Friday, 20 February 2015

The Lost World (1960)

With the source material and once-in-a-lifetime cast that it has The Lost World should have been a sure fire piece of schlocky entertainment, but the end product is spoiled by a poor script and unbelievably bad special effects.

Professor George Challenger (Claude Rains) is leading an expedition back to the Amazonian basin where he claims he previously discovered living dinosaurs. Accompanying him this time is renowned hunter Lord John Roxton (Michael Rennie, star of The Day the Earth Stood Still), sceptical scientist Professor Summerlee, and a reporter, Ed Malone (David Hedison). As Malone's News Agency employers are picking up some of the costs, his boss's daughter Jennifer Holmes (Jill St. John) also gets to tag along, along with her brother and her pet poodle, and the gang is completed by the stereotyped, hot blooded and mysterious Latin American helicopter pilot Manuel and his stereotyped greedy and cowardly sidekick Costa.

Along the way they battle such dangers as gibberish spouting native tribesmen (definitely not white people in loincloths and brown make up), man eating dinosaurs (definitely not lizards with horns glued on) and falling molten rocks (definitely not painted bits of polystyrene).

The most obvious problem is the aforementioned effects, not in the slightest bit convincing, and surprising to see in a big Hollywood production. However, this might have been forgivable if the plodding, laborious script, laced with childish humour and grating melodrama had been of a better quality, and the characters more than cardboard cutouts.

The stars make it just about enjoyable, with Rains in particular being a major asset, bringing the same likeable energy that gave to the character of Captain Renault in Casablanca, even with a paunch and a curly sandy coloured fright wig that makes him unrecognisable from the suave slime ball of that film.