Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Joker Goes Dinosaur Hunting

That lousy, stinkin' poster sitting up there is LYING to us! There is a brontosaurus in The Lost Continent (1951) and there are a couple of triceratops. But there's no T-Rex or other carnosaur.

Aside from the lousy, stinkin' movie poster, though, The Lost Continent does have a poor reputation even among B-movie and dinosaur movie fans. To be fair, there are problems with the pacing. The first half-hour is very heavy in exposition and this did need to be tightened up and shortened.

It's really not that complex a plot. An experimental rocket goes off-course on its test flight and crashes in a remote area. An Air Force plane and a trio of scientists look for it--the data its carrying is vital for future tests. It turns out that to get to the rocket, the Air Force guys and scientists must scale a mountain, where they discover a jungle and a number of herbivorous but very ill-tempered dinosaurs.

The cast is great. Future Joker Cesar Romero is the commander of the expedition. John Hoyt, Whit Bissell, Hugh Beaumont and Sid Melton are among the other expedition members. These are all good actors, bringing real personality to their roles despite dialogue that is undeniably awkward at times.

An extended sequence in which they are scaling the mountain is often criticized for being too long--the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode about this movie is particularly brutal here. But I enjoy that part--it builds tension nicely and there's some honest emotion when one of the characters suddenly falls off a ledge. (Though that character has no one but himself to blame. He should have known better than to tell everyone about his wife and kids back home in the previous scene.)

We're two-thirds into the movie before we finally see some dinosaurs--further proof that some
judicious editing needed to be done earlier in the story. But these are all fun scenes. There's something about lower quality non-Harryhausen stop motion that still has charm, giving the dinosaurs a sort-of unworldly quality that endows the scenes an appropriate atmosphere.

So I do indeed like this film. It is better than its reputation and a satisfying way to spend 83 minutes.

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