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The Lost World: A Classic Sixties SF Blockbuster

Sunday, February 14th, 2016 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

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The Lost World (1960)
Directed by Irwin Allen

The shorthand version of this review is that The Lost World was directed, co-written and co-produced by Irwin Allen. If you know anything about Allen, who had something of a lock on science fiction TV in the Sixties, you’d probably have a pretty good idea of what to expect. It’s not outstanding production values, award-winning scripts and stellar acting.

To give some perspective, The Lost World was released a year before Allen’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea came to the big screen and a few years before the latter as made into a TV show. A show that was followed by in quick succession by other Allen productions, such as Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants. While I didn’t find The Lost World to be a very “good” movie, I thought it was an entertaining example of a blockbuster SF/adventure movie from this era.

The Lost World, by Arthur Conan Doyle, was published in 1912 and was one of many works of fiction he wrote that weren’t about Sherlock Holmes. I haven’t read it so I can’t speak to the differences between the book and this movie adaptation. But the book inspired a silent movie a little over a decade after its publication, and four more cinematic versions followed. Allen’s was the second adaptation. There was also a TV series that ran for three seasons around the turn of this century.

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The story is a simple enough one — adventurers find a lost world populated with dinosaurs and primitive peoples. As it gets underway, the irascible Professor Challenger — who is prone to thrashing people with his umbrella — announces to the London Zoological Society that he has indeed found a lost world. One of the top men in the society is skeptical, as are many others, and so Challenger challenges audience members to join up with him and go to the Amazon to sort it all out.

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Not surprisingly, several audience members are able to cash in their lost world leave at work and drop everything for the next few months to pop off to South America. The motley crew includes the Professor and his rival, a big game hunter, a reporter, and the daughter of the owner of the newspaper that he works for —¬†who turns up with her poodle and brother.

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Also on hand, at the other end, a helicopter pilot and his assistant. When the former is not helicoptering people around he’s invariably playing guitar and looking sultry — because that’s what those Latin types do, of course. His assistant’s role here is that of the scaredy cat, who responds to even the most insignificant peril in an exaggerated, cartoonish manner.

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Upon arriving at the lost world the plot unfolds in a straightforward manner. The group is menaced by various dinosaurs that look suspiciously like enlarged lizards (they are). There’s a dinosaur fight, which is mandated by various state, federal and international statutes regulating dinosaur movies.

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And there are those primitive peoples. Many of whom could almost sort of kind of pass for genuine primitives, except for the first one who appears on the scene. She looks more like a Sixties-era beauty queen, with a revealing Sheena-type outfit to match. And false eyelashes, if I’m not mistaken.

It’s all pretty hokey stuff, the pacing is sluggish until late in the movie and the effects are downright lame — especially that giant green spider.

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But as I’ve noted already, even though it wasn’t much of a movie it had the nostalgic appeal that one of Allen’s Sixties SF TV shows still provide. If you can stand the leisurely pace and put your brain on hold, it’s not so bad.


William I. Lengeman III’s last article for us was Part IV of his Star Trek Movie Rewatch, Star Trek Into Darkness. He holds forth at www.wileng3.com.

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