“150,000,000 Years Ago or Today?”
Directed by Irwin Allen
Starring Michael Rennie, Jill St John, David Hedison, Claude Raines
Professor Challenger (Raines) leads an expedition onto the lost plateau, including diamond-hunting adventure Lord Roxton (Rennie), ‘London’ reporter Malone (David ‘I’m in all Irwin Allen’s films, and I’m oh so American besides’ Hedison), a vengeful helicopter pilot and rival academic Professor Summerlee. Enter spoiled rich-girl Jennifer (St John), in pursuit of Roxton, and her kid brother, to keep things turning over.
Cue a series of daft outfits on Jill St John; attacks by monitor lizards with bits of plastic glued to them, stalking through miniature terrain; a monster fight (lizard vs. alligator); a gratuitous native bint in a very short frock; a cannibal tribe; a lost blind white guy with some helpful hints; and a big explosion at the end as the plateau erupts.
What’s wrong with it?
Starting small, Jennifer Holmes is an insult to all respectable spunky love-interests, being a useless shrieky tart, who turns out not to be there for love, but because she wants to marry Lord Roxton’s title. After he turns out to be a mercenary git, she starts clinging pathetically to Malone. The gratuitous native bint saves everyone’s lives, but is so gratuitous that even when they meet the blind white guy who knows her and speaks her language, she is not given a name.
But these are small quibbles, compared to the – for want of a better word – dinosaurs.
Literally, the alleged dinosaurs are lizards – or in one case an alligator – with plastic frills and horns glued on, shot against small terrain. They look terrible. To add insult to injury, the frilled monitor is described by Challenger as a ‘brontosaurus’, and he later declares the aquatic one with horns a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
What’s right with it?
The Lost World has a certain hokey charm, and a few unusual angles in its vengeance sub-plot (Roxton abandoned the blind man’s expedition, and the pilot’s brother was killed), but really there’s not much else to it.
How bad is it really?
Pretty naff really, but not intolerable. Plenty of stiff upper lips, and a little two fisted action.
Tough call. For amusement value, the natives getting their funk on to the crazy plateau beats is a hoot, but the monster fight – for which I’m pretty sure they just let the lizard and the gator go to it, then threw them both off a shelf – just takes the prize.
What’s up with?
- The vicious vegetation? Faced with an unseen monster, the party flee screaming into the bush, where Jennifer is set upon by some kind of vicious vine.
- The party’s total lack of gumption? In the above scene, at the first sign of anything, they flee from their camp, with no kind of plan, leaving their helicopter – the only way off the plateau – to the elements, and the monsters.
- The random chase through the spider web, ending with Malone busting a cap in the big, green-screen spider’s ass and running past it?
- Malone, Roxton and David splitting up to search, all getting lost, then Jennifer finds Malone three feet from the camp, but they can’t find their way back?
- “Look! A lake of boiling lava. And the natives have dammed it.” WITH WHAT? It’s boiling lava! The stones should melt, the log set up as a lever should just catch fire, and when the lava drops into the lake, it should instantly turn to superheated steam, filling the cavern and flash-boiling the useless buggers to death.
Production values – Pretty lame monsters, and some unconvincing lava. Oh, and the world’s worst superimposed giant tarantula. 18
Dialogue and performances – Aside from the immense non-Britishness of the British characters, the playing is pretty good, but the script gives them very little to work from. 13
Plot and execution – A slim plot goes a long way in this film, which sheds most of Conan Doyle’s material for a good monster fight and chase through the lava caves. Still, the pace is pretty good. 12
Randomness – Monsters appear out of nowhere quite a lot, and there’s the attack of the shrubs of course. Probably a 12, but for the lava dam. 16
Waste of potential – Conan Doyle’s story has had a dozen interpretations on film, most of them better than this one. Even in its day, dinosaur effects could be done better. This was a blast from the past even in the sixties, harking back to the black-and-white days of MST3K favourite, The Giant Gila Monster. 18