The Lost World


Adventure / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

IMDb Rating 7.1 10 4211


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by ramaken33 8 / 10

The Grandaddy of All Giant Monster Movies

***WARNING SOME SPOILERS*** This is the one that started it all, before King Kong, Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Godzilla, Jurassic Park, etc. Nearly eighty years ago, this ambitious silent film was unleashed on an astonished public, the story adapted from the famous novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Although there had been silent short subjects featuring prehistoric animals before, The Lost World was the first full-length feature to introduce the concept of such outsized monsters invading a major metropolis. Today, such a plot seems terribly cliched, but it's unfair to judge The Lost World by modern standards- technically or artistically. In fact, if imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, this original version of the Lost World should be blushing from the attention!

Willis O'Brien (who had produced many short animated subjects previously) was the primary resource behind Lost World: without his expertise and participation, the movie would likely never have been completed, or even considered. The film's producers rightly figured audiences would want to see the film primarily for the prehistoric animals, so the human cast took a supporting role. O'Brien and his crew went above and beyond Doyle's story, populating the Lost World with seemingly dozens of creatures, (only a few are mentioned in the novel). The inclusion of more dinosaurs allowed the film to feature them as the primary menaces, instead of the novel's plot of tribal warfare between natives and ape-men. Except for stuntman Bull Montana as the villainous missing link inexplicably traveling in conjunction with a chimpanzee, this portion of the novel was excluded from the film.

The film varies somewhat from Doyle's novel: a group of intrepid explorers accompany the volatile Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery) to a plateau in the jungles of South America. Beery's Challenger is probably the most interesting character in the film. He's a man driven by his convictions and unwilling to back down on his arguments. In several ways, he can be seen as a precursor to King Kong's Carl Denham. Lewis Stone as Sir John Roxton provides the only real subtlety of character, an older man in love with the sole woman of the expedition, Paula White (Bessie Love). Roxton sees his chances for romance fade as Paula falls for Ed Malone (Lloyd Hughes) a younger man who hopes to make his career as a journalist on the expedition. Roxton first conveys dismay at the budding romance, then resignation as he chivalrously bows out of this romantic triangle. It's an unexpected touch of subtlety in a film that is geared towards drama and conflict.

Inevitably- because of this emphasis on the special effects- this romantic subplot seems intrusive. If only the film could have sustained such human interaction, or managed to evoke some compassion in audiences. Sadly, though the effects themselves are quite startling, the pacing and direction of The Lost World are merely serviceable. O'Brien and his crew worked wonders to create the dinosaurs and volcano eruption, but the technical wizardry is let down by the workmanlike, unimaginative direction of Harry Hoyt, who seems completely disconnected to the possibilities inherent in such a plot. Unlike King Kong, which wisely built up suspense and tension when introducing the prehistoric denizens of Skull Island, the dinosaurs in Lost World appear abruptly and without context. The brontosaurus, for instance, is first seen grazing sedately through a simple cut away from the live action, and is not shown in scale with the players until later, almost as an afterthought. The Allosaurus that stalks into the nighttime camp, contrarily, is well handled. With its eyes eerily reflecting the glow of the campfire like a jungle cat's, the dinosaur advances from the darkness towards the explorers. Even here, however, the suspense is dissipated by the fact we've already seen the Allosaurus (or another like it) attacking first a Trachodon, then a Triceratops, so its appearance in the camp is less of a shock. (Its attack, as well, is too brief).

As for the effects themselves, it is obvious that there were many technical bugs that O'Brien worked to improve upon during production: the results are mixed. Sometimes the animation of the monsters is smooth, (most notably with the Brontosaurus running amok in London) but in earlier scenes it is obvious much of the stop motion was shot using two or even three frame exposures between moving the models. This gives the animation an uneven look, and it's odd that these more primitive scenes survived into the final version. It's also strange that a Brontosaurus was selected to be loose in the finale, especially since this sequence wasn't included in the novel. Unlike Kong, the dinosaur doesn't have much motivation other than lumber through the streets. Even the collapse of Tower Bridge seems anticlimactic rather than a spectacle highlight. People are injured, but the dinosaur provides little intentional menace. Had the filmmakers substituted a flesh-eating Allosaurus as the captive that broke loose (as shown in the posters for the film!) it would have provided far more of a threat. (Hmmm, sounds a lot like ANOTHER `Lost World made 72 years later!)

The Lost World has recently been re-released on DVD in a beautifully restored (and much extended) print, culled from several sources. Most of this restored footage is of the human drama, but there are a few significant dinosaur scenes, as well. There is more footage of the dinosaur stampede, and it appears some of the existing animation was replaced by a different `take' of the same scene featured in earlier releases. On the whole, The Lost World is one of the more interesting silent films-- mostly because one can see some of the seeds of King Kong being sown here, seven years before. This version of the Lost World, while perhaps not a true classic like King Kong, nonetheless has its moments. If you're curious about the birth and development of stop-motion, or see what inspired the more recent Jurassic Park films, I'd recommend visiting this Lost World again.

Reviewed by jluis1984 8 / 10

Years ahead of its time

More than 80 years after its release, the first adaptation of "The Lost World" remains as one of the most influential silent films ever, due to Willis O'Brien pioneer advances in the field of special effects, as it showcases the first time stop motion animation was used to create creatures on a feature length film. These innovation was of huge importance for this and future films, and earned Willis O'Brien and his dinosaurs a place in history as an iconic image in film history, only surpassed by another of O'Brien's creations: King Kong.

Based on Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of the same name, "The Lost World" is the tale of Prof. Challenger's (Wallace Beery) epic quest looking for the living dinosaurs who supposedly live in the deep Amazonic jungle, according to the journal of his fellow explorer Maple White, who disappeared in his last exploration. Maple's daughter, Paula (Bessie Love) joins the expedition looking for her missing father, as well as Sir John Roxton (Lewis Stone), an experienced hunter friend of Challenger. Prof. Summerlee (Arthur Hoyt) goes as well, hoping to prove that Challenger is a fraud, and finally, reporter Edward Malone (Lloyd Hughes) joins the expedition, hoping to prove his girlfriend Gladys (Alma Bennet) that he is brave enough to face death.

Cleverly adapted by Broadway playwright Marion Fairfax (who also adapted in 1922 another of Conan Doyle's works, "Sherlock Holmes"), the film is an excellent mix of action and adventure that even when it's not entirely faithful to the novel, keeps the spirit of wonder and fascination with the unknown. From the obsessive Challenger to the incredulous Summerlee, every character is very detailed and for the most part well constructed, giving each one of them a defined personality and a certain degree depth absent in many silent films.

However, the film's best remembered characteristic is the incredible special effects by Willis O'Brien, who after mastering his craft in short films got his first work in "The Lost World" and changed special effects forever. His imagery is very vivid, and very detailed considering the limited resources he had. Sadly, Harry O. Hoyt's direction takes zero advantage of Fairfax's story and O'Brien's effects, and delivers a simplistic and unoriginal work that adds nothing to the whole work and seems to let the cast and crew do their job. It's not a bad direction as a whole, but it feels uninterested on the many possibilities a film like this posses.

The cast is quite effective, and really does a great job with what they have, starting with legendary Wallace Beery, who as Prof. Challenger delivers one of the best performances in a silent film. Without the aid of sound, Beery shows a wide range of emotions in his complex character and is great in both drama and comedy. Lloyd Hughes is very good as the cowardly Malone, and showcases a talent for comedy as well as a romantic figure, as his character shows interest in Paula White, played by Bessie Love, who makes a fine counterpart to Hughes and delivers a natural, and fresh performance. Lewis Stone completes the cast and his dignified performance as Sir John Roxton is very effective.

It's safe to say that "The Lost World" owes more to O'Brien and Fairfax than to O'Hoyt, and that probably with a more experienced director the film would had been even better. However, the film's real problem has nothing to do with the way it was made, but with the way it was preserved during most of its history. Nowadays there is not a complete version of the movie, most home video versions are of the 64 minutes version, while one (Image) is of a 93 minutes reconstruction. And while probably that version is the closest we can be to the original runtime of the film, it sadly has modernized the dialogs, to the point that some lines are rewritten to fit our modern standards.

Hopefully, one day we'll be able to see "The Lost World" as it was intended to be, but meanwhile, we can still appreciate the enormous importance of its amazing special effects, and how it forecasts films like "Jurassic Park" in many ways. This epic tale of action, adventure and horror has probably not seen a better adaptation than this, the movie that set everything for the arrival of King Kong and changed special effects for ever. 8/10

Reviewed by Hitchcoc 8 / 10

Pretty Awesome for Its Time

This was the first movie I ever taped when I got my first VCR back in the 1980's. I saw it was going to be on at 3:00 a.m., so I decided to try the programming to see it it worked. It did. I was so excited. The movie is so much fun. It has Wallace Beery as a borderline madman scientist leading an expedition to a far off island to find dinosaurs. There is a subplot of a reporter who is trying to talk him into letting him go along. There are scenes where Professor Challenger (Beery) chases and assaults this man because he hates reporters. Of course, we all know the story. They do bring back a dinosaur and it gets loose (ala King Kong) and leaves a path of destruction. The special effects are like Claymation, but one could only wonder how exciting and impressive these things were in their time. As a period piece, I urge people to see this. There are full length prints of it, not just the one some have commented on, which only shows the dinosaur scenes. If you have an open mind, you will have a lot of fun.

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