot of screaming while dressed in a very flattering, if impractical wardrobe (which includes a Toy Poodle). Ray Stricklyn is very persuasive as her rather immature but compassionate brother. Lamas and Novello are the supposed villains of this piece, though Lamas has a reason for his hostility. Allen's direction is good and the score by Bert Shefter and Paul Sawtell adds immeasurably to the drama and suspense. All in all, the picture is perfect Saturday Matinée fare, and though the script is talky in places, it still delivers the goods at the climax. The movie is a textbook example of a period when celluloid escapism was all viewers demanded, and here, they got it In spades.
Fox Home Video has just released "The Lost World" as a two-disc DVD set, with special features (trailer, newsreels and galleries of promotional material) from the film on disc one, and a restored version (with a few outtakes!) of the 1925 original on disc two. Allen's film looks wonderful in it's anamorphic CinemaScope transfer, and after years of suffering through the faded pan-and-scanned prints used for TV and video this is really a revelation. The new stereo soundtracks are equally impressive and make this film, from a producer/director who would one day be known as the "Master of Disaster', (thanks to such fare as The Poseidon Adventure' and "The Towering Inferno") a must have for collectors.
Unlike `The Lost Continent' (1951), this 20th Century Fox Cinemascope
production had an ample budget -- but the money wasn't spent very well. A
good cast (Michael Rennie, Claude Rains, Jill St. John, David Hedison, and
Fernando Lamas) are all part of an expedition that discovers a plateau in
South America where dinosaurs still thrive.
Unfortunately producer Irwin Allen elected not to use stop motion animation to create the dinosaurs. Instead, the audience is treated to two hours of disguised iguanas and enlarged baby alligators. Irwin Allen also co-wrote the script, which is burdened by an excess of soap opera melodrama. The good musical score, however, is by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter.
Top quality production values and good photography make the film easy enough to watch, but there's a tragic story behind `The Lost World'. Willis O'Brien, creator of `King Kong', spent several years during the late 1950s making preparations for a big-budget remake of his 1925 version of `The Lost World'. He made his pitch to producer Irwin Allen and the big wheels at 20th Century Fox, showing them the hundreds of preproduction drawings and paintings he had done. He succeeded in persuading them to make the film -- but Fox refused to let O'Brien do the film's special effects, substituting the poorly embellished reptiles instead.
From all reports, O'Brien's version would have been the greatest lost-land adventure movie of all time. Irwin Allen's lack of vision is puzzling in view of the fact that in 1955 he produced `The Animal World' with animated dinosaurs by Ray Harryhausen and Wills O'Brien! See my comments on `Animal World' for more info.
You would expect much more from an Irwin Allen film than 1960's The Lost World delivers. This film is high on silly-to-obnoxious characters, and corniness. The first few scenes in the film are particularly loaded down by corniness as we are introduced to the characters. There's eccentric Professor Challenger (Claude Rains) with his silly facial expressions, and boisterous but stuffy personality. There's Lord John Roxton (Michael Rennie) with his selfish and uncharming personality. There's Jennifer Holmes (Jill St. John) who starts out by trying to show the men a woman can also be worthy to take along on an expedition, but then becomes a useless, timid character who shows no strengths at all. The sexist remarks made by some male characters in the beginning become even more obnoxious, because Jennifer never comes through on showing strength, courage or ideas to help her crew members. The only strength she really proves is that she can pick out some elegant but inappropriate clothing to wear during the dangerous expedition. Jennifer has also brought along her silly, little poodle named Frosty. And then there's Costa (Jay Novello), a wimpy, greedy, seedy, little man. Throw in Fernando Lamas as Manual Gomez, the hired helicopter pilot who is also along for a side plot of personal revenge. He plots his murder-revenge and strums his guitar along the way (the natives even let him keep his guitar when the group is captured!) Not too many characters to really care for, but there are a few to possibly like such as Jennifer's brother, David (Ray Stricklyn.) David actually turns out to be more of a help then originally believed. A captured native girl (Vitina Marcus) turns out to be one of the better characters in the picture, but that is most likely because she has none of the corny lines and characteristics the expedition party's characters have. There's also corny drama from a love triangle that forms along the way. We all know Claude Rains (Phantom Of The Opera), Michael Rennie (The Day The Earth Stood Still) and others can do fine acting jobs, and the acting in this movie is fine--It's just most of the characters are so corny at times it should be embarrassing to the stars of the picture. The action in the film does not really build to any exciting levels as the crew is menaced by various creatures. The dinosaurs are lizards and reptiles with fins and horns applied to their bodies, and the giant spider is a rather lame effect (especially since it just hangs there, and only moves its legs a bit.) There is an unpleasant scene in which a real lizard fights a real reptile (portraying dinosaurs) that seems very politically incorrect by today's standards (and should have been a no-no even back in 1960.) Irwin Allen and 20th Century Fox could've done much better than this, and it is not nearly as good of a film as Journey To The Center Of The Earth (also from 20th Century Fox.) Still, The Lost World may entertain on a Saturday afternoon matinee level, and it is one of those movies collectors of horror and science fiction films will probably want to add to their 1950's and 1960's collections.
Irwin Allen puts a saddle on the Conan Doyle novel and digs in the spurs in this silly adaptation of the eponymous book. Loaded with action but not much else, and well stocked with useless characters such as Frosty the poodle. SEE! Jill St.John, who starts off feisty but ends up as simpering baggage, explore the Amazon in pink tights. HEAR!! Michael Rennie murder the Spanish language. FEEL!!! The sense of loss as Fernando Lamas deadpans the line: "My helicopter". In an interview years later, David Hedison admitted that he HATED this movie, and it's easy to see why. With typical pre-release hype, Irwin Allen teased the public with promises of unbelievably authentic-looking monsters("like nothing you've ever seen before!"). Wrong: they were exactly like everything we've seen before. The actors, from Claude Rains to Fernando Lamas, are all good to very good, but not in this clunker. Their combined talents were wasted, as will be your money if you buy or rent this film. Get it ONLY if you feel compelled to complete a collection of '50s and '60s B-movies, otherwise: don't walk, run!
Along with King Kong this is one of the first films I remember seeing,
on Saturday night TV sometime in the mid '60's. My expert judgement at
6 years old was that it was the best film ever made, over the years
since it has somewhat slipped down my list but at least is still in
it! Viewed through rose-tinted spectacles I still enjoy watching it and
trot the vid out every 5 years or so for another wallow in personal
nostalgia. Viewed dispassionately I think it's also better than both
1925 versions the long was too slow, the short unintelligible; forget
Eccentric Professor Challenger challenges crusty Professor Summerlee in public to go with him on an expedition to find a plateau in South America where he (claimed) he saw prehistoric dinosaurs roaming around. A motley party is assembled to make the trip consisting of a cynical aristocrat with a secret, his eye-fodder girlfriend in pink and her eye-fodder brother, the hard working reporter who fancies her, and 2 dingy latins with plenty of secrets. A couple of hours after landing they discover prehistoric dinosaurs roaming around partial to wrecking helicopters, and we discover Challenger appears rather challenged when coming to name them. Corn abounds, the special effects are worse than in 1925, every plot device is telegraphed ahead, and every racial, sexual and class stereotype is out in force but I love it just the same! At least Jill St. John didn't twist her ankle, and the sets weren't always cardboard though.
If you didn't see this when young and impressionable don't bother, however if you did and you're not a serious type it's worth a try. You still might be horrified but you might return to a lost world of safe family adventure movies.
It's such a damn shame that the youngest generation of cinema buffs only knows about "Jurassic Park", because they have been making really good dinosaur movies since the silent era already! Particularly Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary novel has always been a very popular story that received decent film versions in practically every decade. In case you know nothing about the plot just yet: the obnoxious and self-centered professor Challenger assembles a troop of unlikely adventurers to go on an expedition deep in the Amazonian jungle, because there's supposed to be a plateau where the dinosaurs never got extinct. The expedition sure is no field trip, since the plateau also homes giant funky green spiders and an aggressive tribe of aboriginals that don't really like intruders. Unavoidably the group also falls apart due to personal intrigues and two adventurers' mutual love-interest for the same girl. "The Lost World" by Irwin Allen by no means is a good film, but it's vastly entertaining, partly because the special effects and set pieces are so incredibly crummy! The dinosaurs are just ordinary reptiles, like lizards and even a crocodile, with fake horns glued onto them and filmed with a fish-eye lens so that they appear to be gigantic. Well, they obviously remain simple reptiles and totally don't evoke feelings of fear or engagement. The decors are quite nice, though, and this film definitely has the irresistible early 60's charm that never fails to put a smile on your face. Claude Rains, here in the final stage of his well-filled career, is excellent as the boisterous professor Challenge and he obviously amused himself with yelling at people and hitting them on their heads with an umbrella. The rest of the cast is rather forgettable, expect from the stunningly beautiful Vitina Marcus who plays the sexy native girl. Even though I only remember it vaguely, the 1925 version of the same story is a much better film, but this version will definitely appeal more to larger audiences.
Irwin Allen's 1960 version of The Lost World may be shot in
CinemaScope, but stylistically it fits right in with his 60s sci-fi TV
shows (indeed, stock footage from the film found its way into his
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea series, as did co-star David Hedison).
Originally intended to feature state-of-the-art stop-motion animation
from Willis O. Brien, the special effects genius behind the
groundbreaking 1925 version as well as King Kong, the ever-economical
producer opted instead for the tried and trusted and, most important of
all, much cheaper technique of supergluing fins and horns on real
lizards and having them double for dinosaurs despite looking like
nothing so much as lizards with fins and horns superglued on them.
However, even had he spent the extra time and money, this modernised
version was never going to be the definitive one: 'dinosaur' action is
fairly thin on the ground and the novel's finale that sees a
pterodactyl on the loose in London is unceremoniously dropped. Instead
there's a lot of wandering around the Fox ranch and backlot, cameo
appearances from the odd poisonous giant plant left over from Journey
to the Center of the Earth, a tribe of natives with a yen for human
sacrifice, a fortune in diamonds and the obligatory erupting volcano
finale, though it retains a certain nostalgic Saturday kids matinée
appeal even if most of today's kids wouldn't sit still for it. Claude
Rains gets to grandstand as Professor Challenger while Michael Rennie's
aristocratic big game hunter seems almost like a blueprint for George
Lazenby's take on James Bond, with Jill St. John tagging along for no
good reason other than Arthur Conan Doyle's thoughtless failure to
provide any female roles in the original novel.
Fox's new DVD boasts a fine 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, but the stereo tracks are reversed so that the left comes from the right speaker and vice versa!
This was the first sound version of the Lost World and I think it is one of
the best. The silent, 1925 movie is the best. There have been several
remakes since this one.
Professor Challenger takes a party to an uncharted plateau where dinosaurs still roam. They arrive there by helicopter, but not long after they get there, this is destroyed by a dinosaur. Despite this, they explore the land and capture a native cave girl, who knows how to use a gun. We learn that Lord Roxton has been here on a previous expedition and he killed Gomez's brother. After a fight between two dinosaurs, the party are captured by unfriendly natives, who are cannibals. Luckily, the cave girl who the party captured earlier helps them to escape and after meeting Burton White, the blind surviver of an earlier expedition, make their way along a narrow ridge where Challenger nearly meets his death. The party collects some diamonds and then Gomez holds everyone hostage as he wants Lord Roxton dead, but the gun shot wakes the "fire monster" and it eats Costa. Gomez then meets his death by falling in the lava helping to open a rock door. The plateau then blows its top and everyone is safe. But one last explosion causes the dinosaur egg they found to fall on the floor and break, revealing a baby T-Rex...
The "dinosaurs" in this movie are enlarged lizards with fins and horns attached to them and an enlarged crocodile. This what director Irwin Allen wanted unfortunately. Pity he did not want stop-motion, despite Willis O'Brien helping with the special effects. We also see a giant spider and man eating plants.
The movie has a great cast: Claude Rains (The Invisible Man), Michael Rennie (The Day the Earth Stood Still), David Hedison (The Fly, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea) and Bond Girl Jill St John (Diamonds Are Forever).
I enjoyed this movie, despite the non stop-motion dinosaurs.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was six years old when this film came out, at which time my parents took me to the theatre to see it, and I have not seen it since! So, any comment I can make about this version of The Lost World will be from the point of view of a six-year-old! Having clarified that, let me just say this: It is one of only two or three films from my childhood that left such a lasting impression on me. It started my interest in dinosaurs, which continues to this day, and even now I can perfectly visualize the baby dinosaur (okay, so it was only a lizard, I didn't know back then!) hatching from its egg, and more than anything, wanting it for a pet!!! From other people's comments that I have seen here, perhaps, the special effects left something to be desired, and maybe, as intimated here also, the makers of the movie had hired the best special effects person and had hoped for more. Whatever the case, I was impressed to the point of writing this review 40+ years later and maybe all the special effects in the world couldn't have struck that same chord with me &/or many other children around the world? My husband, who comes from England, remembers having had a similar effect when he first saw the film! So, if making an impression counts, I'd say the film was, after all, very successful indeed!!
The Lost World might have been a better film if it had been set back in
the time when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the novel. Which would be in
the pre-World War I days of 1912. Back then such a plateau might have
escaped detection from modern man.
In any event it's been updated to 1960 and I remember seeing it for the first time at a downtown Rochester theater long since demolished and I was with my grandmother. She took me when I was by myself visiting them in Rochester. I remember the movie, but I also remember how slow she was moving. What I didn't know was that she was in the first stages of Parkinson's disease which would eventually kill her.
Seen as an adult it's a film better left to the juvenile set. And it could use a makeover now and replace those dinosaurs with the more realistic ones of Jurassic Park.
But I doubt we could get a cast as classic as the one I saw. Claude Rains is in the lead as Conan Doyle's irascible Professor George Challenger who was the protagonist in about five books. Not as many as that much more known Conan Doyle hero Sherlock Holmes, but Challenger has his following.
In this film he's back from South America in the country roughly between Venezuela and British Guiana at the time, deep in the interior at some of the Amazon tributary headwaters. He claims he saw some ancient dinosaurs alive on a plateau.
True to his name Claude Rains invites company and financing on a new expedition to prove him right. His rival Richard Haydn accepts as does big game hunter Michael Rennie and David Hedison who is an American newspaperman whose publisher promises financing for an exclusive.
Of course it wouldn't be right in the day of woman's liberation if the shapely Jill St. John, sportswoman and a crack shot doesn't come along with her brother Ray Stricklyn. Guiding the expedition are South Americans Fernando Lamas and Jay Novello who have an agenda all their own involving at least one member of the party.
Watching The Lost World again, I think of myself as a kid back in the day and even with such a cast it really should stay in the juvenile trade. And this review is dedicated to my grandmother Mrs. Sophie Lucyshyn who took me to the movies that day back in 1960.
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