Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

The Lost World (1960)


Notes: IrwinAllen’s Production of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. 97 minutes.
Lord Roxton: Michael Rennie
Jennifer Holmes: Jill St. John
Ed Malone: David Hedison
George Edward Challenger: Claude Rains
Gomez: Fernando Lamas (he doesn’t look marvelous)
Professor Summerlee: Richard Haydn (the guy who introduces the Von Trapps)
Burton White: :Ian Wolfe (Mama Carlson’s butler Hirsh on WKRP)
David Holmes: Ray Stricklyn
Costa: Jay Novello
Native Girl: Vitina Marcus
Stuart Holmes: John Graham
Professor Waldron: Colin Campbell

Produced and Directed: Irwin Allen
Screenplay: Charles Bennett and Irwin Allen
Special Effects: L.B. Abbott, James B. Gordon, Emil Kosa, Jr.
Effects Technician: Willis O’Brien
Music: Bert Shefter and Paul Sawtell

Summary: After the fire and lava behind the credits, we see an airplanelanding (initially, one thinks, anachronistically in The LostWorld, so, what? a “Technosaur”?) and reporters,BBC and others, swarming Professor George Edward Challenger, whodecks Ed Malone and bitches about not having privacy. A poodle,Frosty, comes over to Malone but we cut to owner Jennifer Holmes,the boss’s daughter, before we see get to the animal possiblyurinate on Mr. Slick. Off we motor to the Zoological Institute’spresentation of Challenger. His rival Summerlee introduces Challengerat witty length, and Challenger ranks his recent discovery amongthose of “Columbus, Edison, and Einstein.” He has founda plateau sufficiently cut off from its surroundings “asto insulate the area from the laws of evolution.” Nativesuperstition involves “Curipuri–the terrible spirits ofthe woods . . . in other words, live dinosaurs!” Challengerwants another expedition. Skeptical Summerlee will go. Sir JohnRoxton, big game hunter and playboy volunteers. When JenniferHolmes gets turned down, Malone whispers, “It’s a man’s world,”whereupon she asks, “Why don’t you volunteer?” whichMalone does. When Stuart Holmes, the owner of the newspaper Maloneworks for, puts up the money for the expedition, Malone is accepted.

The party meets up with Gomez, the helicopterpilot, along with another South American guide. Gomez has broughtJennifer, her younger brother David, and the poodle, despite thedismay of Challenger and others; and we learn that Jennifer isafter Roxton, for his title he claims. We copter to the plateau,”cut off from the march of time . . . a land where monsterslive . . . George Edward Challenger’s Lost World!”

That night, roars near the campsite promptthe humans to wander aimlessly in the woods. We see a lizardgo by with fins crazy-glued to him. Challenger says it’s a Brontosaurus. Whatever. It smashes the helicopter, stranding us all.

Summerlee nearly gets eaten by a prehistoriccabbage, and Challenger taunts, “Well Summerlee, you maynot like vegetables, but they certainly like you.” A dino-trackis discovered, and the poodle and Jennifer encounter a large iguanaeating sprouts and roaring. All witness the existence of this”dinosaur,” vindicating Challenger.

Next a native woman is sighted, usually calleda “creature” from now on: “After her Malone! Catchher! She’s invaluable!” She enters an icecave and whiskspast a giant dayglo spider which Malone shoots. It is decidedthat this woman is not aboriginal, and that therefore there mustbe a way up to the plateau from below. Malone and Roxton cometo blows over women issues, and Roxton finds a book in the shrubberywhere his jaw came to rest. This is Burton White’s diary fromthree years ago; you see, Roxton was supposed to help this previousexpedition in search of diamonds but never bothered trying tofind White, some other ijjits, and Santiago. All presumably wereeaten. Hm, think the Spaniards, diamonds! Oh, thinks Jennifer,forget about that whole marriage thing I was angling for. Scumbag,thinks Malone.

That “night” (night is suspiciouslysunny throughout this film), creature-girl is nearly raped bySpaniard 2 (not Fernando) and runs to escape. Young David “FecklessIdiot” Holmes captures her: “Why don’t we try some signlanguage, huh? Do you know what this is? It’s a rifle. It shoots. Bang, bang.” (He didn’t get the Mister Rogers part someyears later.) Summerlee is suddenly grazed by a bullet, the girlruns, Gomez says he was conked from behind and his gun taken,David tries to tell everyone someone taught the girl about riflesbefore him, and we all decide one of the original expedition partyis still alive.

Malone and Jennifer wander out and have torun from a Slurpasaurus (lizard with fake headdress and backplates). Malone shoots it in the mouth and the two hide among rocks. Another fake dinosaur and the original one fight viciously (wherethe hell is the ASPCA? I thought this crap was outlawed afterOne Million B.C. in 1940!). Malone tries shooting butalas, his gun: “It’s like a toy against them.” Thelizards fall off a cliff.

The two return to an empty camp. Natives musthave captured everyone. Except the poodle. And except Davidwho explains that they appeared from above–oops, there’s more. These remaining campers are taken prisoner, join the others ina cave, and prepare to die in a cannibalistic ritual after thedrum solo. Creature-girl offers a way out, so off through a cavernof wind with natives in lukewarm pursuit we go. We stumble onBurton White, now blind, who doesn’t want to go with us and whotells Gomez that Santiago is dead. White gives out more gunsand instructs us on directions through the caves to escape thealtar of sacrifice to the fire god. We trek through lava cavesand through the tendrils of grasping slime, into the graveyardof the damned, where dinosaur eggs and diamonds are discovered. Gomez pulls a gun, saying Santiago was his brother and he wantsto kill Roxton. A dinosaur appears out of a lake and eats theother Spaniard, and somehow Roxton saves Gomez, who then runsto sacrifice his life yanking on a log which somehow unleashesrocks and lava onto the dinosaur (but wouldn’t the log . . . nevermind). Gomez falls into the sea of hot goo.

The rest emerge in time to see the plateaublow up volcanically. Challenger laments: “My lost world,lost forever.” However, they did manage to save proof oftheir adventure: Roxton has diamonds which he gives to Maloneand Jennifer who now are on the marriage track somehow (“Mrs.is still the best ‘title’ for a girl”); and the dinosauregg hatches a tyrannosaur which Challenger predicts will growbig enough to wreak havoc on London, at whcih point they shouldall move out. Ho ho ho. The End.

Commentary: Beyond the character names, the film bears little resemblanceto the Doyle tale. Too damned many people are along for the ride,and we just don’t need half of them. All the plot changes aresimply screwy and come blurting forth in premise-spasms randomlythroughout the film. Though colorful, the film is irritatingto sit through.

The dinosaurs are photographically enlargedlizards, and are enjoyable to see eating and slurping the air,but distressing to see encumbered with all the glued-on crap tomake them into things that look like dinosaurs only insofar asthey don’t look like lizards anymore. Pitting the two lizardsagainst each other for the fight scene is inexcusable. More humansneed to be killed instead.