Monday, October 22, 2007

THE LOST WORLD - THE SPECIAL EDITION

After hitting box office gold with 1958’s JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, based on the Jules Verne adventure novel of the same name, 20th Century Fox was eager to repeat that film’s success with another big-screen dinosaur epic. Wanting it in theaters quickly, they turned to notoriously efficient producer-director Irwin Allen (VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, THE POSIEDON ADVENTURE), who chose another classic novel to adapt. The resulting film, THE LOST WORLD (1960), based on the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, was a Cinemascope and Technicolor (expensive processes reserved for the studios’ most important films) epic with an all-star cast, and did big business when released.

Crotchety Professor Challenger (Claude Rains, THE INVISIBLE MAN) leads an expedition comprised, in part, of a big game hunter (Michael Rennie, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL), a hot redhead in skintight pink Capri pants (Jill St. John, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) a reporter (David Hedison, THE FLY), a couple of Latin stereotypes and a poodle, to an isolated plateau deep in the Amazon jungle. There, above unscalable cliffs, savage dinosaurs (photographically enlarged lizards) and other prehistoric life forms survive to the present day (or at least, to 1960). Before long, the explorers run afoul of some cave-dwelling natives, and must find a way off the plateau before it is destroyed by volcanic eruptions.

A lavish, all-star big-budget epic, with impressive sets and A-list production values, THE LOST WORLD, is, ultimately, a silly Saturday afternoon matinee adventure with big lizards. That producer/director Allen was too cheap and in too much of a hurry to consider using stop-motion animation for the dinosaurs critically damages the film – even the kids in the audience are likely to snicker when the esteemed paleontologist Challenger identifies a komodo dragon as a "brontosaur" or oversized iguana as a "Tyrannosaurus Rex!"

Still, if you’re in the right mood, the fast pace, colorful characters and solid – if unchallenging – acting add up to a pretty fun 96 minutes.

Fox’s 2-disc special edition presents THE LOST WORLD in a crystal sharp, brilliantly colorful 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that preserves the aspect ratio of the original Cinemascope presentation. The film has been given a Dolby 4.0 surround mix for this disc, along with the original stereo mix. Extra features include a vintage promotional featurette, newsreel footage of the film’s 1960 premiere, the original trailer, a still gallery, and scans of the Dell comic book.

Disc 2 includes the original, 1925 silent version of THE LOST WORLD, presented in full-frame format with color tinting. This copy of the film – though not as complete as the version released by Image Entertainment a few years ago – features still-remarkable stop-motion dinosaurs by KING KONG effects genius Willis O’Brien, and looks very decent for its age.
Several minutes of animation outtakes are also included.

Recommended for dinosaur film completists and cult movie buffs, and film buffs who enjoy a bit of campy adventure.

BUY: The Lost World (Special Edition) - 1960 & 1925 versions