The Lost Continent
U.K. / 1968
Directed by Michael Carreras
Starring
Eric Porter
Hildegard Knef
Suzanna Leigh
Color / 97 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
4
    6  
10 = Highes Rating
 
While Britain's Hammer Films is best remembered for its cavalcade of gothic horror flicks — bringing Golden Age fright icons Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy back to the screen in living color — the company also delved into the worlds of science fiction and fantasy. The 1960s saw the studio's most active exploration of non-horror themes with movies like She, One Million Years B.C., Viking Queen and Quatermass and the Pit, among others. With but few exceptions none of these movies had the lasting impact of Hammer's gothic horror films, nor are they remembered as fondly today. 1968's The Lost Continent, perhaps the most bizarre picture Hammer ever made, falls squarely in this lower tier.
    Loosely based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley (The Devil Rides Out), the plot comes off like a cross between Ship of Fools and The Land That Time Forgot. It concerns the weird events that befall the crew and passengers of the Corita, a ramshackle tramp steamer commanded by the secretive Capt. Lansen (Eric Porter). He's keen to leave port before a customs inspection can take place; the ship's hold is stacked with barrels containing Phosphor-B, an illegal explosive which Lansen hopes to deliver for a big payoff. As the
contrived setup would have it, the type of explosive being carried is combustible when it comes in contact with water! (Besides being extremely impractical, why the hell would anyone want to transport this stuff on such a dilapidated ship?) The handful of passengers, along with the rest of Lansen's crew, have no idea just what deadly cargo is stored below deck. Naturally this means the greedy captain will imperil his ship, risking a hurricane, to insure timely delivery. When the Corita is caught in the storm and begins taking on water, Lansen has no choice but to come clean about the cargo. This doesn't sit well with the crew, most of whom stage a mutiny and abandon ship in a lifeboat.
    With no alternative, Lansen enlists the reluctant passengers in an attempt to move the deadly cargo to a dry portion of the hold. Despite their efforts the captain decides the jig is up and orders the ship abandoned. He, the
passengers and few remaining crew scramble into the only lifeboat left and take their chances in the storm. Luck is with them. The boat rides it out though it doesn't take long before the castaways begin to get on each other's nerves, with the inevitable results. (Look on the bright side… Less people to divide the rations between.) Before long the lifeboat drifts into a weird morass of floating, ambulatory seaweed with a taste for human flesh — an Edgar Rice Burroughs vision of the Sargasso Sea. This "killer weed" turns out to be the least of their problems, however. Lansen and company soon find themselves threatened by a fanatical remnant of the Spanish Inquisition, descendents of people trapped in the Sargasso Sea 500 years earlier. Living aboard the wrecks of ancient galleons stranded in the muck, these throwbacks travel across the deadly weed using snowshoe-like footwear and gas-filled balloons strapped to their shoulders! To the misfortune of some of the passengers and crew, giant mutated creatures also populate this 'lost continent': man-eating octopods, mullosks and scorpions. Beyond a battle for simple survival, can Lansen and the others ever hope to escape such a nightmare?
    It's all rather silly. Just how did this fantastical monster-filled landscape remain "lost" until modern times? My problem with the movie lies not with the gonzo scenario (it's certainly off-the-wall enough to be interesting) but with its execution. Now this isn't a badly directed movie by any means, nor are the somewhat less than special special effects ever detrimental to the fun. But this flick just takes bloody forever to get going. Geezers such as I definitely have a longer attention span than the MTV-internet generation, but one doesn't call a movie The Lost Continent and then take almost two thirds the running time to even find it!
(The first sighting of the weird weed doesn't come til 47 minutes in.) Too much of the story takes place on the ship, wasting our time setting up what are little more than cardboard characters. Hammer films are often criticized for moving at a glacial pace, but with the studio's gothic horrors there's always plenty of atmosphere to carry the viewer along.
    But not here. Cut to the chase, mate!

Anchor Bay's DVD of The Lost Continent, part of its excellent Hammer Collection (new titles are slated for fall 2001), serves up the best looking video transfer of the film I've ever seen. The print used is the uncut version of the movie, fleshed out with 8 minutes of footage shorn from its original U.S. theatrical release. (Don't expect additional monster action or cleavage in these scenes; it consists entirely of dialog and extra bits of character development aboard the ship.) The disc's audio track is clear and strong.
    Extras: The American theatrical trailer is included along with two black-and-white TV commercials. Also on the disc is another Oliver Reed-narrated World of Hammer documentary called Lands Before Time, an uninformative and utterly throwaway featurette focusing on Hammer's non-horror caveman and adventure flicks. (Aside from some mildly interesting but murky film clips, the doc offers nothing to the procedings.) Ironically, my favorite 'extra' is the most inconsequential: the movie's quirky, psychedelic 'lounge crooner' theme song — rendered in stereo — plays in its entirety over the disc's main menu. It's pure '60s pop kitsch that Austin Powers himself would no doubt find very groovy. 6/08/01
UPDATE This DVD went OOP in 2004. It's now fetching up to $90 via Third Party sellers.
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