The Lost Continent (1968)
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In this one, a ship is fleeing from African customs officials when it runs into heavy weather in uncharted waters. The passengers and crew abandon ship, but later they rediscover it, trapped in a peculiar section of sea infested with weeds. This same seaweed world turns out to be the home of a long-lost community of sailors, ruled (somewhat tyranically) by descendants of the Spanish Inquisition.
Eric Porter plays the lead role with a commendably straight face, getting over a convincing reading the ship's captain. Other members of the cast take things less seriously and seem to have their tongues pretty firmly in their cheeks, but they still give interesting enough performances. The script is a real piece of lunacy, with loads of obvious plot holes and unlikely situations - in many ways you wonder if they wrote it over a drunken weekend - but again there is sufficient imagination to carry the picture through.
This is undoubtedly a wild, wacky and downright infantile adventure film. But, in spite of its many faults, I like it to a certain degree because it has the courage to ignore its own daftness and run along at an entertaining and lively pace.
But we don't care about any of that. Despite his fame as a writer of Black Magic books, Denis Wheatley had started in the Thirties with novels of enormous scope (how come no-one EVER made "Sixty Days To Live"?) of which Uncharted Seas was just one. And it is this great YARN that gives The Lost Continent its outrageous style.
And everyone just WENT for it. Heavyweight actors, Eric Porter and Hildegard Knef. The reliable Tony Beckley. And of course, Hammer's "lucky charm" - the pop-eyed Michael Ripper (did they originally hire him for his surname?) Then there's the music. The original score was DUMPED (unique for micro-budget Hammer) being replaced by a minimal score, enhanced with songs from British "cool group", The Peddlers.
And while the trails trumpeted the movie as being a conventional action-adventure, the reality was it was a superior fantasy/mood-piece.
However, the curiosity of this film is its "alternate versions". There are at least two that I know of. The British version emerged with an "X" certificate and ran for about 95 minutes, while the US version had a "softer" rating and ran for just 89. The US version lacks eight minutes which the British version had - but the British version lacks an extended scene which the US version had.
The reason given for the US pruning is that it enabled the softer rating. But since the missing footage includes little to offend, this reason seems spurious. And why were about forty seconds pruned from the British version? I suspect the REAL reason for the pruning was LENGTH. The Lost Continent was made as an "A" movie, but most of Hammer's output was released as double-bills in The States.
The British version was released in theatres, then an analogue VT transfer was made for TV showings, which ran - uncut - for about ten years (presumably until the contract ran out).
But during this time, the British negative was allowed to deteriorate (Hammer had a rough late-Seventies and were careless with their archive).
Thus, when the film was shown on British TV in the Nineties, the digital VT transfer was taken from the US version - America had preserved their print better.
Which now leaves us with a DVD restoration based on said US version - with the missing eight minutes culled from the inferior British print. This DVD is available from IMDb's sister - Amazon - and is well worth the money. It also includes a version of The Peddlers' title song - in its entirety - on one of the menus. Plus a second, contemporaneous film - "The Reptile" - with the delectable Jacqueline Pearce and the afore-mentioned Mr Ripper, in the biggest role he ever had at Hammer.
But returning to The Lost Continent, SOMEWHERE there may be yet ANOTHER edit. Traditionally, Hammer made "continental versions" of their films for Europe, containing extra naughtiness. Perhaps THAT edit EXTENDS the "love scene" featuring Ms Leigh and INCLUDES one between Ms Knef and the super-suave but unlikely-named Ben(ito) Carruthers?
Two footnotes - apparently Ben Carruthers was a mate of Bob Dylan (he introduced Nico to Bob) and was musically inclined. But his acting career ran from '57 (when he was 21) and ended in '71 (when he was 35) and he died at just 47. What's HIS story? His contribution to The Lost Continent is certainly significant.
And Jimmy Hanley (who died not long after this film was released) was Britain's "nice guy". His role is also worthy of mention, but one can't help wondering how HE interpreted his line - "If you'll pardon me for saying so - that's not what she wants." In the context of the film, it certainly has two meanings...
A freighter is blown off course and finds itself in a fog-shrouded part of the ocean where the seaweed enjoys flesh and mutated creatures with claws scamper about. It's a mild horror version of the Sargasso Sea and Bermuda Triangle. Eventually the surviving crew and passengers encounter humans who scitter around the seaweed with paddle-like shoes and balloons. The ship these people are from is a Spanish galleon several hundred years old, the crew of which survived and bred into the generations, evolving an Inquisition-like culture on board.
It's really pretty good, thanks to the interesting ideas of seaweed that bites back and the evolved life on the Spanish ship, plus the skill of the two lead actors. And it has a great look. Eric Porter and Hildegard Knef were both heavyweights in the acting department. I'm not sure why they agreed to this film, but I assume the money was good. Porter is one of my favorite actors. He wasn't handsome enough to make a career as a movie leading man, but if anyone doubts his abilities to command watch him as Soames in the original BBC Forsyte Saga. Knef had a so-so career as a lead actress in a handful of American and British films, but returned to Germany for better stuff. She was sexy and self-confident.
How can you not enjoy man-eating seaweed, descendants of the Spanish Inquistion, the strangest sea-beasties you've ever laid eyes on and an opening tune that you can't get out of your head, days after viewing it! While this isn't a film I'd recommend to most classic fantasy film fans or even Hammer film fans to go out and purchase, blindly, I would recommend at least giving it a view, it certainly isn't a kind of film where you'll want to pluck your eyes out, after viewing and who knows, if you watch it in the right frame of mind, you may end up enjoying it.
A tramp steamer with a motley collection of passengers and plenty of barrels of a dangerous explosive goes on an expedition and ends on an uncharted island in the Sargasso Sea which seems to be a graveyard for ships. When there, they discover the land populated by giant crabs, a giant scorpion, man-eating seaweed and survivors of the Spanish Inquisition! After several of the party and Inquisition are killed by the monsters and the explosive chemical, they set off and head back to civilization, along with some of the Inquisition.
Hammer made this movie in 1968 and I taped it when it came on Channel 4 some years ago. Some of the monsters look rather cheap and the movie has a good theme song.
The cast includes Eric Porter, Suzanna Leigh, Nigel Stock and Dana Gillespie.
This movie is worth a look at. Enjoyable.
Rating: 3 and a half stars out of 5.
The second half however ventures into the outrageous and bizarre territory. Complete with crazy FX scenes featuring giant monsters which are done on the cheap but aren't soon forgotten. The actors/actresses continually play their roles straight throughout the film and are quite competent which helps slightly. But overall the second half proves a disappointing mess of a movie.
At the same time, the main reason to watch this film however is its haunting visuals of the "lost continent" seen in the second half-Paul Beeson is credited for the cinematography.
The overall effect is that of medium-budget comic-strip, but with this much action and so much violence and all these yummy females and heroic guys...it's a fun movie from end to end...a great tonic if you're marooned in the Sargasso Sea...or stranded in your living room of a Sunday afternoon
The primitive special effects (Robert A. Mattey, who later supervised the creation of "Bruce" for the 1975 classic "Jaws", was in charge) add a great deal of schlocky charm to this Hammer production, certainly one of the oddest things that they ever made. Based on the novel "Uncharted Seas" by Dennis Wheatley (which you can actually see the character of Dr. Webster reading at one point!), it tells a fairly original yarn with a singularly weird atmosphere. The somewhat askew colour photography in the later parts plays a big part in this atmosphere, as well as some memorable images. The music score by Gerard Schurmann is supplemented by tunes crooned by a 60s group called The Peddlers. And the creatures on display are quite fun to watch.
The actors are able to give incredibly straight faced performances in light of how nutty the story eventually gets. Porter is an interesting guy in that he's not quite the conventional "hero". Hildegard Knef, the lovely Suzanna Leigh, and Tony Beckley have the meatiest roles among the supporting actors. Nigel Stock, Neil McCallum, Jimmy Hanley, James Cossins, Dana Gillespie (whose breasts threaten to pop out of her costume at times), Victor Maddern, Norman Eshley, the always delightful Hammer good luck charm Michael Ripper, and Donald Sumpter all deliver enjoyable performances.
Definitely a curiosity for fans of this great British studio.
Producer Michael Carreras reportedly fired original director Leslie Norman, and took over in that capacity, also writing the screenplay himself using the pseudonym "Michael Nash" (the name of his gardener).
Seven out of 10.
Eric Porter was hotter than a murder weapon at the time with his portrayal of the tormented, cuckolded Soames Forsyth on the BBC (and had become something of a sex symbol in the process - despite, or because of, his rough treatment of his capricious wife, Irene) so Hammer thought it worth taking a chance on him as leading man material - as they had Peter Cushing - instead of Christopher Lee or a fading American star. Porter was a top drawer classical actor - I had the good fortune to see his Malvolio in TWELFTH NIGHT at Stratford - and he has a convincingly craggy sea-faring face and a natural authority, and ain't half-bad as a man of action at the climax. His captain could give Cushing's Baron Frankenstein a few lessons in monomania - he fails to tell his crew (including, inevitably, Michael Ripper) about the dangerous cargo of Phophor B they carry. Having been beaten to the punch by Benito Carruther's sleazy character to sleep with Hildegard Knef, he cares very little when the man is carried off by an octopus. I doubt whether Porter lingered too long over the film on his CV but he's a first-rate lead and although he made an excellent Moriarity in the Granada series, might have been an intriguing Holmes. The women characters are unusually complex for Hammer. Hildegard Knef looked every inch a MILF and conveys the weary melancholy of a beaten-down woman who's had to compromise herself in the name of survival. Suzanne Leigh is one of Hammer's finest and most underrated bitches - look at the smirk she gives her hated father Nigel Stock when Porter berates him - and opens her thighs for anything with a pulse including the Sparks, Benito, and on-the-wagon Harry. Sadly, both fade from centre-stage at the climax - but there is compensation in the form of Dana Gillespie. We've suffered enough childish double-entendres with those gas balloons she wears for now, but she is a striking beauty and, as Hammer weren't overly concerned with the thespian ability of their ladies, it seems strange she never made another one for them - Christopher Lee could have sunk his fangs into her certainly. I suspect she's dubbed, but she certainly takes Harry's mind off the booze.
The plot structure is oddly similar to FROM DUSK TIL DAWN with the plot starting off as one genre and taking an unexpected detour in fantasy-land. Nonetheless, it remains a curio in Hammer's output (and an indication of what ZEPPELINS VS PTEROCATYLS might have looked like had it been made) and remains the guiltiest of pleasures.
To say there's something uneven with the screenplay is an understatement . The first half manages to combine contrivance , banality and boredom all together which is no small feat . If you've got a cargo of yellow oil drums that have " DANGER HIGHLY EXPLOSIVE MATERIAL DON'T GET IT WET UNDER ANY CIRUMSTANCES " warning signs splashed all over them you can just imagine this might some baring on some plot turn later on in the film , especially if the film spends five minutes explaining through its one dimensional ship's crew just how dangerous this stuff might be . Especially if a hurricane is coming . Just when you think it might be a disaster movie featuring shipwrecked survivors struggling to stay alive on a lifeboat the film mutates in to something entirely different so much so you'd be left thinking why this aspect wasn't developed earlier since the first half is entirely boring in comparison
I'm not saying the second half is good from an artistic point out of view but it is thoroughly entertaining as long as manage to suspend disbelief which is very difficult when the film throws everything including the kitchen sink at the audience . There's enough plastic monsters and ideas here to fuel an entire season of DOCTOR WHO . Perhaps the most striking thing is some of the design work where people can walk on weed infested water because they're wearing giant balloons strapped to their backs . Don't bother to ask where these survivors of a 16th Century Spanish fleet managed to acquire them or what they've been eating for several Centuries because it's not that type of movie
To give the cast credit they do try and make the most of their painfully underwritten clichéd roles of woman with a secret past , hip black dude , slutty blonde bimbo , tough level headed sea captain etc . The stand out performance is probably by Tony Beckley best known for his flamboyant larger than life roles and is especially best known by this reviewer for his show stopping role as Harrison Chase in the DOCTOR WHO story The Seeds Of Doom and it's strange watching him as a macho square jawed hero come alcoholic piano player . Also worth pointing out is Dana Gillespie as Sarah though possibly not for her acting talent and when one of the characters mentioned " Sarah is playing her with her balloon things " all sorts of images flashed through my mind
THE LOST CONTINENT is a very uneven film . As many people have said - and it's impossible not to notice it - it feels like two different films welded together by the same cast . . It's silly and entertaining but probably not as entertaining as you might have remembered it . That said it could very well do with a remake involving a more disciplined story structure while keeping the more horror and action based elements of the original
Based on a story by Dennis Wheatley called Uncharted Seas, this is an unashamed B-movie lifted only by an above-average cast. The monsters are terrible and of a cheap-looking DR WHO standard but for me, this can only be a highlight (I have a soft spot for poor special effects, no matter how bad they may be!). Bizarrely, the film bypasses the child audience by including some graphic violence of a man getting strangled and his neck broken, plus people bleeding profusely when being attacked by the various dangers on their voyage. The crooning music which pops up occasionally merely complements the utterly bizarre and unpredictable atmosphere that this movie possesses! Eric Porter is the initially unlikable Captain Lansen who comes through in the end; it's a wonder what this high-class actor was doing in a movie of this calibre at this time! Ageing Hildegard Knef lends some foreign glamour, while the ample charms of Dana Gillespie are on show for the last twenty minutes. Suzanne Leigh (LUST FOR A VAMPIRE) is the irritating screaming heroine who sleeps with any man she can find, and Nigel Stock (famous for his role as Watson to Cushing's Holmes in the BBC series) her father who gets eaten by a cardboard shark! Many familiar British character actors fill out supporting roles, many of them having appeared in previous British horror like Neil McCallum and Victor Maddern. Norman Eshley, Michael Ripper (sporting a hideous scar), Donald Sumptor, Tony Beckley, and Jimmy Hanley round out the main cast. The budget was actually one of the biggest that Hammer had for a film, and it shows in the ship set and the convincing-looking backgrounds; especially impressive is the "ship's graveyard", a mournful scene that the opening credits play over.
The action, when it comes, is actually very good and exciting. There's a battle between modern sailors and armoured Spanish soldiers (whose swords are still no match for guns!), a violent tropical storm, a mutiny, an attack by the sentient seaweed (which makes the same noise as a dozen movie monsters of the 1950s) which leaves the victims bleeding and scarred, a hilarious attack by a giant octopus with a glowing green eye (my personal favourite), a battle between a green-eyed giant crab and a giant scorpion (here the movie turns into surreal GODZILLA-like monster action, except not even as convincing - the giant crab has to be one of the worst and most unintentionally funny creatures that I've ever seen!) plus the expected (but impressive) explosive finale.
A member of the Spanish Inquisition (complete with Ku Klux Klan hat!) is included in the interests of completeness, along with an obnoxious boy king and a blubbery monster in a pit that was ripped off in RETURN OF THE JEDI. The sheer wealth of funny monsters and well-staged action keeps THE LOST CONTINENT from becoming boring; in the end it comes off as a hugely entertaining and tacky B-movie romp to be seen by those who do not judge their films too harshly and take merit in the simple pleasures of the movies.
After becoming a fan of Dana Gillespie (see her in "The People That Time Forgot" to learn WHY), and finding out she appeared in this pic, I ended up buying it on DVD. An open-minded second-look reveals a fine adventure yarn capped off by a very moody, surreal climax.
Quite a few reviewers state that there is no lost continent in the picture; this is not true. When the cast are in the Sargasso sea area you can clearly see mountainous land in the background; in fact, a character even proclaims at one point, "Look -- land!" Some of the cast even end up walking on the "lost continent" which is where they run into the laughable monsters (giant crab, giant lobster, etc.).
WHAT WORKS: There's lots of action and adventure; Eric Porter as Captain Lansen is strong; the human-eating seaweed is a plus; the surreal sets for the orangey Sargasso Sea of shipwrecks are fantastic; Dana Gillespie is incredibly beautiful; the balloon shoes & harnesses are creative; and the plot keeps your interest even though much of the writing is weak. The distinctive 60's theme song is also pretty cool.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Except for Dana Gillespie (Sarah), the characters are all rather unlikable and the biggest flaw is that the creature F/X are horrible (did I mention that already?).
FINAL ANALYSIS: "The Lost Continent" is not hailed as one of Hammer's masterpieces, but I think the main reason for this is the lousy crustacean monsters. The flick gets extra points for its high adventure and its undeniably mood. The film will certainly be enjoyable for those of us who are attracted to "lost continent"-type adventure flicks (just bear with the relatively short crustacean sequence). And Dana Gillespie doesn't hurt.
The film runs 89 minutes.
GRADE: C+ or B-
The movie captures his style. We are introduced to characters whose personalities change during the movie for apparent reason and plot threads that start promisingly then go nowhere.
Ben Carruthers is an almost cartoon-like sleazeball and good actors like Eric Porter, Jimmy Hanley and Hildegarde Kneff somehow manage to keep straight faces throughout.
The music is weird; from the opening crooning of a completely inappropriate title song it seems throughout to have been written for a different movie, having no connection with the mood of the scenes.
With it's painted sets and general air of cheapness it should have been a complete disaster but somehow in the end it all becomes strangely likeable.
One for those yahoo evenings with beer and popcorn.
Plot, for what it is worth, finds a potentially explosive cargo ship and passengers, piloted by an uber serious Eric Portman, become victim of a mutiny and then find themselves lost in the Sargasso Sea. But wait! There is an island offering salvation, only it's a bit of a time warp populated by despotic Spanish conquistadors. Oh and the landscape is filled with man-eating beasties, including rampaging seaweed.
Based on Dennis Wheatley's novel Uncharted Seas, it's a film where adults have to double check to see if they have had some bad liquor, while the kids delight in the garish colours and rubber monsters. It's all very surreal, and daft, and not quite a masterpiece of "Z" grade cinema, but it is fun, even if for those of us who like a drink, we will never ever be drunk enough to embrace its madness fully. 7/10
I certainly don't hold the feet of this film to any super critical standard since it dosen't seem to take itself seriously anyway. I agree with the one reviewer of the postings on this page that if you just suspend your disbelief somewhat that it's a quite entertaining film since it is quite imaginative in the visuals and the situation (albeit quite ridiculous) such as the Conquistadors stuck there for several centuries. The buxom balloon girl was most pleasant to look at and took to speaking English quite quickly (They have Berlitz books out there).
I think a story like this would be a bit more easier to swallow if it had taken place in the 20's or 30's, but again, the movie does not seem to take itself seriously so who cares(Giant crabs are not to beyond the pale, but giant scorpians!).
The cast plays it straight despite the absurdity, and that helps to suspend disbelief.
The weird factor is very high which is the most appealing factor of this flick.
I think there was a bit of 60's political angle of questioning of authority as the ship crew incited the lord kid to question his own blind obedience to the hooded inquisitor. There was a rapprochement between the crew of the ship and the conquistadors both standing in respect for the kid ruler in his burial at sea. So I suppose this could also be kind of a 60's version of 'can we all just get along' type decade influenced feature in this film.
Yes! A beer and pizza film.