Lost World, The (1925)

“The back country of the Amazon contains over fifty thousand miles of unexplored water-ways. Who can say what may be living in that jungle — as vast as all Europe?”

Synopsis:
A young woman (Bessie Love) whose father is reported lost in the Amazon convinces an eccentric professor (Wallace Beery) and several others — including a reporter (Lloyd Hughes) and a sportsman (Lewis Stone) — to accompany her on a rescue mission, where they quickly discover the presence of dinosaurs.

Genres:

Review:
This early film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel is notable for its groundbreaking animation by Willis O’Brien, who would soon go on to bigger fame for his work on King Kong (1933) (and win an Academy Award for 1949’s Mighty Joe Young). The undeniably creaky storyline is simply a convenient excuse to introduce breathtakingly “realistic” (for the time) scenarios of dinosaurs battling each other on an Amazonian plateau; unfortunately, because the creatures engage exclusively with each other rather than the human intruders, what we’re left with are multiple shots of the characters looking up at distant action happening above and behind them, never truly seeming at risk for their lives. At least the situation is redeemed somewhat once the intrepid explorers bring a live specimen back to London, and we see the beast wreaking havoc a la King Kong on the city streets. (And it’s interesting to note that some audience members at the time were apparently convinced that what they were seeing on-screen really happened.)

Note: This film has a storied history of being nearly destroyed, then found, then finally restored to a length closer to its original running time; check out Digitally Obsessed’s review for a blow-by-blow account of scenes and images inserted into the restored edition (which is available for free viewing on Hulu, via IMDb).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Truly groundbreaking stop-motion animation

Must See?
Yes, simply for its astonishing early animation. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Lost World, The (1925)”

  1. A once-must, for its place in cinema history.

    First viewing.

    I don’t find the storyline all that creaky – I think, at 68 minutes, it moves fast enough (even though the characters don’t reach the jungle for twenty minutes or so; the exposition is engaging). The performances are fine (for a silent), with Beery particularly effective.

    Special effects (and ‘monster’) fans will get a kick out of the early style that would soon reach maturity with ‘King Kong’.

    Perhaps because the film had a difficult time staying in one piece (and being threatened with extinction), the resolution is a tad abrupt. But it’s a good piece of cinema history which ffs should find intriguing enough for a viewing.

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