Land That Time Forgot
= Highest Rating
affable All-American type mostly known for his
TV work, the late Doug McClure joined the galaxy
of B-movie stars with his leading roles in five
science fiction/fantasy films
made between 1975 and 1980. The Roger Corman cheapie
from the Deep aside, these films — all directed
by Kevin Connor — were produced in the U.K. and
either based on or inspired by the novels of Tarzan
creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. They were only modestly-budgeted
drive-in pictures but McClure got top billing
as the heroic leading man. In a sense you could
say he was the John Agar of the Seventies.
The best of the McClure-Connor films is the
first, 1975's The Land That
Time Forgot. It's still a fun movie nearly
30 years on, creaky special effects notwithstanding.
Just as Burroughs possessed more imagination than
writing talent, the film adaptation attempts a
more grandiose vision than the budget would permit.
And despite being co-scripted by Michael Moorcock
— one of Britain's (then) cutting edge SF authors
— Land's plot and
dialog are strictly the stuff of comic books.
Yet this is in keeping with the spirit of Burroughs,
at best a mediocre writer who could nonetheless
spin some truly ripping yarns. I mean, a German
U-Boat shelling dinosaurs with its deck gun...
How cool is that? (Particularly to a 12-year
old like your humble correspondent, seeing the
film when it was first released in theaters.)
As in the opening of Burroughs' novel, a watertight
canister is found washed ashore on the coast of
Scotland. Inside is a handwritten manuscript relating
a most fantastic tale. It is the story of Bowen
Tyler (McClure) and his fellow castaways on the
"lost continent" of Caprona.
In June 1916 Tyler's aboard a British freighter
torpedoed in mid-Atlantic by one of the Kaiser's
U-boats. Of the passengers, he and a pretty biologist,
Lisa Clayton (Susan Penhaligon), are the only
survivors. A handful of the freighter's crew,
led by First Mate Bradley (Keith Barron), pick
them up in a lifeboat but the situation still
looks grim: no one was able to radio their location
before the ship went down and they've virtually
no provisions. But a desperate chance for survival
presents itself when, in the murk of a fog bank,
the submarine responsible for their plight surfaces
close to the lifeboat. Tyler and the merchant
seamen surprise the sub's crew and take them prisoner.
The veteran German skipper, Captain von Schoenvorts
(John McEnery, with voice dubbed by the authentically
Teutonic Anton Diffring), is certain that Tyler
lacks the knowledge to command the U-33. Then
he's informed that the brash American just happens
to be the scion of a California shipbuilding family
that's been designing submarines for years. Tyler
knows them inside and out. Even so, some of the
Germans will be needed to man the sub and will
have to be watched.
plan to make for the nearest Allied port
is thwarted when the
compass is sabotaged by U-33's fanatical first
officer, Lt. Dietz (Anthony Ainley, who played
the evil Master in the Doctor Who TV series).
Now lost in Antarctic waters and running low on
supplies, the sub comes upon an uncharted island
ringed by a impenetrable wall of high, craggy
amid the icebergs. Von Schoenvorts theorizes the
island to be Caprona, a supposedly mythological
land named for a 17th Century explorer whose claims
an underwater tunnel to gain the island's interior,
those aboard U-33 are amazed to discover a tropical
prehistoric world kept warm by volcanic forces.
Here dinosaurs that should be long extinct live
and roam, as do a curious race of humanoid savages
that appear to exhibit all the various phases
of Man's evolutionary development. To survive
long enough to repair and replenish the U-boat,
wartime enemies must put aside their differences
and cooperate with one another. But not everyone
is playing from the Kumbaya songbook...
Land That Time Forgot
thoroughly old fashioned sci-fi/fantasy adventure
of the type they weren't really making anymore
even in 1975. A lot of this has to do with the
script sticking to Burroughs' Victorian style.
(His Caprona tales were first published in 1918;
as late as World War II he'd still be cranking
out novels in the writing style of the 19th Century.)
The film's a throwback to the likes of the original
King Kong and potboilers
such as Unknown Island
(1948) and The
Land Unknown (1957), only in color.
The first half-hour plays like your standard military-themed
action yarn (and not a bad one at that, really),
without any foreshadowing of the science fiction
plot elements to come. Yes, the special effects
look rather cheesy — quaint even — by modern standards...
If you love wobbly rubber dinosaur puppets and
positively loathe CGI, then this movie's for you.
(It would've made an exciting project for Ray
Harryhausen, though!) Actually, the dinosaurs
aren't as bad as some I've seen. At least they're
not just iguanas with big fins glued onto their
backs, forced to wrestle on a tabletop model.
(The wires holding up the built-to-scale pterodactyl
are pretty obvious, though, and the beast never
once flaps its wings.) A few of the submarine
miniatures aren't too shabby, either.
usually either lukewarm or downright hostile to
the idea of remakes but to me The
Land That Time Forgot is
the ideal candidate. As someone who devoured the
pulp novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs as a kid (and
who also loved this film —
I wish I still had that old paperback edition
with the movie poster on the cover), I can only
imagine how cool it would be with modern special
effects a la U-571
and the Jurassic Park
by some fluke a Hollywood producer will read this...
week (August 24th, '04) MGM released a slew of
anticipated new Midnite Movie DVDs, all
of them double feature "flipper" discs.
In a cynical move on MGM's part the company decided
to reissue films that have already been released
as singles. However, some of these titles have
never been on DVD before and for that we can be
grateful. In this case the double feature billing
is most appropriate: Side B contains The
People That Time Forgot,
the 1977 sequel,
with Doug McClure reprising his role as Bowen
Tyler. (To check out EC's January 2002 review
of People, click
for Land's digital
debut, the film looks and sounds better than I've
ever seen it,
and for the first time on home video is in its
correct 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Certain
scenes are noticeably grainy, especially some
of the rear-projection FX shots; this is inherent
to the film itself. The theatrical trailer is
included as an extra. Side B's presentation of
People That Time Forgot
is exactly the same as the single-edition release.
EC's rating of "7" for the DVD factors
in its value as a double feature. 8/29/04