The Land That Time Forgot


PreCommentary: Based on the 1914 novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. 1977’sThe People That Time Forgot is a sequel to this film.

Notes: AmicusProductions. 90 minutes.
Bowan Tyler: Doug McClure
German U-boat Captain: John McEnery
Lisa Clayton: Susan Penhaligon

Producer: John Dark
Director: Kevin Connor
Screenplay: James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock
Music: Douglas Gamley

Summary: A bottle falls into the ocean and is tossed about during the credits. Doug McClure’s narration tells us it was June 3rd, 1916 when a U-boat fired on their ship. He and Lisa Clayton drift on a lifeboat until they join another boat of surviving officers. When the U-boat doesn’t see them and surfaces, they wait for the Germans on top at the hatch, fight, and take over.

They fail to signal a British warship successfully and it attacks them, but they submerge. The Germans tamper with the compass so that they travel south instead of west to North America, and the Germans eventually regain command of the U-boat. The German Captain talks with Lisa, who turns out to be a biologist and who is incredulous that the Captain can have such eclectic interests. He explains: “Life is formed on killing and destruction.”

Lisa releases the prisoners and they once again gain control of the boat by blowing up a German ship which was being signalled. But soon they are lost in the ice floes. The German Captain pontificates about an 18th-century Italian explorer seeing no way into the uncharted land “Caprona.” They find warm water and deduce the existence of an underground river.

The moment they emerge in “the land that time forgot,” they are attacked, first by a dinosaur mouth lunging at the periscope, then when a plesiosaur eats one of the crew. They shoot at this animal until, with enough bullets inits mouth and neck, it fall to the deck. We cut to a steaming platter of food–the dinosaur (“eat or be eaten” dynamics)–served to the anxious humans.

We accustom ourselves. Bacteria in the water is a problem, natives wage battles occasionally, and dinosaurs lumber (but are killed in a reptilian-nervous-system’s delayed-reaction manner). A native they capture helps them find oil, but what with a bloody allosaur/triceratops battle, we have to “keep an eye on those monsters.” After the triceratops wins, the boat is able to fire long-distance on it and kill it.

We’re all cooperating to haul oil for the escape from this land, where as one follows the “river north, the more highly developed they [the creatures] became.” A fight breaks out, instigated by the German First Mate, who we don’t trust now as we do the Captain. A pterodactyl snatches our native friend and flies away. Lisa is temporarily captured by natives until a volcano sends earthquakes and firestorms about. During a quicksand rescue and while some dinos are burning, the other humans are climbing aboard the U-boat. The First Mate mutinies against the Captain, who is shot and wounded, before he himself is killed, as the U-boat submerges to leave, with Tyler and Lisa on the shore abandoned. But the volcano has made the water too hot and the U-boat blows up.

The narration returns, as does the image of the bottle falling into the sea, as Tyler explains that they travel”ever northward” in the snow, but hell, he’d rather be here with Lisa than anywhere else without her.

Commentary: The juxtaposition of Germans and the insistence on the superiority of the “north” is complex but interesting. Best, though,is the illustration of the “eat or be eaten” dynamics the moment they emerge in “the land that time forgot.” Naturally (?), they prevail and this is expressed in their dining on dino.