Cast & Crew
Jill St. John
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When his plane lands in London, crusty old professor George Edward Challenger is besieged by reporters questioning him about his latest expedition to the headwaters of the Amazon River. After the irascible Challenger strikes reporter Ed Malone on the head with his umbrella, Jennifer Holmes, the daughter of Ed's employer, Stuart Holmes, offers the injured reporter a ride into town. That evening, Jenny is escorted by Lord John Roxton, an adventurer and big game hunter, to Challenger's lecture at the Zoological Institute, and Ed invites them to sit with him. When Challenger claims to have seen live dinosaurs, his colleague Professor Summerlee scoffs and asks for evidence. Explaining that his photographs of the creatures were lost when his boat overturned, Challenger invites Summerlee to accompany him on a new expedition to the "lost world," and asks for volunteers. When Roxton raises his hand, Jenny insists on going with him, but she is rejected by Challenger because she is a woman. Ed is given a spot after Holmes offers to fund the expedition if the reporter is included. The four then fly to the Amazon, where they are met by Costa, their guide and Manuel Gomez, their helicopter pilot. Arriving unexpectedly, Jenny and her younger brother David insist on joining them. Unable to arrange transportation back to the United States, Challenger reluctantly agrees to take them along. The next day, they take off for the lost world and land on an isolated plateau inhabited by dinosaurs. That evening, a dinosaur stomps out of the jungle, sending them scurrying for cover. After the beast destroys the helicopter and radio, the group ventures inland. When one of the creatures bellows threateningly, they flee, and in their haste, Challenger and Ed slip and tumble down a hillside, where they encounter a native girl. The girl runs into the jungle, but Ed follows and captures her. They then all take refuge in a cave, where Roxton, who has been making disparaging remarks about Jenny's desire to marry him solely for his title, angers Ed. Ed lunges at Roxton, pushing him to the ground, where he finds a diary written by Burton White, an adventurer who hired Roxton three years earlier to lead him to the lost diamonds of Eldorado. Roxton then admits that he never met White and his party because he was delayed by a dalliance with a woman, thus abandoning them to certain death. Gomez angrily snaps that his good friend Santiago perished in the expedition. That night, Costa tries to molest the native girl, and David comes to her rescue and begins to communicate with her through sign language. After Gomez goes to investigate some movement he spotted in the vegetation, he calls for help, and when Roxton runs out of the cave, a gunshot from an unseen assailant is fired, nearly wounding Roxton and sending the girl scurrying into the jungle. Soon after, Ed and Jenny stray from camp and are pursued by a dinosaur, and after taking refuge on some cliffs, watch in horror as their stalker becomes locked in combat with another prehistoric creature and tumbles over the cliffs into the waters below. Upon returning to camp, they discover it deserted, their belongings in disarray. As David stumbles out from some rocks to report they were attacked by a tribe of natives, the cannibals return and imprison them in a cave with the others. As the drums beat relentlessly, signaling their deaths, the native girl reappears and motions for them to follow her through a secret passageway that leads to the cave in which Burton White lives, completely sightless. After confirming that all in his expedition perished, White tells them of a volcanic passageway that will lead them off the plateau, but warns that they must first pass through the cave of fire. Cautioning them that the natives plan to sacrifice them, White declares that their only chance of survival is to slip through the cave and then seal it with a boulder. After giving them directions to the cave, White asks them to take the girl along. As the earth, on the verge of a volcanic eruption, quakes, they set off through the Graveyard of the Damned, a vast cavern littered with dinosaur skeletons, the victims of the deadly sulfurous gases below. Pursued by the ferocious natives, Roxton takes the lead as they inch their way across a narrow ledge above the molten lava. After escaping the natives, they jam the cave shut with a boulder and, passing a dam of molten lava, finally reach the escape passage. At its mouth is a pile of giant diamonds and a dinosaur egg. As Costa heaps the diamonds into his hat, Challenger fondles the egg and Gomez pulls a gun and announces that Roxton must die in exchange for the death of Santiago, Gomez' brother. Acting quickly, Ed hurls the diamonds at Gomez, throwing him off balance and discharging his gun. The gunshot awakens a creature slumbering in the roiling waters below. After the beast snatches Costa and eats him alive, Ed tries to dislodge the dam, sending a few scorching rocks tumbling down onto the monster. Feeling responsible for the peril of the group, Gomez sacrifices his life by using his body as a lever to dislodge the dam, covering the creature with oozing lava. As the cave begins to crumble from the impending eruption, the group hurries to safety. Just then, the volcano explodes, destroying the lost world. After Roxton hands Ed a handful of diamonds he has saved as a wedding gift for him and Jenny, Challenger proudly displays his egg, which then hatches, revealing a baby dinosaur.
Jill St. John
Alexander De Naszody
Frosty, A Dog
L. B. Abbott
Hugh S. Fowler
James B. Gordon
Emil Kosa Jr.
Harry M. Leonard
Henry E. Lester
Walter M. Scott
Walter M. Simonds
E. Clayton Ward
The Lost World
The story has Prof. Challenger in London claiming to have discovered a prehistoric world of dinosaurs deep in the Amazon. To prove it, he organizes an expedition to return there, taking along another scientist, a reporter, a hunter and others. But as directed by Irwin Allen, years before his primary claim to fame as producer of bloated extravaganzas like The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974), the 1960 edition of The Lost World is probably best known for its amusing "dinosaurs."
Fox publicity director Harry Brand boasted in the film's publicity notes that "most of the beasts shown are actual living things, with a vitality which cannot be simulated by models," but what he failed to mention was that those living things amounted to little more than modern-day lizards with glued-on horns and fins, photographed in close-up and slow motion. On the other hand, many critics of the day sarcastically praised the monsters for giving better performances than the humans.
Originally, The Lost World was to have featured topnotch stop-motion sequences designed by special effects legend Willis O'Brien, who had worked on the 1925 film version of the story as well as on King Kong (1933). O'Brien had long desired to update Conan Doyle's story to the modern, widescreen, stereophonic movie world, but he wound up very distraught when Irwin Allen decided to use actual reptiles as dinosaurs rather than wait for the time-consuming stop-motion work to be achieved. According to author Dennis Fischer, O'Brien was ultimately "relegated to designing split-screen scenes for the film's widescreen format."
Allen imported six-foot-long monitor lizards from Singapore and paired them with alligators. In one famous sequence, one of the monitor lizards dukes it out with a Cayman alligator so potently that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals lodged a formal complaint against the Fox studio. Production was also halted by an actors' strike, but the final result performed well at the box office and drew some positive reviews mixed with the negative ones.
The New York Times dismissed the film as "obvious, plodding and often heavy-handed," and called Claude Rains, with his red hairdo and beard, a "caricature," while trade paper Variety declared, "the picture's chief attraction is its production gusto... The dinosaurs are exceptionally lifelike."
Among the supporting cast is actor David Hedison, who had previously appeared in the films The Enemy Below (1957) and The Fly (1958). He had been attracted to The Lost World for the opportunity to work with Michael Rennie and Claude Rains, but his experience turned out to be an unhappy one. "Jill St. John in pink tights and her silly little dog," he later said. "There was no reality to any of it."
Irwin Allen next offered Hedison a role in the feature film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961), but Hedison refused. When Allen then created a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea television series in 1964, he again approached Hedison, who again refused. Allen implored the actor to come aboard, and Hedison finally relented when Richard Basehart was cast as well. Hedison's character, Captain Crane, became perhaps his best-known role. Years later, Hedison said that he realized the reason Allen had been so insistent on casting him was probably because Allen had so much stock footage of Hedison from The Lost World, which the cost-cutting producer found ways of incorporating in the TV show.
Co-star Jill St. John was married during production to Lance Reventlow, the son of heiress Barbara Hutton. It was a pairing that drew much media attention and would last four years.
By Jeremy Arnold
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SOURCES: Dennis Fischer, Science Fiction Film Directors, 1895-1998 C.J. Henderson, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies Tom Weaver, Eye on Science Fiction
The Lost World
The Lost World (1960) - Irwin Allen's 1960 Remake of Arthur Conan Doyle's THE LOST WORLD on DVD
Allen's idea of entertainment was to launch a flimsy screenplay with a cast of cheap but noteworthy name actors, throw them into some unconvincing situations and call it a movie. The Lost World is a shabby film in a colorful and noisy package that appealed to audiences either unconcerned with quality or too young to know the difference. It was a substantial hit in 1960.
Synopsis: Professor George Edward Challenger (Claude Rains) gathers an expedition to return to the headwaters of the Amazon, where he claims to have seen giant dinosaurs. He's accompanied by scoffing colleague Professor Summerlee (Richard Haydn), big-game hunter Lord John Roxton (Michael Rennie) and reporter Ed Malone (David Hedison). Newspaper heiress Jennifer Holmes and her brother David (Jill St. John and Ray Stricklyn) force their way in by threatening to withhold their father's financing. Joined by the shifty Costa (Jay Novello) and brooding helicopter pilot Manuel Gomez (Fernando Lamas), the group finds Challenger's isolated plateau and begins an adventure dodging ferocious dinosaurs, man-eating plants and primitive natives. Then we find out that Lord John Roxton was involved with a previous expedition. Burton White and several other explorers disappeared without a trace on the same plateau three years before.
As with his follow-up matinee thriller Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, the shrewd Irwin Allen put The Lost World into the hands of ace cameraman Winton Hoch. The famed Technicolor pro devised ways to film an exotic jungle adventure on a shoestring, complete with scenes of huge prehistoric animals interacting with people. With Hoch in charge L.B. Abbott's mattes are much better than usual, maximizing the appeal of large monitor lizards and alligators as unconvincing dinosaur surrogates. With horns and fins glued to their scales the creatures still look nothing like dinosaurs, and audiences laughed out loud when Claude Rains identifies them as brontosaurs and Tyrannosauri Rex. Enlarged to gigantic size in CinemaScope, the lizards' stereophonic roars are deafening on the dynamic soundtrack. Unlike Universal's The Land Unknown this The Lost World isn't a snooze. (1) * see footnote below.
The A.S.P.C.A. certainly wasn't notified, as the lizards bite and maul each other in graphic detail; one lizard is uncomfortably dunked in water and doused with chemicals to represent molten magma. Frankly, just gluing the little horns to their heads probably created serious reptilian health problems.
The special effects are the movie's reason for being, and we get several scenes of the critters menacing the cast. The best shots in the film show a dinosaur crawling between impressive miniature trees. Some moments are laughable, as when the unhappy lizards chomp down on unconvincing puppets representing humans. Fox's Malibu ranch is festooned with multicolored tree moss and flimsy fungus to impersonate a tropical jungle. Robert Wise's frequent collaborator Maurice Zuberano may have contributed some fanciful touches, like the dinosaur skeleton that serves as a drawbridge across a smoky cavern floor. The better cavern settings appear to be recycled from Journey to the Center of the Earth and look similar to parts of that film's sunken Atlantis set. Other cave sets have the fake-rock 'crumpled construction paper' quality befitting a cheap production. A couple of unlikely rubber plant monsters are added to goose up scenes of people chasing each other around the greenery. One really cheap set consists of fake spider web material, with a superimposed day-glo green tarantula. Boo!
Of special mention are the costumes, which we're disappointed to find out are not an intentional joke. The explorers relax in nicely pressed suits at a steaming jungle outpost, and then go into the wild wearing 'action' clothing suitable for toy store dolls. David Hedison dons a white jumpsuit and an unmotivated officer's cap, while Michael Rennie dresses as a generic Great White Hunter. Most often criticized is the sight of Jill St. John skipping through the jungle in tight pink stretch pants and bright red boots, carrying a basket with a poodle, "Frosty". The poodle must have been a conscious decision to say, "we're not serious," which unfortunately comes off as "only an idiot would expect us to be."
Irwin Allen's direction is simply terrible. Charles Bennett must have provided only a story outline, because the dramatic situations are weak sketches. In dialogue scenes the actors spread out into static poses (mustn't create continuity problems) while one or two of them spout expository lines suitable for a radio show: "Our helicopter has been wrecked!" "It looks like a cyclone hit this place!" The central conflicts are just silly. Michael Rennie is an utterly charmless playboy. Deprived of a coherent back story, the venerable Lord Roxton confesses his abandonment of the earlier expedition like a junior college student with no excuse for his late homework. The only one who reacts is the airhead played by Jill St. John, who can do absolutely nothing with even the simplest of lines. Presumably told to shift her romantic attentions to David Hedison's reporter, she's given one shot to suddenly stare at Hedison like she's re-targeting her female radar. It's pitiful.
Fernando Lamas' pout-faced Gomez harbors a dread vow of vengeance, yet suddenly changes allegiances for the most nonsensical of non-reasons. No matter, because the biased script reserves a grotesque death scene for both of its Latin Americans. Jay Novello's Costa (he's too loathsome to have two names) is a scummy would-be rapist and greedy coward. Everyone else is a different flavor of Noble.
The film's biggest shame is the way the great Claude Rains has been misused. Tucked into a red beard and given nothing but idiotic lines to recite, Rains can do little except go with the flow. Professor Challenger was Arthur Conan Doyle's favorite character and he's yet to be brought to the screen in an interesting way, unless one counts Richard Attenborough's John Hammond in Spielberg's Jurassic Park.
One native girl in a sexy outfit (Vitina Marcus) is on hand to betray her people for the sake of the explorers that yell at her and drag her around. She ends up holding hands with Jill St. John's cute younger brother. The natives, of course, are unga-bunga non-entities with only one remarkable quality: no matter how slowly the heroes run, the tribesmen never catch up. We keep hearing them yelling in the backgound, as if they've lost their way in the underground caves, or have interrupted their pursuit to stop off for a quick beer. When they overtake the white interlopers, the first three Indians run headlong into a burning bush and tumble off the cliffside. Deadly! Cannibalistic! Clumsy!
The movie's fun-house finale takes place in a highly unlikely subterranean cavern. The terrified explorers inch their way along a ledge wide enough to stroll with one's hands in one's pockets. The fanciful setting contains a cistern full of diamonds and a wooden dam holding back a lava floe. It all makes no sense whatsoever but experts agree that it is noisy and colorful.
Fox's DVD of The Lost World is the first widescreen presentation of the film on home video, and the transfer is a major source of frustration. With the exception of a few over-processed dialogue lines, the audio is clean. The image quality is fine but the telecine people have unaccountably timed many day-for-night scenes for broad daylight, including dark nighttime chases where every other shot pops to an afternoon look. The transfer mars the film's only really successful aspect, its cinematography. The big dinosaur battle witnessed by Hedison and St. John is timed like high noon, when it was originally adjusted to glow golden-amber, a dramatic sunset look. (2) * see footnote below.
A contemporary featurette inter-cuts museum exhibits of Mastodon bones with scenes from the movie, while a newsreel excerpt shows David Hedison signing autographs for uncomprehending kiddies waiting in line in Manhattan. The trailer is also included, along with a still gallery and an entire comic book to look at (it's too small to read).
The second disc carries an entire feature, the 1925 silent The Lost World, with Willis O'Brien's original animated dinosaurs. This presentation is from the George Eastman house, with an original music score by Philip Carli. It's a very different cut than the 1997 Lumivision DVD, also an Eastman restoration, and also different than David Shepard's 2001 Image disc of this feature, which is reviewed here. All three appear to have unique scenes. Comparing running times doesn't tell us much because the longer versions frequently slow down scenes. This new cut runs 76 minutes, and includes a short reel of outtakes.
1. Listen to the dinosaur roars and you'll hear an elephant trumpet sound effect from John Huston's The Roots of Heaven ... which appears to be the audio basis for the (admittedly slightly modified) sound of Darth Vader's TIE fighter in Star Wars.
2. This scene and several others were pan-scanned and re-purposed in Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea TV show that also starred David Hedison. Because Hedison already wore a hat like a boat captain, all Allen needed to do was find a co-star who could pass for Jill St. John.
For more information about The Lost World, visit Fox Home Entertainment. To order The Lost World, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
The Lost World (1960) - Irwin Allen's 1960 Remake of Arthur Conan Doyle's THE LOST WORLD on DVD
The best title for a woman is still "Mrs!".- Lord John Roxton
The best title for a woman is still "Mrs"!- Lord John Roxton
The film's title card reads: "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World." According to a May 1959 Daily Variety news item, Irwin Allen negotiated with Victor Mature, Robert Mitchum, Peter Ustinov, Trevor Howard and Gilbert Roland to appear in the picture, which, at that time was to be shot in Todd-AO and Technicolor to give it the "blockbuster treatment." A January 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item added that Clifton Webb, Orson Welles and Robert Morley were to star in the picture. According to a June 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item, two different orchestras were used to record the score. One played the conventional background music while the other played South American music, using native instruments blended with the voice of Gwen Johnson to create the "lost world" sound. A New York Times news item noted that production on the film was interrupted by the Screen Actors Guild Strike that lasted from 7 March-18 April 1960.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel was first filmed in 1925 by First National Pictures. That version was directed by Harry O. Hoyt and starred Bessie Love and Lloyd Hughes (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30.) Willis O'Brien, who was credited with technical effects on the 1960 film, also worked on the 1925 version, as well as the 1933 release King Kong.
Released in United States Summer July 1960
Shown at South by Southwest Film Festival (Special Events) March 12-20, 2010.
Shown at Sydney Film Festival June 8-22, 2001.
Remake of "The Lost World" (1925).
Selected in 1998 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Released in United States Summer July 1960