Monday, October 26, 2009

They Might Be Giants: The Lost World(1960)

I started this topic thread because I wanted to promote sci-fi and/or horror films that are universally slammed or otherwise deemed mediocre but that I find fun to watch and a fairly entertaining escape from reality. Few movies do that for me better than The Lost World , which originally opened in theaters back in 1960, written and directed by Irwin Allen.

Irwin Allen was, for lack of better words, "the man" when it came to sci-fi adventure on TV in the 1960's, producing the 60's TV series Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, Lost In Space, The Time Tunnel and Land Of The Giants. Irwin Allen would also direct the sci fi film Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea(1961) and later produce/co-direct the spectacular disaster films The Poseidon Adventure(1972) and The Towering Inferno(1974), both films featuring impressive special effects and star studded casts of "name" actors.

The first of Irwin Allen's directorial efforts is The Lost World, a movie based on the book of the same name written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle's book first came to cinema in 1925 with the silent film "The Lost World", which featured then state of the art special effects used to render the movements of the dinosaurs. Thirty five years later Doyle's book would come to life on the big screen again.

The film's story: professor George Edward Challenger returns to England from an expedition to South America with big news: he's seen dinosaurs roaming on and around a towering plateau in a remote area of the Amazon river. Challenger's colleagues, and the media, are understandably skeptical of the fiery, bearded professor's claims. In reply to his skeptics Challenger proposes that another expedition be assembled for the purpose of studying the area. With the financing of the expedition secured, Challenger and a group that includes his academic rival, an adventurer, a reporter and the daughter of the media mogul who bankrolls the expedition, embark to South America. Arriving in the humid, tropical Amazon basin it isn't long before Challenger and the group encounter the local animal population which includes, you guessed it, large and hungry dinosaurs. The remainder of the film chronicles the groups' struggle as they try to deal with the dinos and a group of hostile cannibals all while trying to find a way out of the remote and dangerous region. (no other spoilers)

Observations, both positive and negative -

Thumbs up:

1. the cast, all of who play off each other quite well. The differing personalities and pet peeves of the cast often provide for some humorous moments, including:
-Professor Challenger(played by Claude Rains) clobbering reporter Ed Malone(played by David Hedison) upside the head with his umbrella as the professor tried to make his way from the airplane to the airport terminal
-the fight between the adventurer Lord John Roxton(played by Michael Rennie) and reporter Ed Malone
-the withering back and forth wisecracks and sniping between Challenger and his skeptical academic rival Summerlee(played by Richard Haydn).

2. the sense of spectacle in the movie, aided by some very decent cinematography during certain sequences of the film

3. the audio of the dinosaurs is solid and the huge creatures roar often and with great effect

4. Jill St John, who looked gorgeous in this film as "Jennifer Holmes" and came off as a diva, albeit a likable diva. Vitina Marcus, who played the native girl, also looked very hot!

Thumbs down:

1. the special effects used to render the two primary reptilian dinos. It's fairly obvious that two large lizards were fitted with props(resembling back dorsals) and it looked absurd.

2. the effects used to render the giant spider. These sequences relied on matte shots and not very good ones.

3. the "man eating" vines mentioned in the film's trailer. Turns out no herbicides are needed as these vines are rendered in the movie through what look like simplified animatronics.

The film used to make the rounds on AMC(American Movie Classics). It was released to quality Region 1 DVD not too long ago, presented in its 2:35.1 widescreen aspect ratio, the DVD also including some extras and the 1925 film as an added bonus.

No one will ever mistake The Lost World(1960) for being an Oscar worthy science fiction film but if you're looking for a way to be entertained for ninety minutes then I would recommend that sci-fi film fans buy the Fox Home Video Region 1 special edition DVD of this movie.

The film's trailer:

To see The Lost World(1960) special edition DVD for sale at Amazon copy and paste this URL into your browser's nav bar or click the DVD cover art image below:

Bonus - here's the URL to watch a streaming video, at Google, of The Lost World(1925):