Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Lost World

The Lost World ~ I first saw this 1960 update of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World on the afternoon movie when I was maybe five or so. I had seen excerpts on the Gene London show early Saturday morning and then the whole thing later that afternoon. Maybe a year later I saw it again on a weekday afternoon with my big sister and her then boyfriend/now husband as she made a home cooked meal for them while they watched. Yeah, I was the annoying baby brother, but still the film holds good memories.

The Lost World was an early work of Irwin Allen, who besides creating some wonderful scifi television like "Lost in Space," "Land of the Giants," and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," later pioneered the disaster film with The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. He was campy cool and to a five year old, a film genius. Heck, I still dig his stuff at fifty-one. Allen produced, directed, and co-wrote this one.

The bearded Claude Rains is protagonist Professor Challenger, who with Michael Rennie, David Hedison (of the aforementioned "Voyage" and Felix Leiter in two James Bond flicks), Fernando Lamas, and the very young token female Jill St. John in tow, takes a trip to a lost plateau in Venezuela where dinosaurs still exist (yeah, the same one from Up). Rains is quite fun, Hedison overshadows Rennie sadly, and St. John plays the even sadder dual role of independent woman and damsel in distress. All that said, the cast's chemistry is tight and entertaining.

The updating of the story is well done except for the special effects, which might really tick the folks at PETA off in this day and age. One of the things that stands out most about this movie are the 'dinosaurs.' While Allen originally wanted to use stop motion for the dinosaurs, budget constraints led to iguanas, crocodiles, and monitor lizards with horns and fins attached. Yeah, I know.

This was waaay old school, a practice dating back to the Flash Gordon serials and cruel treatment of the animals, especially when they are made to fight each other. It's also quite distracting and takes the viewer out of the movie when Challenger calls a beast a brontosaurus and one can see it's obviously a monitor lizard. Some of this 'giant' reptilian footage was recycled for some of Allen's TV shows.

All things considered, this is a great traditional adventure with a wonderful pulp flavor - fun, thrills, and Jill St. John in tight pink pants - well worth seeing. Irwin Allen at his campy best, and still as good as it was when I was five.

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