Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Land That Time Forgot (1975)

Hammer Studios had enjoyed some success with their mid-60s series of exotic adventure films, so it was not altogether surprising that their chief rivals, Amicus, should also try to get in on the act. The only surprising thing is that they waited until 1975. With an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land That Time Forgot they must have thought they were on a sure thing. And they were right, although the success of these movies couldn’t save the studio.

In 1916 a steamship is torpedoed by a German U-boat. The handful of survivors are drifting helplessly in a lifeboat when they spot a vessel. In fact it’s the very U-boat that sank their ship. As it happens one of the survivors, a nan named Tyler (Doug McClure) is an American expert on submarines, and using his specialised knowledge the survivors are able to capture the U-boat. Their attempts to take the captured submarine to a neutral American port are thwarted however by the efforts of the U-boat’s captain and they fimd themselves a long way out of the main shipping lanes.

They make a landfall, but this coastline is strange and unfamiliar. The U-boat commander, Captain Von Schoenvorts, is an amateur scientist and a bit of an intellectual and he has a theory that this is the lost continent discovered by a forgotten European explorer back in 1720. Finding a place to land proves difficult until Tyler manages to navigate the U-boat through an underground river into the interior of the continent. The exterior coastline is shrouded in ice but the interior of the continent is tropical. But there are bigger surprises than that in store.

The continent is inhabited by dinosaurs. And they’re none too friendly. That strange enough but our motley band of explorers will find that life woks very differently indeed in this bizarre lost world.

The dinosaurs aren’t the most convincing movie dinosaurs you’ll ever see but there’s plenty of action and plenty of fun. And lots of explosions. The model work was done by Derek Meddings, who had worked on Gerry Anderson’s classic 1960s puppet adventure series such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. As you’d expect, the model scenes work extremely well, especially the passage of the U-boat through the underground river.

Doug McClure is, as always, a fine square-jawed hero. Susan Penhaligon as a glamorous lady biologist is the token female member of the cast. She’s good but she doesn’t get much to do. John McEnery steals the picture as the U-boat commander. He’s the most complex character in the movie, capable of cunning subterfuges but with a definite sense of honour, and with genuine human warmth and even a touch of humour.

This is a very silly movie but that’s part of its charm. It’s a ripping adventure yarn that revels in its own absurdity and if you’re prepared to just sit back and enjoy the ride you’ll find it a thoroughly entertaining hour-and-a-half of B-movie hokum.

MGM have released this one, in a very handsome transfer, as a double-feature along with the sequel, The People That Time Forgot. Seriously, how can you go wrong with submarines and dinosaurs in the same movie?

1 comment:

Stacia said...

I wanted to see this so bad as a kid. I never knew it was a Hammer film! That's it, I'm looking for a copy of this right now.