When it comes to the movies, dinosaurs have always been big (no pun
intended.) From Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)
to the Jurassic Park blockbusters the prehistoric creatures have
always been box office gold. Now Fox has released a pair of dino
movies on a really nice set. The Lost World presents the 1960
Irwin Allen spectacle in a nicely restored version and includes the original
1925 film as a bonus. While the earlier movie is easily the most
entertaining, both films have their moments. One other interesting
thing about this set is that the 1925 film may be the 1997 Eastman House
restoration that has never been released to home video.
While the 1960 movie is the headliner of this set, I've decided to review
them in chronological order.
The original version of The Lost World has gone through a lot
and has a rather interesting history. When it was released in 1925
it ran about 10 reels, making the run time about 105 minutes (depending
on the projection speed.) In 1929 sound films were all the rage.
First National pulled the film from release and destroyed all the prints
(film stock was very flammable back then and a safety hazard) saving only
one negative. The mythical 'last negative' was never heard from again.
That same year they licensed the rights to Kodascope Libraries and allowed
them to make a 5 reel 16mm abridgement of the film. This ran 55 minutes
and was shown at churches, schools, and the like. This version, along
with a trailer, was the only film footage that was passed down over the
years. The George Eastman House (GEH) cobbled together a print of
the film with existing stills and text used to fill in the missing bits
but that edit and the Kodascope release were the only versions to survive.
The rest of this classic was lost.
so everyone thought. In 1991 a small stock footage company located
in New York discovered some stop-motion dinosaur footage in their collection.
This turned out to be alternate unused takes to The Lost World,
about 8 minutes worth. The following year a near complete copy was
discovered in the Filmovy Archiv in the Czech Republic.
In 1996, GEH started on restoring this film using the new Czech material
as well as other bits and pieces from several other film archives.
This new edition was screened a couple of times, but oddly enough no commercial
release was forth coming. David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates
tried to license this restoration for home video release, but GEH wasn't
interested. So he, along with Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films in
France undertook their own restoration. This was completed in 1998.
which version is included on this set? Could this be the all
but unseen Eastman House restoration? It looks like it at first glance.
The opening titles state that the film is from the George Eastman House
which is clear enough, right? Well yes and no. The Eastman
House screen startled me when it first appeared since the essay inserted
with the DVD discusses how David Shepard restored the film. It says
in part "Shepard was able to use the print [found in the Czech Republic]...to
piece together a new cut of The Lost World for DVD." So I was expecting
to find the Shepard/Bromberg restoration (which runs 93 minutes) on the
disc. Okay, someone messed up with the insert. It happens.
The run time bothers me though. The version on this DVD clocks in
at 76 minutes, far short of the 100 minutes that the Eastman version is
said to run. In 1991 and again in 1997 Lumivision released the early
GEH restoration on laserdisc and DVD respectively. These versions
ran only 64 minutes however, much shorter than the film included on this
disc. Oddly enough there is no copyright listed on this restoration,
aside from the original 1925 title, that might help pin down when this
was pieced together.
of the main critiques of the GEH restoration was that available scenes
weren't included when they first screened it in 1997. In answer to
this Ed Stratmann, who was in charge of the restoration, said that it was
a work print that had been screened, and that the restoration was still
a work in progress. If that is so, I find it odd that they cut nearly
25 additional minutes.
It is obvious that this bonus disc is not a copy of an already released
version of the film. The extras and musical accompaniment don't match
up with any other discs, and the run times are off. By process of
elimination this looks like it is the GEH restoration. I do find
it odd however that GEH would license their version to Fox for what basically
amounts to an extra. With all of the people clamoring over the years
to see this edit, I'm surprised that they didn't sell the rights to Image
or Kino. I've contacted Fox and George Eastman House to see if I
can get a definitive answer from them.
Update: (9/25/07) While I
haven't heard from either Fox or GEH, I did receive an e-mail from Art
Pierce of the Capitol Theatre
in Rome, New York where the musical accompaniment for this edtion was recorded.
He related that the film was run at 24 fps, per GEH's instructions, while
Philip Carli performed on the theater's organ. I'm a little embarased to
admit that I assumed that if this was the GEH restoration it would be run
at 18 fps as it was originaly screened. At this faster speed,
the 100 minute film would be over in just 75 minutes. At almost the
same time as I heard from Mr. Pierce, Ben Simon from Animated
News & Views wrote hypothesising the same thing. He's also
written up a good review of the disc which you can check out here.
It appears that there is little doubt that this is the much sought after
As for the film itself, it is very good. I have always enjoyed
this version better than the 1960 Irwin Allen production, and this edit
is no exception.
movie starts with Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery) giving a talk in
London about his recent trip to the Amazon. He claims that while
there he saw living dinosaurs. To quell the laughs of the unbelievers
he arranges another expedition to the deep interior of unexplored South
America to both prove his claims and to rescue a fellow explorer Maple
Agreeing to go with Challenger are big-game hunter Lord John Roxton
(Lewis Stone), a skeptical scientist Summerly (Arthur Hoyt), a newspaper
reporter Edward Malone (Lloyd Hughes) who is trying to impress the woman
he loves, and Paula White (Bessie Love), daughter of the missing scientist.
They set out for the Amazon and eventually reach and scale a tall plateau.
On its top they discover that Challenger was right: dinosaurs do
still walk the earth. Of course seeing them and living to tell about
it are two different things.
adaptation follows the book pretty closely at the beginning, it's only
when we're well past the half-way point when liberties are taken.
Still, it's an exciting and fun-filled movie with an all-star cast who
really do a great job.
Of course the main attraction is the special effects by Willis H. O'Brien.
O'Brien would go on to bring King Kong to life but he honed his stop motion
skills with this film. While the motion is a bit jerky, the dinosaurs
look and move realistically. The special effects really steal the
show away from the human actors and are the most memorable, and impressive
part of the film.
This edit of the movie, unfortunately, feels like there's something
missing. While there aren't any glaring plot holes or inconsistencies,
there are a lot of shots that end too early and abrupt cuts. Some
of the scenes feel a little odd too. The climax of the film has more
shots of the crowd's reaction than of the dinosaur itself and that reminds
viewers that they are seeing a reconstruction. Granted this is a
quality effort, and better than the 63 minute version which was the only
thing available for years, but it still isn't as good as the Shepard/Bromberg
The 1960 version:
After working on The Lost World (1925), Willis O'Brien went on
to work on the special effects, most notably the stop-motion animation,
for King Kong (1933) and Son of Kong (1933.) In 1949
he and his protégé, Ray Harryhausen, did the stop motion
work for Mighty Joe Young and O'Brien won an Oscar for his work.
Despite the critical acclaim, O'Brien had trouble finding work after Young,
which was a financial failure. He found work here and there on such
pictures as The Black Scorpion (1957) and The Giant Behemoth
but steady employment was hard to come by.
years he had been thinking about a remake of The Lost World and
created many drawings and layouts for the film. He pitched the idea
to either 20th Century Fox, Irwin Allen, or both but however was in the
meeting agreed and work began on a remake. Irwin Allen's production
company made the film with Allen writing, directing, and producing the
film. The movie had a respectable budget, but Allen didn't spend
it as wisely as he could have. In what must have been a heart-breaking
moment for O'Brien, Allen ditched his stop-motion dinosaurs. This
was a tragic mistake.
The plot was updated, and more liberties were taken with the story,
but at its heart Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel still lurks. Professor
Challenger (Claude Rains (The Invisible Man)) arrives back in London after
an exploration of the Amazon and announces to the Zoological Institute
that there are still dinosaurs living in South America. Greeted with
laughter he proposes a return trip, and agrees to take hunter Lord John
Roxton (Michael Rennie (The Day the Earth Stood Still)), doubting scientist
Professor Summerlee (Richard Haydn), and reporter Ed Malone (David Hedison,
who would end up playing Capt. Lee Crane on Allen's Voyage to the Bottom
of the Sea.) Once in the Amazon it turns out that Roxton's girlfriend
(who is half his age) Jennifer Holmes (future Bond-girl Jill St. John)
has shown up with her matching pink luggage set and and her brother David
(Ray Stricklyn). After all, they want to go on an adventure too.
Throwing caution and common sense out the window party allows the two novices
to join them.
hire a helicopter pilot, Manuel Gomez (Fernando Lamas), and for reasons
that are never explained also take along the guy who bought the supplies
that the party will need, Costa (Jay Novello), a greedy coward who's every
act ensures that he'll end up dead before the final reel.
Together they climb in one of the most spacious helicopters ever designed,
and fly off Professor Challenger's plateau. They find a landing space
and set up camp, but that night a loud beast starts advancing towards them.
Hiding in the jungle, the explorers can't see what the creature is, but
when they return to their camp they discover that the helicopter has been
destroyed along with their only radio. Now they are trapped at the
top of an unscaleable plateau that is filled with dinosaurs and, they soon
discover, hostile natives. If that wasn't bad enough, one of the
members of the party is trying to kill them.
Though the movie is filled with skilled actors and a ripping plot, the
movie just doesn't work nearly as well as it should. A large part
of the problem can be traced back to Allen's script. It's melodramatic
and corny, and the dialog is painfully bad in parts. At one point,
after the party has been captured, Challenger tells his comrades "The invasion
of privacy gives man the right to kill, and we are the invaders."
Run that by me again Professor.
I'm a big fan of Irwin Allen's TV shows (if you doubt me, check out my
review of Land
of the Giants where I sing his praises.) At this point in
his career however, he hadn't yet discovered how to get to the action quickly,
something he TV shows would be noted for. The story is fairly ponderous
at the beginning, and even when they get to the land of the dinosaurs,
it's a case of too little too late. Things do pick up in the last
20 minutes of the film. Luckily this last section does have that
ol' Allen charm and he throws in all of the excitement that was missing
from the first hour of the film. There are man eating dinosaurs,
hostile Indians, lakes of lava, diamonds the size of your fist, and precarious
ledges. It's would have been easy to ignore the other missteps that
this film takes if had been as exciting as the conclusion.
Speaking of missteps, one of the biggest is the dinosaur special effects.
Instead of Willis O'Brien's often amazing stop-action creatures, Irwin
Allen decided in favor of using live reptiles as dinosaurs. To make
matters worse, these lizards and baby alligators had horns and fins glued
onto them to (unsuccessfully) disguise their origins and make them appear
more like thunder lizards. This doesn't work at all, and I really
can't see anyone in 1960 being impressed. When I was in first grade
(1968) the most popular library books (among the boys) were those with
lots of pictures of dinosaurs. Even at that age we all knew their
names, which ones were herbivores and which were carnivores. I can't
see any of my classmates even remotely believing that an iguana with fins
was a brontosaurus (as it's claimed in the movie. Hell, the brontosaurus
(as we called the Apatosaurus back then) didn't even have fins!)
The acting isn't nearly as good as you would expect looking at the all-star
cast. You could almost see in the star's eyes that they thought the
script was horrid and were just doing it for the paycheck. Claude
Rains grumbles and bellows well enough, but there's no heart in his role,
and Michael Rennie just walks through the picture never showing much emotion
even when he relates the secret hidden in his past.
I'm being a bit harsh on the film, it isn't horrible. There are
some very good parts, the chase scene at the end for example. It's
just not as good as it could be, and that's the biggest tragedy.
1960 Version: This film comes
with a rather unusual audio option: a 4.0 mix. From what I
could discover, the film was originally released in mono so I'm not sure
why this wasn't remixed in 5.1. The subwoofer channel would have
been nice when the dinosaurs roared, as they often did. There's also
a stereo mix, but the original mono isn't present.
The 4.0 track sounded pretty good, though there was some distortion.
When the monsters would bellow, the sound would occasionally crack just
a bit. The dynamic range was also very limited, as one would expect
for a film from 1960. The highs are clipped and lows don't have much
force. That's too bad because the background music by Paul Sawtell
and Bert Shefter is very good but could sound much better.
1925 Version: This film is
accompanied by an organ score which was composed and performed by Philip
Carli. The score sounds very good and Carli is a proficient organist,
but the music didn't movie me like the best silent film compositions do.
The audio is clean and clear and there are no defects worth noting.
1960 Version: The 2.35:1 widescreen
image has been restored and looks pretty good. The colors are bright
and vivid, they've been boosted a bit, and really fit the Irwin Allen spectacle.
One problem however is that some of the skin tones are a bit artificial
looking at times. Michael Raine looks particularly pasty when talking
to the blind man near the end, for example. This isn't as bad as
some discs that I've seen and never becomes distracting. The level
of detail is excellent and the blacks are nice and deep. On the digital
side of things the disc also looks pretty good. Blocking is absent
and aliasing is rare, but there is a lot of mosquito noise in the picture,
especially in the shots of the sky. Overall this is a very nice looking
1925 Version: This film was
reconstructed from several sources so the image quality does vary a bit
over the course of the film, though overall it looks excellent. There
are some fine hair-line scratches, a bit of dirt and other print defects,
but these are relatively few and many of the more egregious flaws have
been digitally removed. There are some missing frames here and there
and due to the patchwork nature of the restoration some of the shots are
too short. (The scene where the brontosaurus pokes his head through
a window at the end is an example of this. Viewers barely see the
dinosaur head before it cuts to the reactions of the men inside the room.
The first part of this scene was longer in the original cut, but alas the
footage no longer exists.
The first thing that strikes viewers is the excellent level of detail.
The texture of the dinosaur's skin can easily be discerned and the backgrounds
are not unduly soft. The picture has a sharp contrast and neither
blacks nor whites are too intense. Grain and other film related artifacts
aren't a problem and digital defects are very minimal. The movie
has been tinted using the edited Kodascope version as a guide, and it looks
Included on the first disc, along with the 1960 feature are a couple
of interesting bonus items. First off is a three minute promotional
film (in black and white) Footprints on the Sands of Time.
This has clips from the movie and tells viewers how exciting it will be.
Next is a minute long newsreel clip that shows a group of school kids going
to the premier of the film. This was cute and worth a spin.
There's also a theatrical trailer, a reproduction of a comic book (that
is too small to read and even if it wasn't it's on a reel and the pages
zip by too quickly to even look at all the panels, much less read them),
and image galleries for stills, a press book and production illustrations.
The second disc of this two disc set contains the 1925 version of The
Lost World as well as a trailer for the film, and seven minutes of
outtakes. The unused footage is all stop motion animation of the
dinosaurs. It's great that they included this along with the feature.
The original version is a great and fun film and the remake, while flawed,
has its moments. Both movies look very good for their age and are
pleasing to the eye. Together this makes a really nice set that is