The Lost World – DVD Review

DVD available at Amazon.com

Director:
Irwin Allen

Cast:
Michael Rennie….Lord John Roxton
Jill St. John….Jennifer Holmes
David Hedison….Ed Malone
Claude Rains….Professor Challenger
Fernando Lamas…Manuel Gomez
Vitina Marcus….Native Girl

Fox Home Entertainment presents Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The
Lost World. Screenplay by Irwin Allen & Charles Bennett. Running time: 96 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release: July 13, 1960. DVD released Sept. 11, 2007.

The Movie

There are plenty of times when reviewers declare, “A movie like this could not be made today!” Normally you can rebuff them with a recent title containing a similar theme or lurid scene. But there is no way today’s Hollywood studios could release Irwin Allen’s The Lost World with the same effects. Why? Because major studios are no longer backing productions featuring extreme reptile fighting. This is a movie that Michael Vick can endorse.

The Lost World is a remake of the silent era version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story about what happens when man encounters dinosaurs in the modern world. The two versions share a common creative artist. In the original, Willis H. O’Brien pioneered his stop-motion animation that made him the father of King Kong. This was the first movie that brought his effects magic to the masses. The remake identifies O’Brien as the Effects Technician. This would be his final screen credit. While it makes an interesting circle in his career; it turns out he didn’t have too much to do with the updated film. While Irwin Allen wanted O’Brien, he couldn’t afford the budget or time needed for a stop motion spectacular. Do not blame O’Brien for Allen’s dinosaurs.

Professor Challenger tells the London Zoological meeting that he has found dinosaurs deep in the Brazilian Amazon jungle. Naturally nobody believes him. In order to prove his research, he drags an expedition to this isolated corner of the world. The adventurers are stocked with studs like Michael Rennie and Fernando Lamas. David Hedison (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea the series) plays against type as the dweebie journalist. Jill St. John provides the eye candy with a cunning swirl. The crew take a helicopter in the dense rain forest. They discover the professor’s research is real. Unfortunately their proof screws their exit plan. They’re stuck in a land of dinosaurs with their only hope of survival being a long march toward civilization. This unchartered land is filled with danger including vines and flowers that grab people. There’s a mysterious tribe living deep in the foliage. They might be cannibals. The biggest fear for the explorers is the man-eating dinosaurs.

This brings us to the most outrageous of special effects in the movie. Instead of having O’Brien work his cinematic wizardry, Allen stuck dinosaur parts on large reptiles. For all the amazing production work on the sets, it’s hard not to laugh at an iguana with horns glued to his head. This adds a cute kitsch element to the film. Did Irwin really think we’d be fooled at seeing such a beast? Maybe the iguana was the Meryl Streep of iguanas and pulled off playing “dinosaur big” during casting? What makes for freakish uncomfortable entertainment is the battle between an alligator and a komodo dragon. These two animals are tearing into each other like two drunks at a St. Patrick’s Day parade. This is a moment that won’t get you the American Humane Society’s “No animals were harmed or killed in the making of this motion picture” seal. The only comforting part of their battle is there’s no tearing of flesh captured on camera. Maybe they were merely rough housing?

For those who already bought Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Season One, Volume 1; you’ll recognize most of the dinosaur footage in “Turn Back the Clock” came from The Lost World. In the episode, they slapped a scarf around Hedison’s neck so he’d match his performance from four years earlier. Now you get to see the action in Deluxe Color and Cinemascope.

Most of the charms of The Lost World are coated in cheese. While the movie wants us to believe it’s a serious adventure film, our jaws don’t drop because of the celluloid spectacle. Our mouths gape in astonishment that Irwin Allen thought he could fool us with the masquerading reptiles. This is what we expect from a Corman production and not a major studio release. The plus side is that this boxset contains the original version of The Lost World so you can appreciate what O’Brien did the first time he animated the dinosaurs. It’s a shame he wasn’t given a chance to make his lizards thunder a final time. Irwin Allen’s version is more unintentional mirth than majestic. The Lost World should not be explored with sobriety.

The DVD

VIDEO:
The picture is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfer looks astonishing. You can see the glue in the reptiles’ dinosaur costumes.

AUDIO:
The soundtrack is in 4.0 Dolby Surround and stereo. It’s clean without any noticeable pops or hiss. There’s also mono dubs in French and Spanish. The subtitles are in English and Spanish.

EXTRAS:
Disc One
Footprints on the Sands of Time (3:15) mixes the reality of archeologists digging up dinosaur bones with the movie’s “living” dinosaurs. None of the archeologists give testimony to the historic accuracy of the movie’s dinosaurs.

Fox Movietone News (0:59) shows a pack of school kids at a special screening in Manhattan. David Hedison autographs their comic books of the movie.

Trailer (3:13) is as epic as the dinosaurs. The trailer hasn’t been restored so you can get a sense of how dazzling the color correction was in the new transfers.

Interactive Pressbook Gallery allows you to click on the promo material to get a closer look.

Comic Book (1:31) is a scan through the comic book that promoted the movie to the kids. It is hard to read the word balloons, but you can follow the pictures. They should have worked this like the Pressbook.
Still Gallery (9:21) features dozens of production photos. They run the score behind the slideshow.
Advertising Gallery (1:17) is a slideshow of the various posters, lobby cards and newspaper ads used to promote the film.

Illustrations Gallery (1:41) features the various drawings from the production design of the movie. They don’t blueprint how to glue horns on lizards, though.

Disc Two
The Lost World (1:16:00) is the original 1925 silent version of the film with O’Brien’s pioneering dinosaur effects. The film itself has been butchered over the years so that at one point it was a 2 reeler. In the early 90s, a nearly complete print was found in the Czech Republic. The George Eastman House used that copy to create a restored version. A few years later David Shepard did a video restoration with other bits of found footage and rewritten dialogue cards. There’s a bit of confusion about the print featured here. The liner notes suggest that this is a video restoration created by Shepard. The DVD features the Eastman House version that received funding from Hugh Hefner. Eastman House’s Caroline Yeager, confirmed this fact. This is the first time their print has been released on DVD. There’s another bit of confusion since the Eastman House version runs 100 minutes at 20 fps. It appears that this transfer is complete, but somebody sped it up. If you’re a traditionalist, you’ll be sick to your stomach at this screw up. If you just want to watch the movie, you’ll see it in 75% of the time. The trouble is that O’Brien’s stop motion work doesn’t look nearly as smooth. If you can slow down your DVD player during the dinosaur moments, it helps. This really needs to be redone.

Outtakes (7:10) features stray shots of O’Brien’s dinosaurs performing simple actions and eating. This transfer appears to be the proper speed.

Trailer (0:59) shows us how they teased an audience in the 1925. There’s no audio. Instead of Don LaFontaine announcing, “In a world where…,” we’re given big words on the screen to lure us back to see the big dinosaurs in motion. They knew how to threaten an audience as the final title card warns, “You forfeit your right to see the greatest entertainment the brains of man have ever achieved if you miss…”

Coupon gives up to $20 off if you buy three boxsets of Irwin Allen’s TV shows. It’s good till 1/31/08.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for The Lost World
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

7
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

8
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
7
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
If you need a good laugh, fast forward to the dinosaurs.

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