Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Lost Continent (1951)

Not to be confused with other movies entitled 'The Lost Continent', this black and white B-movie borrows heavily from other classic stories, mainly Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, lots of lost areas back then. A low budget affair that was pretty much jumping on the coattails of these other fantasy fables with the ever popular dinosaur element. The only real shining star in this production was Cesar Romero, but even he can't really save this.

The plot is exactly as you would expect it, the Americans are doing some major new weapons testing with a big missile (a regular thing back then), when it inevitably crashes. So the upper echelons send a crack team of military personnel to find this missile and retrieve its vital data. Low and behold the missile has crashed on a remote unknown island in the South Pacific, an island that harbours dinosaurs, a prehistoric jungle and natives...presumably an undiscovered race of humans. Its up to this crack team of military personnel to venture deep within the island and complete their mission. The fact they have discovered a new race of people, dinosaurs, prehistoric flora and fauna and a whole load of uranium, all on this new undiscovered island doesn't matter, no time for that, we've gotta find our big dangerous weapon.

So naturally I can't dissect and tear this movie apart too much, its a movie from 50's America, obviously a completely different era. We all know what to expect in American B-movies from that era, big military presence, lots of weapons testing...usually atomic, the fear of Communism and the USSR, women knowing their place and the chaps looking spick and span with solid facial hair. All of these points are present and correct here with the military team looking very well groomed, Romero has his trademark tash of course and the scientists along for the ride are of course foreigners (usually German, Russian or Eastern European)...in this case Russian. The big shock here is there is no female character in the team, no damsel in distress element for Romero to save. I think anyone who knows these types of movies will agree that's quite unusual.

That last fact does lead me to the films poster, its completely bullshit! Talk about false advertising, for a start it shows what appears to be a kind of Tyrannosaurus-Rex dinosaur, but there is no such dinosaur in the film. The island appears to be inhabited purely by Triceratops, Brontosaurus and Pterosaurs, although we all know that's down to budgetary reasons. The poster also shows Romero and his team with a female being attacked by this T-Rex, obviously this never happens, and as I already said, there is no female character on the team. The female the poster refers to is a native woman who helps the team in one scene at the start of their expedition.

Of course this type of thing isn't new with these old movies, I'm just pointing it out because its blatant. What's also to be expected are the hilarious plot holes and things that are just plain silly, most of these oldies are stuffed full of these issues. This small team have been flying on this plane, apparently, for many hours, a long haul flight checking equipment for this lost missile. Yet notice the planes interior has literately nothing inside it, no proper seats, nowhere to rest, seemingly no food or drink provided and what looks like no toilets either! How long were you guys expected to sit hunched up like that?! I guess men were men back then grrr.

After the plane crashes and team get themselves together, one guy asks Romero if  they should radio for help, Romero replies sternly with a no, the team is under orders not to break radio silence until they find the missile. But dude you just crashed landed on an unknown island! surely first priority is to call for help, let HQ know you're OK, arrange evac and then maybe continue with your mission?

One of the biggest and most unintentionally funniest things about this film is the fact that at least a third of the film shows the team climbing this mountain. The missile crashes on top of this plateau that dominates the island, so the guys have to climb to its peak, what follows is many many minutes of seeing these guys climbing around a fake rock surface over and over again, at various angles. At first you don't realise, but eventually I started to think to myself...this is going on a bit isn't it? What's more, all the men are wearing posh shoes! not boots or anything but the type of shoe that accompanies a suit, oh and they're only using rope...and nothing else. When things got too tough, well then it was time for a good healthy cigarette break, yes Sir, I always feel stronger and fitter after a good solid cigarette, now lets climb this fucker! Like I said, men were men back then...grrr.

The stop-motion animated dinosaurs are reasonable but nowhere near as good as other movies or Harryhausen's work. Plus you don't get that much of it either, again probably down to budgetary reasons. When the team reach the jungles on top of the plateau, the film was tinted with a green hue to give the impression of a mysterious other-worldly environment. So basically you're not watching a black and white film anymore, you're watching a green film. And lastly the characters are of course massively predictable. The stoic, humourless Russian scientist, the good looking guy without a tash, Romero as the good looking guy with a tash, errr...some other guy without a tash, and the goofy, short guy for comedic relief.

I enjoyed the movie don't get me wrong, but mainly because it was quite average, a bit underwhelming really. I expected more, or at least more dinosaur action, unfortunately you don't get much of that, but you do get lots of footage of rock climbing both going up and going down. The whole thing is pretty slow paced but watchable down to the ever charming dialog and performances, although I still don't quite get why the entire island decided to crumble and sink beneath the waves at the exact moment are heroes are trying to evac. Meh...its a staple diet of these movies, right at the end, the good guys are trying to escape, so the whole island or mountain or whatever decides to explode, sink or fall down, don't question it.


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