179 of 186 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 1999
LOST HORIZON is a very special and very philosophical movie based on the James Hilton novel. The movie makes a few changes from the book, but in many ways the film actually improves on the novel, not the least of which is having the great Ronald Colman flesh out the part of Robert Conway. It's not Colman's most memorable performance (see TALE OF TWO CITIES for that) but he wears the part like a comfortable suit. Supporting him are some other great players like Edward Everett Horton, Thomas Mitchell, Sam Jaffe and Isabel Jewell to name a few. What would YOUR reaction be when you discover that the commandeered airplane that took you to a mysterious, beautiful land in the middle of the wintry Himalayas was not an accident, but a plan? The lost world of Shangri-La is something different to everyone, and it's not always a land of bliss and happiness as you'll see. The film itself has gone through many difficult years, and the painstaking reconstruction (sometimes down to still frames with audio) receives a fine presentation on DVD. It's the restoration and the extras that make the disc worth viewing. A brief section shows how some frames were restored, and we get to see some rare pristine footage of the funeral procession. A good feature commentary and documentary are also included. Overall, then, it's a fine film and a fine DVD supplying fine extras. What's not fine? Well, it's only fair to comment on the extremely variable quality of the image (as I said, it's a combination of several decent prints, some 16mm prints and the occasional still-frame section). That's not the fault of Columbia, as it is most likely the best they could do. But upon comparison to my VHS tape of the restored film, I was surprised to see that the quality is only *slightly* better, not dramatically better. That's why I say in all fairness that it's really the extras that make it worthwhile, but that's coming from someone who already had a video copy of the restored film in his collection. If you've never seen the film, I recommend it unreservedly.
120 of 124 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 1999
I have loved this film and the James Hilton novel upon which it is based since I was a child. "Lost Horizon" is one of the truly great moviegoing experiences. I think we all want to believe in Shangri-La, a paradise which brings out the best in mortals, offering a chance of redemption.
The film has a great cast: Ronald Colman (what a voice!), lovely Jane Wyatt, Thomas Mitchell, H.B. Warner, Edward Everett Horton, Sam Jaffe and the almost forgotten (but very good) Isabel Jewell - she also appeared with Colman in "A Tale of Two Cities."
The set design has to be seen to be truly appreciated. Shangri-La is a prime example of Art Deco at it's most beautiful.
The film, as it exists today, is a bit like Frankenstein's monster, stitched together from a wide variety of sources, some of them in better condition than others. The story of the quarter-century restoration of the film is a fascinating example of the dedication to see a project through to it's completion.
The only complaint I have about the film, and it's a minor one, is about the number of expository sequences in the film. It seems that one character or another is always talking about what has gone on or what is going on. H.B. Warner's character, in particular, seems to exist for the most part to explain the backstory of Shangri-La. But that's, as I said, a minor complaint. This is a superb motion picture.
94 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 1999
Frank Capra's LOST HORIZON is finally given its due on DVD. This is the most complete version of this great film available. The source material varies from excellent to barely watchable, but at least it is complete. Some sections are represented with still frames as the footage still remains missing. This is quite frustrating as the movie was photographed so beautifully, but Columbia Pictures did very little to keep the negatives complete and in good condition. So we should be thankful LOST HORIZON looks as good as it does. The cast, with the exception of John Howard (David Niven should have played Howard's part) is flawless. Ronald Colman was one of Hollywood's greatest actors. One never tires from watching and "listening" to his performance. This great DVD includes an insightful commentary shared by Charles Champlin and Kendall Miller who discuss the making of the movie along with its arduous restoration. A good 30 minute documentary covers the making of the movie (some aspects are duplicated from the commentary track). Also included are some deleted sequences, a still file with Kendall's narration and a teaser trailer. It would have been wonderful if Dimitri Tiomken's great score could have been isolated, but this may not have been possible given the quality of the source material. Get LOST HORIZON on DVD, you won't be disappointed. It is definetly a classic worth keeping.
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
One of my favorite books growing up was James Hilton's classic 1933 book, "Lost Horizon", and I believe it motivated a great deal of my current wanderlust. Even though I have had the misfortune of seeing the disastrous 1973 musical remake when I was young, the original 1937 film adaptation has been a film I have wanted to see for years, but for whatever reason, it was next to impossible to uncover. Apparently, bastardized versions have shown up on TV through the years. Now we are fortunate to have this 1999 restoration spearheaded by UCLA film archivist Robert Gitt to match as closely as possible to Frank Capra's original 132-minute running time.
Similar to what was done with George Cukor's "A Star Is Born", "Lost Horizon" is presented with its complete soundtrack, but missing footage had to be found through other sources, even 16-mm prints recorded from TV broadcasts, and in a few scenes, production stills were sadly the only option to fill in the gaps. Consequently, there is a variable quality to the print, but when one thinks that much of this footage could have been completely lost, the visual lapses are more than forgivable. Now that I have seen Capra's vision of the book, I can now understand why it's a cinematic classic though I have to concede not as timeless as one would hope.
The fanciful plot centers on Robert Conway, a top-level English diplomat about to become the Foreign Secretary, who helps refugees and assorted others from war-ravaged China. A motley crew of passengers led by Conway boards a plane that is skyjacked toward the Himalayas where it crash lands in a desolate spot of Tibet. They are eventually met by a sect of locals who takes them to a paradise called Shangri-La. The focus of the story then becomes how each of the plane survivors responds to this utopian existence. With his instantly recognizable mellifluous tone, Ronald Colman is perfectly cast as Conway, the only one who embraces this seemingly perfect haven from the outset. He captures the natural curiosity and open romanticism of his character with his trademark erudite manner.
The rest of the cast is a gallery of stock characters fleshed out by the variable quality of the performances. H.B. Warner plays Chang with the requisite serenity of his vague, mysterious character; and Jane Wyatt - two decades before playing the perfect suburban wife and mother in "Father Knows Best" - is surprisingly saucy as Sondra, the young schoolteacher who has Conway brought to Shangri-La. She even has a brief nude swimming scene. John Howard unfortunately overplays the thankless role of Conway's obstreperous brother George to the point where I groan every time he appears onscreen. A similar feeling comes over me when I see Edward Everett Horton's overly pixilated and fey turn as Lovett and Sam Jaffe's bug-eyed, ethereal High Lama. Isabel Jewell and Thomas Mitchell fare better as a dying prostitute and a fugitive swindler, respectively.
The set designs for the Shangri-La lamasery by Stephen Goossón are intriguing in that they look like a post-modern tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie architecture, though one could argue that the exteriors also resemble a fancy Miami Beach resort hotel. I also imagine that the isolationist philosophy espoused by the High Lama may have been at odds with pre-WWII patriotic fervor, though the more lingering problem is the racism apparent in the casting (e.g., non-Asians like Warner playing inscrutable Asians) and the portrayal of the Tibetan porters as gun-toting derelicts. However, for all its flaws, the movie has some really stunning camerawork by Joseph Walker, surprisingly masterful special effects (for a near-poverty row studio like Columbia), Dmitri Tiomkin's stirring musical score and a powerful sense of mysticism that gives the film a genuine soul. It is no accident that Capra, the most idealistic of the master filmmakers, helmed this movie because a more cynical mindset could have easily sabotaged the entire venture.
The DVD is a wonderful package. First, there is a fascinating photo montage documentary with narration provided by film historian Kendall Miller, which gives a true feeling of how Capra approached the production. Gitt and film critic Charles Champlin provide audio commentary on an alternate track of the film with Gitt very informative about the exhaustive restoration process and Champlin more in awe of the result. There is even an alternative ending included that Columbia chief Harry Cohn insisted on filming and using upon release, but it had thankfully been dropped two weeks later. This is a genuine treat for cinemaphiles, as there are few films that make such a compelling case for seeking out one's personal utopia.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2002
James Hiltons novel "Lost Horizon" has been beautifully transferred into a Classic 1930's Fantasy film under the Direction of Frank Capra and Columbia Pictures.
This film was almost lost forever due to film deterioration and studio neglect. After years of gathering every known bit of film and audio tracks we have a digitally restored "Directors Cut" 132 minute film. With all the best prints & audio available we have a wonderful film presentation to enjoy forever.
This is a collectors DVD! Hollywood film at its best!
Summary: English hero and popular Diplomat Robert Conway (Ronald Coleman)is due to return to England from China for a very important diplomatic appointment. A revolt occurs and Conway must make a hasty departure to Shanghai by airplane before being captured. Surprisingly he & his fellow passengers are high jacked & kidnapped to Tibet. The aircraft crash lands in the snow ravaged Himilayan mountains. Mysteriously they are rescued almost immediately in a blizzard. They are dressed warmly and escorted to this utopian valley of "Shangri-La". A place where time is almost frozen and the aging process is slowed drastically. Conway finds that he was intentionally brought here. Why? A very curious situation. The the story of "Shangri-La begins.
This tale is a Classic one which even today stands the test of time. Now digitally restored to the Directors Cut of 132 minutes. The extras are informative & loaded with historical information about the film.
A family film classic to enjoy for generations thanks to the dedication of film restoration teams & the American Film Institute (AFI). Enjoy.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2000
I bought this DVD skeptically - never been a fan of thirties films, but have played this movie at least 5 times the last month. The screenplay is engaging and as relevant today as the day it was written. At first, the characters seem a little two dimensional, but as the story line plays out, Ronald Colman, Thomas Mitchell, and Sam Jaffe will capture your heart. The story is deep with an ending that has almost moved me to tears every time I see the film. It is more than a fantastic adventure, a romance, or a mere story of enchantment. The concept of a Shangri-la has spiritual and political overtones that seem more relevant to our generation than when it was first released. Gets you thinking about what is really important in life.
Then there is the restoration. That is a story unto itself, and it is covered in detail. There are approximately seven minutes of the DVD where the audio exists with no footage, so they use still photos and let you hear the movie as it was meant to be seen (after the initial Santa Barbara premiere but before the World War II cuts). After experiencing this DVD you'll certainly know why they went to the trouble. I can't wait to experience more of Frank Capra.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This is one of the great romantic movies; perhaps the best movie of Frank Capra's career; probably the best of Ronald Colman's. It runs about 2 hours and 34 minutes and never seems slow, even in the reflective scenes.
Robert Conway (Ronald Colman), a diplomat and soldier, his brother and three others escape on the last plane out of a war-torm Chinese town. The plane is highjacked and heads for the Himilayas, where it crashes. The crew is dead, the passengers stranded in freezing weather and deep snow. A band of natives appears with warm clothing, rescues them and they set out on a long trek. Eventually they come to a nearly inaccessible crevice in the mountains. They go through and find a valley that is warm and green, with people working cooperatively and happily, where streams run and fields are tilled, where governance is from monks who are wise and fair. They have been brought to Shangri La, but for what purpose?
Conway is curious, meets a young woman with whom he falls in love, has discussions with one of the monks he assumes is the one in charge. His brother is resentful, unhappy and longs to go back to civilization. The other three at first agree, but gradually they find themselves discovering a kind of peace within themselves. And then Conway is brought to meet the High Lama (Sam Jaffe), an ancient man who, he realizes, is the person who first discovered the valley and began the community...over two hundred years ago. The High Lama describes Shangri La as a place where time has slowed to the point where it is meaningless, where peace is the natural condition. "It came to me in a vision, long, long ago," the High Lama tells Conway. "I saw all the nations strengthening, not in wisdom, but in the vulgar passions and the will to destroy. I saw the machine power multiplying, until a single weaponed man might match a whole army. I foresaw a time when man, exalting in the technique of murder, would rage so hotly over the world, that every book, every treasure, would be doomed to destruction. This vision was so vivid and so moving, that I determined to gather together all things of beauty and of culture that I could, and preserve them here, against the doom toward which the world is rushing. Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is! What blindness! What unintelligent leadership! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity, crashing headlong against each other, propelled by an orgy of greed and brutality. A time must come, my friend, when this orgy will spend itself. When brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword. Against that time, is why I avoided death, and am here. And why you were brought here. For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here. For here, we shall be with their books and their music, and a way of life based on one simple rule: Be Kind!" He tells Conway that even in Shangri La death comes, and that he is dying. He chose Conway to be his successor, hoping that Conway would find the same peace which he had, and that Conway would agree.
But Conway's brother is determined to leave with a young woman from Shangri La. Conway reluctantly agrees to go with them because he knows his brother couldn't survive the trek without him. Tragedy occurs but Conway survives and is returned to civilization. But then he disappears. He will search for as long as it takes to find Shangri La again.
I've gone on about this movie because it is a near-perfect example of the kind of sweeping, romantic, powerful film Hollywood could make in its prime. The combination of, especially in the Thirties, the idea of a Shangri La with Frank Capra's immense gifts as a director able to hit people in their hearts and Ronald Colman's skill at portraying noble, brave and believeable heroes all comes together in this movie. An equal player in the excellence of this emotional film is Sam Jaffe's portrayal of the High Lama. He is intensely believeable as a gentle and wise man.
The movie pulls you emotionally. It has an ending that might make you tear up and will certainly satisfy you.
The film for the most part looks great. It had been chopped and diced after it was released to reduce playing time and, during World War II, to reduce the pacifist elements. The original negative and about seven minutes of film were never found. This restoration was pulled together from several sources and, except for a handful of places, looks just fine. Where the bits of film were lost, the soundtrack was kept with stills inserted to match who was speaking. This works very well. There are extras about the restoration that are interesting.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 1999
Really a three-and-a-half star rating. The most expensive film ever made at the time, (and also among the most decisive failures at the box-office for it's day) "Lost Horizon" succeeds in transporting us into a world borne of vibrant cinematic imaginations and magic; but finally lets us off the hook by failing to fully amount to it's lofty aims. The early sequences, however--the chaos of panicked thousands fleeing the revolutionaries; Conway's desperate escape by airplane with a gallery of amusing characters; the passengers' realization of their abduction by a mysterious pilot; the crash in the Himilayas; the meeting of the passengers and the column from Shangri-La; and the breathtaking first glimpses of the utopian paradise--are so magnificent that you can only marvel at Frank Capra's skill at drawing us in so triumphantly right from the outset. Unfortunately, the entire point of the story--the shock and disillusionment of man with the outside world after prolonged assimilation into a utopian society--is blunted by the treating of it almost as an afterthought. Shangri-La, land of idyllic existence and very expensive sets, is shown off nearly to the point of redundancy; Conway's treacherous trek back to civilization is recreated with generous attention; but then, the pivotal crisis of conscience that persuades Conway to risk a hazardous return to Shangri-La is relegated to almost a bookend, as a table of old English society peers of his hastily recount his recent experiences to the audience. This uneven approach disappointingly muffles the level of viewer satisfaction. Additionally, John Howard is more than a little irritating as Conway's suspicious brother. For all that, casting, direction, and music are hard to fault. Ronald Colman is here, along with "Prisoner of Zenda," given perhaps his best tailored role ever. Veteran character actors Thomas Mitchell and Edward Everett Horton keep the laughs coming with their friendly rivalry. Sam Jaffe's utterly persuasive portrayal of the old, old, old lama put him on the Hollywood map. And H.B. Warner's performance as the enigmatic Chang can serve as an object lesson to today's actors on how to steal a picture through fiercely controlled understatement. Frank Capra, here at his cinematic zentith, should probably have won the Academy Award for Best Direction for 1937. And Dimitri Tiomkin's beautiful musical score was perhaps the best ever written for any movie up until that time. In the final run of things, though, "Lost Horizon" seems more impressive than great. As a viewing experience, however, it is unforgettable.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
An airplane accident; a happy coincidence to be rescued will allow these British citizens to know about this paradise in the middle of Tibet, isolated by solid mountains, they will find out as the rest of us a new way of living with a very strong presence of Zen, Taoism and Buda principles. At first the group will experience a visible refuse to live there and will think about how to escape , but gradually every one of them except just one, will find their respective bliss.
The restoration includes 9 minutes of additional footage accompanied by the soundtrack and supported by photographs that confer additionally a special attractive due the epic process of reconstruction that implied.
Ronald Colman made the role of his career and so the master of ceremonies, H.B. Warner as Chang, the monk who rescued them from the accident. Seven nominations for the Academy Awards and two deserved prizes, one for best set up and decoration
Based on the famous James Hilton 's novel , this treasured classic constitutes undeniably the masterpiece of Frank Capra and must have been an oasis in the middle of the Airs the world breathed.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2000
I have even greater regard for Frank Capra now that I have seen this restored version of Lost Horizon. The book was one of my favorites many years ago, and I remember the film only in its shortened and tired version on late night movies in the fifties and sixties. But the elegance and velvet voice of Ronald Coleman,the refreshing beauty of Jane Wyman, the crankiness of Edward Everett Horton, and the dignity of W.B. Warner as Chang - those came through even in the faded versions that were occasionally shown.
Now the restored version is its full 132 minutes, and even the portions of the sound track for which film was not found (about seven minutes total, supplemented with still photogrpahs) are fascinating to see. The settings are lush, and the cinematography excellent. The screenplay is naive but charming. But the overall effect is truly memorable. It is as though the black and white film is so evocative, that my memories of it seem to be in color! Bravo to all who had a role in reviving this gem!