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Film's Title - The Lost World
Year of Release - 1925
Director - Harry O. Hoyt
Stars of the Film - Bessie Love, Lewis Stone, Wallace Beery, Lloyd Hughes
This film interests me as I enjoy watching silent films from the 1920s and I have always loved dinosaurs. I was fascinated to see how film-makers from 1925 could create dinosaurs on screen and I watched this DVD on the day I received it.
The plot is an interesting one, based on Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of the same name. Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery) publicly states that there are dinosaurs living in the Amazon, which leads to charges of him being a liar. To prove his statement, he gathers together an expedition to prove his claims are indeed true.
His group of explorers include journalist Edward E. Malone (Lloyd Hughes), famous hunter Sir. John Roxton (Lewis Stone) and Paula White (Bessie Love) whose father, Maple White, failed to return from a similar Amazonian expedition. They travel to South America, where they do indeed find living dinosaurs - one of which they decide to bring back to Britain as proof...
This is the first dinosaur film which was a huge success and led onto 1933's King Kong, where Willis O'Brien also demonstrated his stop motion special effects. The dinosaurs in The Lost World are actually pretty good and a lot better than I was expecting. The combination of using the animated dinosaurs in scenes with real actors is basic and not entirely convincing, but ambitious and impressive for the era.
The dinosaurs themselves range from slightly comedic (Pterodactyl) to beautifully executed (the Triceratops family is especially endearing). I really enjoyed these scenes and felt it was possible to lose yourself in the action and appreciate the animation.
The use of real animals was interesting too, though I'm not sure how much of it would be allowed these days. Jocko the monkey and Mary the chimpanzee are very cute and well-trained, doing what monkeys do well - climb quickly and show off their nimbleness. Snakes, bears, sloths and other creatures appear - some in simple stock footage, but others actually on set.
Amongst all this, we have a strange ape-man, which is essentially a man in a gorilla suit with fangs! While the fangs do make him look rather menacing, he still seems strangely out of place and is the one element which failed for me.
I enjoyed the story, which is essentially a good old-fashioned adventure. I was pleased to see a female character being included in the expedition team and she is treated pretty well - thankfully, no falling over and hurting herself or shouting "Help!" pathetically. There are many clever details and well thought out plot points, such as the tree across the ravine.
The acting was good throughout and I was especially impressed by the beautiful Bessie Love, who has such an expressive face and I felt her portrayal was sympathetic and believable. The male characters kind of blurred into each other in comparison, but nothing terrible. The romantic element was done well too, underplayed just enough so the quest element dominated - as it should in this kind of story.
With any silent film, there are added considerations - the quality of the print, the musical score and the title cards. The print of this version (Silent Classics) is rather "snowy" at times, but it rarely detracted and in fact enhanced my enjoyment, as it reminded me just how long ago this masterpiece was made.
The music was well done, pleasant to listen to and added to the tension of the film. The title cards were well done overall, although some of the language is rather anachronistic these days. I found it amusing that the "posher" characters had their dialogue written in perfect English, while the "working men" had their cards in heavily accented slang.
I enjoyed this film and really admired the effects used. While modern children would find this laughable in parts, older viewers will appreciate the film's importance in movie history. Without The Lost World, we may never have had Jurassic Park.
If I had to criticise it, I would say the film is rather slow to start and too fast to finish, but it is only a minor annoyance. I would definitely recommend this film, especially to silent movie buffs or anyone fond of dinosaur films. For me, the Triceratops family were the highlight, but the whole thing has a magic about it.
The Lost World is available for as little as £2.98 on Amazon UK at the moment, but check carefully whether there are extras included and if the film has been remastered or not.
(NOTE - While the category mentions a Bob Hoskins film of the same name, I felt it was appropriate to place this review here.)
Not the Steven Spielberg blockbuster, this Lost World is a splendid BBC TV dramatisation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous adventure story. Bob Hoskins makes an unusually genial Professor Challenger, far less of a bully than Doyle's character, but his slightly stereotyped companions are nicely filled out by a solid cast. James Fox is Challenger's more timid but still covertly adventurous rival, Tom Ward is the moustachioed big game hunter who faces an Allosaurus with an elephant gun, and Matthew Rhys plays the tagalong reporter hoping to impress his faithless fiancée. As usual, the adaptation adds a woman--orphaned jungle girl Elaine Cassidy--to the expedition, and an interesting villain (religious fanatic Peter Falk) beefs up the travelogue by marooning Challenger's gang on the South American plateau where dinosaurs, cavemen and Indians coexist eventfully. The Walking with Dinosaurs-style effects work well for the TV frame, but the real success is in integrating the Boys' Own adventuring with subtle eco-awareness, complex character interplay and the reliable wonder of soaring Pteranodons and Carnosaur attacks. --Kim Newman