Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The People That Time Forgot (1977)

In 1975 Amicus had a sizeable hit with The Land That Time Forgot, based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Two years later a sequel appeared, The People That Time Forgot. In theory it’s based on the second book of Burroughs’ Caspak trilogy but in fact it eliminates most of the really interesting stuff from the book, the stuff that made this trilogy one of the weirdest of all lost world stories. The movie turns the story into a straight adventure tale, but fortunately it’s a very entertaining adventure tale indeed.

This one boasts not one but two square-jawed action heroes - Doug McClure and Patrick Wayne (son of some guy named John Wayne). Patrick Wayne is American war hero Major Ben McBride who sets to find his old buddy Bowen Tyler who disappeared mysteriously in 1915. Tyler left a message in a bottle, a message that was found and that told a bizarre story of a lost continent peopled with vanished creatures from every prehistoric epoch, from dinosaurs to cavemen.

McBride has managed to get backing from the British Navy and financing from a major newspaper to launch his expedition to find this strange world. He has recruited an old air force buddy and an eminent archaeologist for the venture, and (much to his disgust) he has been forced to take along a feisty girl reporter /photographer. She’s Lady Charlotte Cunningham, known to her friends as Charly.

They have an ice-breaker and they have a very cool aircraft - a five-seat amphibian. They need this to get over the mountain barrier that surrounds the lost world. Unfortunately their sturdy seaplane is no match for a flock of pterodactyls, even though it’s armed with a Lewis machine-gun. Shooting the pterodactyls just makes them angry! They crash-land and then set off on foot. They soon encounter a beautiful cave-girl who captivates them with her plucky courage (not to mention an extraordinarily impressive quantity of cleavage).

Their problem is they have just three weeks to find Tyler before the pack ice closes in and their ship must make its departure. And to find him they will have to battle assorted dinosaurs, hostile cave-men and the dreaded volcano god.

I’ve read dismissive comments about this movie, comments that claimed that the budget was just too small for the scale of the ideas. I don’t agree. On the contrary I think that considering the limited budget the movie looks pretty impressive. The model shots are mostly effective, the dinosaurs look reasonably good, the early 20th century atmosphere is very well done. The battle scenes are well staged. Director Kevin O’Connor keeps the action moving along at a good clip.

Patrick Wayne wasn’t in the same league as an actor as his old man but he’s perfect for this sort of role - he’s dashing and he’s likable. Doug McClure is reduced to a supporting role in this second movie but still gets to do some heroic stuff. Sarah Douglas is terrific as Charly and the banter between her and Wayne never becomes tiresome or vicious. They clash at first but they’re both basically sympathetic characters. Cult movie favourite Thorley Walters (familiar from countless Hammer films) makes a splendid jovial archaeologist. All the supporting performances in fact are quite solid.

It’s a colourful exciting adventure movie that doesn’t pretend to be anything else and it doesn’t need to be anything else. It’s thoroughly enjoyable.

MGM’s DVD release under the Midnite Movies banner range is typical of this range of DVDs - completely bereft of extras apart from a trailer but it’s a beautiful transfer and they’ve issued it in a two-movie pack along with The Land That Time Forgot which makes it sensational value and if you shop around you can pick it up for as little as five bucks.

No comments: