The Lost World (1960)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/8/12
Director: Irwin Allen
Cast: Claude Rains, Michael Rennie, Jill St. John, David Hedison, Fernando Lamas

A big budget epic adventure that's sadly too silly to take seriously. Arthur Conan Doyle's classic tale of dinosaurs in the Amazon basin gets a modern facelift as a cranky Professor Challenger (Claude Rains) assembles an expedition to prove that living dinosaurs exist. Among the expedition are Challenger's academic rival Professor Summerlee, news reporter Ed Malone (David Hedison), big game hunter Lord Roxton (Michael Rennie), helicopter pilot Gozez (Fernando Lamas), and American socialite Jennifer Holmes (Jill St. John) and her poodle Frosty. Wow, seriously? Our troop of ill-prepared adventurers make their way to The Lost World via helicopter, which a dinosaur manages to smash on the first night, leaving them stranded. The rest of the film has the group trying to stay alive long enough to escape the dangerous plateau before they are eaten by dinosaurs, killed by natives, or engulfed in a volcanic eruption.

Unfortunately, apart from Gomez, all of the characters are ridiculous and unlikable. The sexist attitudes of the 60's don't help, and a breathy Jill St. John is only used as a love interest and comedic foil. Cheap thrills are provided by a scantily clad native girl who inexplicably develops feelings for Jennifer's brother and helps the expedition escape from a tribe of cannibals. But the real reason you're watching the film is for the dinosaur action. The dinosaurs were originally intended to be done with stop motion animation, but time and budget restraints forced the filmmakers to use live reptiles with prosthetic horns instead. The results are disappointing and a little disturbing. It's sad to see animals mistreated like this on film, and insulting to have lizards and alligators referred to as brontosaurs and tyrannosaurs. Additional side plots of lost diamonds and vendettas are thrown in, but they just bog down the proceedings and add to the film's campiness. Average adventure fare at best.