Friday, June 7, 2013

The Lost World (1925) Review

The Lost World 1925 poster
Director: Harry Hoyt
Stars: Wallace Beery, Bessie Love, Lewis Stone, Lloyd Hughes
Genre: Adventure

A film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Arthur Conan Doyle, with wonderful stop-motion special effects by the very talented and innovative Willis O'Brien. One of the earliest example of a Giant Monster movie (Kaiju, if you prefer) and the film that helped paved the way for films like King Kong, Godzilla, and Jurassic Park.

The story follows Professor Challenger (what a name!) who returns from an expedition on which he claims he saw prehistoric dinosaurs...alive! No one believes him, and indeed mock him, but he forms a party to return to the lost world in order to prove them wrong (and to save a member who was lost on the previous journey). In the lost world they are confronted with plenty different varieties of dinosaurs that threaten their lives.

Probably the most notable thing about this film is the special effects work of stop-motion pioneer Willis O'Brien. Prior to The Lost World O'Brien honed his skills on lesser works such as The Dinosaur and the Missing Link and The Ghost of Slumber Mountain, and his animation was at its hitherto best in The Lost World; of course he later went on to culminate all his talents into King Kong. Suffice it to say, O'Brien's innovative stop-motion animation looks great here and believe it or not still holds up well today. The dinosaurs move in very convincing and life-like ways and all the sets and models look absolutely gorgeous (and even more gorgeous in the 93 minute restored edition, which I am reviewing and recommend).

One of the coolest things about King Kong were all the giant monster fights he got into; this holds true for The Lost World also. Dinosaurs are always fighting other dinosaurs and the fights are very enjoyable and well choreographed. It's some awesome action, especially for its time. And after all, who doesn't like to see dinosaurs fighting?

The Lost World 1925 t-rex dinosaur

There's some nice acting from the wild-haired and bearded Wallace Beery, and of course the very beautiful Bessie Love (a fitting name, I may add). At the beginning of the film there is also a cameo appearance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself, the author of the novel of which this film is based (also author of the highly popular Sherlock Holmes series). It is, as far as I know, his first and only appearance on film. It is also said that when the film came out in theaters Doyle went to see it with his family and did indeed like it.

The Lost World 1925

One of the first giant monster movies. The first feature length film to utilize stop motion animation. The film that served as invaluable practice for Willis O'Brien's later special effects work in King Kong. The first film to be screened on an airplane (April 1925 London-Paris Imperial Airways flight; probably not the best idea being that the plane was made largely of wood and film stock is nitrate and highly flammable but, you know, someone had to do, right?). An important film, one that nearly became a lost film numerous times, and luckily for us a very enjoyable one. 

3.5/5 stars

Purchase The Lost World on Amazon: DVD - Stream - VHS

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