THE LOST WORLD

In the middle of the twentieth century, you fall off the brink of time!

THE LOST WORLD (1960) is a fantasy/adventure/action film brought to us by 20th Century Fox and the great Irwin Allen. The movie is rather loosely based on the 1912 novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The plot involves exploring a lost plateau in South America were there are dinosaurs, cannibals, carnivorous plants, giant insects, and other fun stuff. The film stars Claude Rains, Michael Rennie, David Hedison, and Jill St. John. 

CAST

Claude Rains as PROFESSOR GEORGE EDWARD CHALLENGER

Michael Rennie as LORD JOHN ROXTON

David Hedison as ED MALONE

Jill St. John as JENNIFER HOLMES                                

Fernando Lamas as MANUEL GOMEZ

Richard Haydn as PROFESSOR SUMMERLEE

Ray Stricklyn as DAVID HOLMES            

Jay Novello as COSTA

Vitina Marcus as the native girl

Professor George Edward Challenger is an anthropologist, zoologist, and inventor. He is also arrogant, rude, and sometimes violent – wielding his umbrella like a medieval weapon. All of which has not endeared him to his fellow scientists. When he returns to London claiming to have found a lost plateau in Venezuela with living dinosaurs but offers no proof he is not believed. A new expedition is organized to prove, or disprove, his claims but to his dismay Challenger finds himself saddled with adventurers, reporters, and thrill-seekers rather than scientists. 

On their first night on the lost plateau their helicopter is destroyed by what sounded like a giant animal. They are now trapped and have to deal with carnivorous plants, giant insects, and actual live dinosaurs as they struggle to survive while trying to find a way out. They also deal with mounting tensions, frayed nerves, deadly secrets, and increasingly bad tempers. In the process they learn a great deal about each other and a lot about themselves – not all of it good. Some of them are not what they seem and others have a great deal to hide. Is someone willing to kill to keep their secrets?

Through luck, courage, ingenuity, and teamwork our heroes succeed in overcoming cannibals, surviving volcanoes, and yes even more giant monsters as they finally find a way off the lost world – but not everyone makes it! 

  • Irwin Allen’s original intentions had been to cast Trevor Howard, Peter Ustinov, Claude Rains, Victor Mature, Robert Mitchum and Gilbert Roland. The only one who finally made it was Claude Rains. 
  • 20th Century Fox was forced to slash the budgets of all their feature productions at the time, including this one, as the costs over CLEOPATRA (1963) were beginning to get out of control.
  • Irwin Allen had wanted to use stop motion special effects and had hired Willis H. O’Brien. But the slashed budget forced them to work with lizards and reptiles with pasted on plastic horns and spikes to make them look like dinosaurs. 
  • This film is one of Willis H. O’Brien’s last screen credits. His work was mainly hundreds of conceptual sketches for the dinosaurs. Because of the slashed budget none of them made it on screen. 
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s favorite of all the characters he created was Professor George Edward Challenger. 
  • The film is very loosely based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book. In fact, Internet Movie Database refuses to list Conan Doyle in the writer’s credit as based on his novel. 
  • Vitina Marcus was sometimes nicknamed the female Tarzan and made a career out of playing native girls during the 1960s. 
  • The film was made into a comic book. THE LOST WORLD Four Color Comics #1145 (1960) Dell Movie Classic. The interior artwork was by comics legend Gil Kane. 
  • David Hedison so impressed Irwin Allen that the producer offered him the lead in VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1961) – which Hedison turned down because of other commitments. But he did accept the same part in the TV show based on the movie. 
  • Ray Stricklyn plays David Holmes who is supposed to be the younger brother of Jennifer Holmes played by Jill St. John. However, Stricklyn was actually twelve years older than St. John. 
  • Richard Haydn plays a character similar to Professor Summerlee in FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON(1962) which was also made by Irwin Allen. There are other similarities between the two films.   

Dislikes

  • Although no fault of their own the film suffers from using live reptiles instead of stop motion. You never accept them as dinosaurs – giant monsters yes but dinosaurs no. 
  • This is both a like and a dislike. Jill St. John’s character brings her pet poodle along – which is ridiculous! However, the film makers wisely kept the poodle’s antics to a minimum and thank God there were no instances where the poodle saved the day. 
  • The film is a tad dated in its attitude towards women. But in the long run it is not that bad. Somehow Jill St. John manages to champion women’s equality while wearing pink in a jungle. I’m still amazed at how she does that.  

Likes

  • For me this is an all-star cast. We have Claude Rains from THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), Michael Rennie from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951), David Hedison from THE FLY (1958), Jill St. John from WHO’S MINDING THE STORE (1963), Fernando Lamas from THE AVENGERS(1950), Richard Haydn from FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON, Ray Stricklyn from THE RETURN OF DRACULA (1958), Jay Novello from HARUM SCARUM (1965), and Vitina Marcus from TARAS BULBA (1962). Watching this movie was like visiting with old friends. 
  • It is amazing how much Jill St. John can make pink look good. 
  • There is no villain in this story. That doesn’t mean there is no drama, confrontations, or unlikeable characters. But there is no bad guy chewing up the scenery and stroking a white cat and the movie is better for it. 

During the late 1950s and 1960s there were a slew of adventure movies made about expeditions and lost civilizations – AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956), JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH(1959), FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON, and THE LOST CONTINENT (1968) are among them. As a kid I couldn’t get enough and to this day I still love reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells because of these films. Irwin Allen’s THE LOST WORLD is cut from the same cloth. While it is true that it takes a lot of liberties with the Conan Doyle story it is still very much a grand adventure and a roller-coaster ride of thrills. Claude Rains is irascible, Michael Rennie is unflappable, David Hedison is stalwart, and Jill St. John is . . . well, pink. What more can you ask? 

I recommend this movie but when you do watch it have plenty of popcorn on hand – it is that kind of movie. If you’re an older guy like me get your grandkids to watch it. They’ll laugh at the cheesy dinosaurs and poodles in the jungle, but they will also smile at all the right things, cry at all the right places, and stayed glued to their seats until the end. And when it’s over they will ask for more. 

It is with a smile on my face, popcorn in my mouth, and a giggle in my heart that I gleefully give THE LOST WORLD three and a half gray geeks. Yay!

When I re-watched THE LOST WORLD in order to write this review, I did not realize that FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON – a similar film and another I remember loving as a kid – was also made by Irwin Allen. I’m sorry to say that our time together has come to an end. However, I’m happy to promise that I’m going to track down FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON and share it with all of you. I enjoy our time together too much for me to stop. Hasta la vista, amigos! 

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