Director – Harry O. Hoyt – 1925 – US – Cert. U – 110m
Review of PAL VHS release originally published in Starlog UK, mid-1990s.
£12.99, Original Aspect Ratio (Academy), Mono (Golden Age Films)
Before Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg purloined the name for their Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Professor Challenger novel. In the book, the bombastic scientist leads an expedition to a plateau deep in the Amazon cut off from the rest of the world which he claims to be populated by dinosaurs.
This 1925 silent Hollywood adaptation (here released in 1993’s restored, untinted, black and white print with piano accompaniment) features prominently in any serious shortlist of live action movies featuring dinosaurs along with King Kong, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Godzilla, One Million Years BC and Jurassic Park. Indeed, leaving aside 1954’s Japanese, man‑in-a-rubber-suit entry Godzilla, the remaining titles are The Lost World’s descendants via their use of optical trickery and stop‑motion animation.
The Lost World’s miniature model dinosaurs and their incorporation as fully articulated giant beasts into live action cinematography was primarily the work of stop-frame animator cum special effects genius Willis O’Brien, later to put the dinosaurs into 1933’s King Kong and win a belated special effects Oscar on the back of 1949’s Mighty Joe Young.
What’s fascinating about The Lost World, however, is that O’Brien’s groundbreaking techniques (and the beautifully detailed model making of his long-time assistant Marcel Delgado) can be seen in a formative, pre-Kong stage. If some scenes’ movements appear jerky, those in others such as the allosaurus leaping with its tail swirling about onto the back of a styracosaurus simply can’t be faulted. The articulate, snarling lip of the brontosaurus is so effective O’Brien reuses the animation virtually unchanged in King Kong.
For the inspirational and oft-imitated finale, an escaped brontosaurus rampages through London streets like nothing before it in cinema. To understand how the dinosaurs must have looked to a contemporary 1920s audience, think of Sam Neill’s (and the audience’s) reaction when they first see Jurassic Park’s towering brachiosaurs in a cinema. Quite simply, the 1925 Lost World is the first milestone in dinosaur movies.
Review of PAL VHS release originally published in Starlog UK.