The Land That Time Forgot (1975 UK/USA)

forgotEdgar Rice Burroughs surely had an amazing imagination. He is best remembered for authoring Tarzan, Barsoom and Pellucidar. The Land that Time Forgot is one of his lesser known works. Like most of his stories, this one has some really bizarre notions about science. This story features a lost land where evolution actually runs…er…backwards.

Our brave explorers are a small group of British seamen and a German U-boat crew, thrown together on the U-boat by highly improbable fortunes of war. Both factions vie for control of the U-boat, which causes the vessel to become hopelessly lost. Thus the divided crew unintentionally discovers the lost world. How does this group handle entering a primeval world? They decide to temporarily set aside their World War One differences and work together to escape the lost land. There are plenty of interesting characters in this film.

Doug McClure does a great job as a brawling, likable hero. There is a pretty, intelligent scientist – type woman as his girlfriend (Susan Penhaligon). She manages to keep all (that’s right, all) of her clothes on throughout the motion picture, which is both a remarkable and regrettable feat for this genre. The captain turns out to be a better scientist than a submariner, and the first mate acts like wartime allegiances are still important. The main dynamics between the characters are who is in charge, the Germans or Doug McClure? Both sides are looking to turn the tables at the earliest opportunity, and this provides a nice bit of ongoing tension in the movie.

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It is hard to comment on the ‘science’ of backward evolution in this lost land of Caprona. At least it provides a rationale for the abundant mix of dinosaurs and cave men. Now, about those dinosaurs. They are cheesy puppets! ‘Cmon people. It’s 1975. What about stop motion? If only. However, as poor as some of the dinosaurs look, they do make interesting appearances, sometimes including direct attacks on the crew. Everything else, the lost world of Caprona, the U-boat, the costumes are all very well done and look great. What really makes this movie work is that the pace and action of the story do not disappoint, and the plot never stagnates. The characters are compelling and have competing interests.

The plot builds to several crises occurring at once, including a discovery that the crew theoretically might not be able to leave the evolutionary pull of Caprona, that the U-boat has the fuel needed to escape, then a volcano erupts, and an armed play for control of the boat occurs. The final scene is a wonderful blend of intensity and pathos as the U-boat heads to sea with flames and destruction all around. It is a spectacular finish, and it wraps the film up perfectly. This is a well written, well acted ‘Lost World’ type film, capturing a sense of adventure and travel that’s almost forgotten from modern story telling what with all the political correctness and marketing hype we have today.

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