The Lost World (1960)
Directed by Irwin Allen
Screenplay by Irwin Allen and Charles Bennett
Based on the novel of the same name by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Jill St. John
A brash scientist, Dr. George Challenge (Claude Rains), convinces the London Zoological Society to sponsor an expedition into the Amazon. There, he claims, is an uncharted plateau, cut off from evolution for millions of years and home to giant prehistoric creatures. We are introduced to a host of characters during the build up to this expedition, each with their own eccentricities and quirks, a hunter (Michael Rennie), a reporter (David Hedison), a woman adventurer (Jill St. John), a Latino helicopter pilot who plays guitar (Fernando Lamas) and another jungle guide, Costa (Jay Novello), to name a few. Each have their own motivations for attending this trip. The dialogue is dated to the time and script reveals a comical edge, especially concerning Dr. Challenge and the Latino guide.
The dinosaurs: This is a film that would forgo the success of stop-motion animation of the preceding decade and regress to using live reptiles with matting techniques upon scaled jungle sets. One of the dinosaurs is a Monitor Lizard with a Cerotopian frill behind its head and Stegosaurus-like plates along its back. Another is an iguana with horns obviously glued to his head. Considering what they are the film does a good job at portraying them as giant creatures and the sound design helps to sell it as we hear roaring and trees snapping in their paths. However, they look nothing at all like real dinosaurs. They call the Iguana thing a Brontosaurus and it was laughable to think that they would even use a real dinosaur name for their Frankenstein creature design.
There’s a mega battle between the Monitor frill-head/Stegasaur lizard and an alligator with spikes on his head and a sail- fin back like a Dimetrodon. They seemed to have thrown these two reptiles onto the set and let them battle it out. They snap at each other, bite and claw each other in bloody battle. The gator finally grabs the lizards arm in its teeth and attempts the ‘death roll’ causing them to both tumble off the set…I mean, off a cliff. This battle is so wrong by animal rights standards, it would never be attempted today.
In the finale of the film, the crew is chased by a native tribe through volcanic caverns to the base of the mountain. Everyone falls in love with their suitors and Dr. Challenge gets his scientific proof of prehistoric creatures with an egg he had saved from the volcanic eruption. No one seems to consider that the plateau stood for millions of years, but a few days of modern man caused its demise, lol.
One of the big problems with the film, dinosaurs not-withstanding, was that the huge cast was hard to manage. You never really connect with any of the characters because so little time was available for their individual stories. I’d say that Irwin Allen got better at this aspect in future films such as, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, but in this film the viewer becomes a pedestrian outsider watching a bunch of strangers.
It’s a journey of adventure, but different than the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle book. It’s intentionally comical at points, at points unintentionally comical. Despite the drawbacks, I tend to overlook the many faults of the film and enjoy it on some level. It’s appropriate for the dinosaur adventure fan and fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Irwin Allen used stock footage from the film for his various TV shows, including episodes of Land of the Giants, Lost in Space, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
Jay Novello, the comical Latino guide, had played several small roles in I Love Lucy.
Jill St. John would go on to play one of my fave Bond girls in Diamonds Are Forever.
Michael Rennie was of course in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).
Stock Footage of the frilled dino also used in Rod Serling’s The Night Gallery episode, The Painted Mirror (1971)