Of all the television series that sprung from the insane brains of Sid & Marty Krofft, Land of the Lost is arguably the most fondly remembered. This is mainly because Land of the Lost is, despite its terrible acting, wooden production value, and hilariously bad special effects, rather quaintly silly and bizarrely entertaining. Those who hold a nostalgic affection for the show will undoubtedly find themselves laughing at Land's flaws while still having a goofy good time with the Season 3 adventures.
If, on the other hand, you're completely unfamiliar with Land of the Lost, I'd recommend you just keep walkin'. Let's just say this is a cult show that's being released onto DVD almost exclusively for the folks who already love it. I doubt Rhino Home Video is expecting to win over any new converts with these DVD sets, but the many fans should be quite satisfied indeed.
The first two seasons of Land of the Lost detailed the adventures of teenaged Will, precocious Holly, and protective Papa Rick as they fall through a time portal, end up stuck in prehistoric times, and are (repeatedly) forced to avoid dinosaurs that look like puppets, cavemen who look like bigfoot, and green alien creatures (?) called Sleestaks. (We're not exactly talking rocket science here, fellas.)
After Land's second season, actor Spencer Milligan (who played the dad) apparently decided to move on to something a bit less ... goofy, and he was promptly replaced by Ron Harper as "Uncle Jack" for Season 3 -- which, not surprisingly, was the show's final season.
But enough with the prehistory history lesson. Let's get on to the meat of Rhino's third and final season set of Land of the Lost.
1. After-Shock - "Will! I thought I saw something fall into the land of the lost!" Will and Holly are forced to (briefly) fend for themselves after Dad gets sucked into one of those stone phone-booth portals. But all turns out groovy in the end when their good ol' Uncle Jack plops down into the Land of the Lost. (What are the odds on that?)
2. Survival Kit- "A god is not a god who has the flesh and cravings of a human!" Holly's feeling yucky, so Will and Uncle Jack head off to the lagoon in search of some old knapsacks that (conveniently) contain antibiotics ... despite the fact that they've been underwater for two years. When the boys arrive back at their new temple apartment, Sleestaks are afoot! Seems the red-eyed freaks are being subjugated by the prehistoric "God" Malek - as played by Richard "Jaws" Kiel!
3. The Orb - "To obtain the orb you must master your masters, you must see what cannot be seen, all must be accomplished after dark before light!" - Thanks to another one of those wandering stonebooths, Will finds himself invisible! Plus those nasty Sleestaks have kidnapped the gang's Altrusian pal Enik, thus beginning a rather inane rescue mission that involves magical orbs and mystical ropes. (Apparently an "Altrusian" is not much more than a Sleestak with a red shirt.)
4. Repairman - "Chaka no like solar flares!" – A lazy Sunday afternoon in dino-land turns into a sweltering furnace when the sun starts pulsating! Into the temple, Holly! Everyone's really sweating it up something fierce, so Uncle Jack heads out for some water and bumps into a chubby Englishman. (Huh?) The Sleestaks, those kidnappin' fools, snatch the stranger up and toss him in a pit. With the help of several bladder-gas hand-grenades (don't ask), Jack slips into rescue mode.
5. Medusa - "Imagine how bummed out she felt when she realized she was gonna spend eternity as a … ugly statue!" – Yet another of the Lost clan ends up kidnapped! This time it's Holly who gets abducted by (get this) Medusa! Yep! Greek mythology Medusa! Ha! Snakehair and stone-eye and all that jazz! And this Medusa has voracious shrubbery as a sidekick, a snippy mirror reflection, and a garden full of "statues." Will, Chaka and Uncle Jack to the rescue!
6. Cornered - "Y'know, Torchy's got a couple of things we don't have: his strength, his size, his fire, a dangerous tail – but we have one thing a thousand times stronger than Torchy. Intelligence!" – Will gets poisoned by a nasty new fire-breathing dinosaur, and those rotten Sleestaks have a cure, but they won't give it up until Uncle Jack rids the valley of this horrific beast. And, of course, Holly decides to name this vicious killing machine … Torchy.
7. Flying Dutchman - "Ha ha ha! Your tongue is like a feather to make me laugh!" – That kooky old Malek is back, and this time he's caught stealing supplies from a local … pirate ship? Yep! Jack, Will, Holly (and of course the ever-creepy Chaka) do what they can to keep the peace between a caveman with delusions of godhood and a Victorian-era sailor-guy who really has no good business hanging out in prehistory.
8. Hot-Air Artist - "He is a god as one who wishes to be a god is a god … in the same way he is evil!" - An errant (and chubby) hot-air balloonist crash-lands near the Marshall temple, so Uncle Jack heads out to meet the Gleason-esque colonel (from 1910.) The colorful kook promises to take our friends home if they'll help to repair his airship, but those idiotic Sleestaks mistake the balloonist for an evil god. Did I mention that the Sleestaks take all their orders from a room full of Sleestak-head cookie jars?
9. Abominable Snowman - "Come. I will give you a toad with a precious jewel in its forehead!" – Chaka and Holly bake a cake (somehow) while Jack and Will forage for fruit and become friendly with a small brown unicorn. (Whaaaat?) Enik (the friendly Sleestak with the red blouse) warns Jack that the unicorn belongs to "Tapa from the snow world." Long story short, we end up getting a peek at what's easily the goofiest Abominable Snowman costume ever created.
10. Timestop - "Something this elaborately engraved is certainly worth investigating!" – Jack and Enik end up bickering and bartering over a swanky new crystal that can control the flow of time. And then that stupid Chaka gets stuck in a geyser, so Jack has to use the time-crystal to save him. Oh the irony. (Enik is really beginning to show his darker side in these later episodes!)
11. Ancient Guardian - "It looks like a little Sleestak … and different!" – The trio of prehistoric human hairbrains come across a creepy Sleestak statue sitting in the middle of nowhere … so, like morons, they decide to pick it up and lug the thing back home. The removal of the statue unleashes a fuzzy screaming banshee of a creature, and one that looks a whole lot like that abominable snowman from two episodes prior – only this thing is grey instead of white. Anyway, the Sleestaks are pretty pissed about the whole situation, and justifiably so, I might add.
12. Scarab - "He stole the skull of the voice of wisdom!" - The irritatingly inquisitive Chaka gets bitten by an exotic beetle, develops a nasty fever and a new taste for malicious mischief, and nearly causes an all-out battle royale between three slow-witted humans and four shifty Sleestaks. (Seems to me that all involved might be best off leaving Chaka tied up in the jungle somewhere.)
13. Medicine Man - "Y'know, it sounds just dumb enough that we gotta take it seriously…" – So far in this, the third and final season, we've seen the following people show up in prehistory: Medusa, a pirate, Richard Kiel, and a balloonist colonel. You can now add a full-bore, completely stereotypical "Indian" to that guest list. I'm talking about the broad and ridiculous caricature of Indians that you'll generally find in western films – from 1943. Anyway, Will runs into the jungle and comes across a U.S. cavalryman. Both the soldier and the Indian are dying of some fever, there's a whole lot of backbiting and bickering about the exploitation of America's indigenous people, and then the Indian heals the soldier and everyone makes up. Oh, and (seeing as how this is the final episode) the Marshalls end up stuck in the Land of the Lost forever and never do get home. Boo. They didn't even get a Globetrotters movie or anything. (And the series ends with Will singing!)
Presented in their original broadcast format (full frame, of course), these episodes look as good as they've ever looked. Better, actually! Compared with the fuzzy old UHF broadcasts we used to see, this is a massive step up. Granted this is not exactly a series that's reliant on visual splendor, but the colors are still crisp and the transfers don't show much evidence of that old-school TV grain.
A fairly impressive Dolby Digital 2.0 track gives you all the dino shrieks and Sleestak hisses in fine order. One might expect a cheesy little TV show from 1976 to sound a lot grungier, but the audio presentation here is more than crisp enough.
A handful of fan-friendly extra features appear on Disc 1. First up is an episode 1 audio commentary with Uncle Jack himself (aka actor Ron Harper), which is basically 24 minutes of a good-natured fella laying a ton of praise on his old co-stars and producers. Harper goes a little overboard here and there ("This is so well-written!"), but it's clear the guy feels a strong affection for his goofy old dinosaur show. And what Land of the Lost fan wouldn't want to hear a short anecdote about Philip ("Chaka") Paley's bar mitzvah?
There's also a 10-minute Interview with Ron Harper in which the affable old guy talks about his acting career and how he managed to make his way to the Land of the Lost. Ron goes a little off the deep end when he calls Fred Olen Ray "a great director," and there's just a little bit of repetition from the audio commentary, but it's a cool inclusion for the "Land" animals out there.
Will Marshall's Greatest Hits is exactly what it sounds like: Will (aka Wesley Eure) singing some syrupy tunes while strumming on a very primitive-looking musical instrument. Will, Dad, and Chaka can always be seen sitting nearby and tapping those toes in appreciation. Gals who grew up with a crush on blue-eyed Willie may appreciate this stuff; the rest of us will be grateful that the "hits" run under two minutes in length. (The trio of extra features is found on disc 1, while the second platter remains curiously free of supplemental material.)
Look, you don't have to be TV Guide's resident genius to see that Land of the Lost is really very dumb and (for the most part) pretty poorly constructed. But in its defense, the show WAS made for kids, and those kids have now grown up into DVD collectors who love nothing more than revisiting the childhood favorites. If you're just sitting down to examine your very first episode of Land of the Lost, well then prepare to be stunned by the cheese and bored by the third episode.
If, on the other hand, you vaguely remember having your kiddie eyeballs dazzled by the stop-motion dinosaurs and the ever-drooling Sleestaks, then you just might enjoy this trip down memory lane. The extra features are notably skimpier here than they were on the two previous releases, but I guess there's only so much to say about Land of the Lost. (Hey, it was nice that they called in Uncle Jack to do a commentary!) Needless to say, those who bought the first two DVD sets will want to order Season 3 right now. If you're just re-introducing yourself to the series, I'd absolutely focus on the first season. To the rest of you, I'd recommend a skeptical one-disc rental for the first time out.