An eccentric scientist (Claude Rains) returns from the Amazon with news of a distant plateau where creatures from the dawn of time still prowl the jungle. To prove his story, he gathers a team of explorers, including a journalist (David Hedison), a playboy-adventurer )Michael Rennie), a beautiful socialite (Jill St. John), and a pilot (Fernando Lamas) with a secret plan of revenge. But an unexpected attack on their camp leaves the group stranded in a world of dinosaurs and other exotic creatures, where humans are no longer the lords of the earthÂ¿they are helpless prey.
The Lost World
(Special Edition) is a terrific two-fer that includes Irwin Allen's glossy, 1960 adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's novel as well as the fantastic, 1925 silent version of the same story. In essence, The Lost World
is Doyle's tale of an expedition to a mysterious plateau deep in the Amazon rainforest, where cantankerous adventurer Professor Challenger leads an expedition to prove the existence of prehistoric creatures living far from the civilized world. Allen's film, as with his many movie and television productions focusing on disasters (The Poseidon Adventure
) and science fiction (Land of the Giants
), is full of relationship complications within a large ensemble of characters, creating drama and tension even before terror strikes. An attractive cast including Claude Rains as Challenger, Michael Rennie, David Hedison, Jill St. John, and Fernando Lamas makes Allen's The Lost World
fun to watch, especially if one self-consciously overlooks the cast's persistently clean and pressed wardrobe (and perfect hair) despite the jungle heat and assaults by cannibals.
Part of the film's charm is also its most ludicrous element: "dinosaurs" played by various, wriggling tropical lizards, a far cry from the stop-motion animation creatures--that actually look like dinosaurs--in Harry O. Hoyt's amazing take on The Lost World 35 years before Allen's. An impressive spectacle that conveys a certain beautiful wildness, the film stars Wallace Beery as an imposing Challenger, trapped with his team on the aforementioned plateau. In constant danger from carnivorous monsters (as well as flesh-eating monkey-men), the group's relationship strains have greater poignancy and the stakes seem higher all around. Where Allen's film is lulling, Hoyt's is galvanizing, but each is unique and well worth a visit. --Tom Keogh