This retelling of the classic tale of James Hilton's Utopian lost world plays out uneasily amid musical production numbers and Bacharach pop music. While escaping war-torn China, a group of...
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This retelling of the classic tale of James Hilton's Utopian lost world plays out uneasily amid musical production numbers and Bacharach pop music. While escaping war-torn China, a group of Europeans crash in the Himalayas, where they are rescued and taken to the mysterious Valley of the Blue Moon, Shangri-La. Hidden from the rest of the world, Shangri-La is a haven of peace and tranquility for world-weary diplomat Richard Conway. His ambitious brother, George, sees it as a prison from which he must escape, even if it means risking his life and bringing destruction to the ancient culture of Shangri-La. Written by
Marg Baskin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Usually when a film is hailed as the above description, it has to be considered watchable enough to enjoy the film's ineptitude. Some films like this are bad, but to watch them would be asking a whole lot of the viewer. LOST HORIZON certainly does not fit that last description because while CITIZEN KANE it is not, it certainly does not deserve to be trashed.
By the time LOST HORIZON came along, the movie musical was already considered a dead genre, save for the occasional import from Broadway that actually turned out well (OLIVER! & CABARET come immediately to mind). However, the age of the musical where songs were written especially for the movie had long been buried. That did not matter to producer Ross Hunter, who always was a safeguard of Old Hollywood even after the advent of the MPAA allowed for movies to be made of subjects that the studios would not have touched with a ten-foot pole. Hunter may have succeeded in bringing back old-fashioned soap operas with the Douglas Sirk movies, but as THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE showed with its original songs that paled in comparison to the classics it stood alongside (well, almost), the musical was perhaps not a genre in need of a revival.
You certainly could have fooled Hunter, who went full-steam ahead with his musicalization of a property that should have been left alone to begin with. Casting actors with little to no musical training & badly dubbing them was bad enough, but choosing a project that worked best in its original format was double trouble. That is certainly not to fault Burt Bacharach & Hal David's music, which is fine enough, though certainly not up to par with their Dionne Warwick spectaculars. But you get the idea that maybe even they were doubtful of this project's bankability. Supposedly the film led to the break-up of their previously infallible partnership, as well as Hunter's film career (he mostly worked for TV afterwards).
Apparently, Hollywood likes to keep its megaflops very secret because LOST HORIZON has not been seen much since its theatrical debut, and has not even made it onto VHS, let alone DVD in the U.S. (I found my copy courtesy of eBay). But if even Ed Wood's hilariously bad movies can be released & enjoyed by people even for all the wrong reasons, then certainly LOST HORIZON can. So I hope that Columbia Pictures can find it in their hearts to bring this movie back into circulation so we can enjoy it (even genuinely because it appears some people actually did). Heck, if only for the camp value, it would be a surefire hit. With CHICAGO & MOULIN ROUGE having indicated the musical is making a comeback, then it would be good to have LOST HORIZON out on the market again to educate people in how not to make one. But it sure is hell of a lot of fun along the way.
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