THE LOST WORLD
(directed by Harry O. Hoyt, 1925)
***** (out of 5)
> This well-edited, fast-paced early silent classic must have thrilled and amazed audiences in its initial release. Taken from Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, the storytelling was crisp and compelling. There was really no fat here. You are sprung right into the action- and there is plenty of it.
. An established paleontologist is considered a madman, after returning from an expedition into the heart of the Amazon claiming to have found a “lost world” of living dinosaurs. The civilized world scoffs, because he has no proof of his fantastic claims. But since his expedition left one man behind, stranded in this living “prehistoric world”, a rescue mission is launched, and the new team returns to have their own face-to-face encounters with the “terrible lizards”.
. There is a healthy balance of science and fiction here, until an actor in a bad monkey suit shows up, playing some kind of malevolent fanged apeman. (His sidekick is a real chimpanzee, making the alpha-ape look all-the-more ridiculous.) Other than that, the critters are pretty cool. Pioneering special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen made his reputation on this film, and it’s easy to see why. Seven years in the making, it’s surprising how modern this felt, despite the often herky-jerky, black-and-white stop-motion animation of the dinosaurs and pterodactyls. Sure, today’s computer graphics can make predecessors like Spielberg’s JURASSIC PARK series look a whole lot more convincing, but in historical films, as this now is- it is important to keep context in mind. Movies themselves were a new miracle of technology when THE LOST WORLD was made. In the mid-twenties, to see a rampaging allosaurus locked in mortal combat with a lumbering brontosaurus, paired on the big screen with live actors, must have been an overwhelming experience- like the times early audiences stood up and fled theatres in THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY in the shot where the locomotive appeared to be steaming straight for them.
. The only familiar name here is Wallace Beery. (Was that him in blackface, doing the offensive negro stereotype? I’m not sure.) But these unfamiliar actors were much less ham-fisted than one would expect, considering the stiff, wooden conventions of the time.
. This film was a gem. I am so grateful that this piece of entertaining cinema history still exists for modern audiences to marvel at. PLEASE DO WHAT YOU CAN TO HELP SUPPORT THE IMPORTANT WORK OF FILM PRESERVATION! It’s very important work.
* * *
© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.