The People That Time Forgot
U.K. / 1978
Directed by
 Kevin Connor
Starring
Patrick Wayne
Sarah Douglas
Doug McClure
Color / 91 Minutes / PG
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
MGM Home Entertainment
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
5
    5   10 = Highest Rating  
American pulp writer Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) would see numerous films made during his lifetime featuring his most famous creation, Tarzan of the Apes. But until the 1970s no movie producer had attempted bringing to the screen any of his other many characters, such as John Carter of Mars or David Innes of Pellucidar. This was most likely due to the exorbitant cost rendering such fantastical tales into a film would entail. (To say Burroughs had a grand scale imagination is an understatement.) That British producers Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky gave it a shot is commendable, though the results The Land That Time Forgot (1975), At the Earth's Core (1976), and this one are a mixed bag at best.
    It's a direct sequel to The Land That Time Forgot, based on the second book in Burroughs' Caprona trilogy. (The third, Out of Time's Abyss, was never filmed.) The first story chronicled the World War I adventures of Bowen Tyler played in both flicks by Doug McClure who, with the survivors of a torpedoed freighter, commandeers one of the Kaiser's submarines. The sub's compass is sabotaged and the boat becomes lost in Antarctic waters. Eventually Tyler and company encounter an uncharted island, ringed by a solid wall of high cliffs. No ship has ever landed there but the U-boat cruises through an underwater tunnel to reach the interior. Here a lost, prehistoric jungle world of dinosaurs and cavemen is discovered. The sub is eventually destroyed, stranding Tyler and his girlfriend, who are the only survivors. Tyler writes down his experiences and seals the manuscript in a canister, which he hurls over the cliff edge into the sea. The People That Time Forgot follows a postwar expedition sent out to rescue Tyler and verify his incredible account.
    The rescue mission is led by Major Ben McBride (Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger's Patrick Wayne), square-jawed American flier and boyhood friend of Tyler's. (The character was called "Tom Billings" in ERB's book.) Joining him are famed paleontologist Prof. Norfolk (Thorley Walters - Frankenstein Created Woman), ace mechanic Hogan (Shane Rimmer) and adventurous newspaper photographer Lady
Charlotte, aka "Charly" (Sarah Douglas, best known for her roles in Superman II and Conan the Destroyer). They, along with McBride's amphibious biplane, are transported to the coast of icebound Caprona by the Royal Navy ship H.M.S. Polar Queen, which can only wait at anchor three weeks before the ice closes in. McBride and his companions take off in the plane, but not long after crossing the ice cliffs they're attacked by a prehistoric pterodactyl early confirmation that what Tyler wrote was true. An aerial dogfight ensues between the plane and the flying dinosaur (a well-handled sequence despite the obvious budgetary constraints); Hogan blasts the beast with a machine gun but the pterodactyl's only brought down when it tries to take a bite out of the propeller. This also damages the plane, which McBride manages to glide in to a safe, if extremely rough, landing.
    Leaving Hogan to guard and repair the plane, McBride, Charly and Norfolk set off on foot to search for Tyler. The first human they encounter is bodacious cavegirl Ajor (Dana Gillespie), who astonishes them by speaking English. (In
keeping with Burroughs' literary penchant for amazing coincidences, it turns out Ajor knows Tyler well; it was he who taught her English.) She explains that Tyler lived among her people, the Ga-lu, until they were attacked and slaughtered by the evil Naga, an advanced race of bloodthirsty warriors who worship a volcano god. Only a handful of Ga-lu survive, scattered across Caprona and hunted by both the Naga and the Neanderthalish Ba-lu. It's believed that Tyler himself was captured by the Naga some months earlier and taken to their capital, the dreaded City of Skulls. Naturally McBride and company decide to go there and rescue him if he's still alive.
   
That's the entire movie in a nutshell, folks. We get the usual assortment of walking sequences interspersed with the occasional dinosaur encounter or caveman attack until our protagonists reach the domain of the Naga. Immediately captured, Charly and Ajor are slated for sacrifice to the volcano god while McBride and the professor are tossed in a dungeon. Here they meet up with Tyler, who helps them engineer a nick-of-time escape and rescue the gals. The last 25 minutes are taken up with the race back to the plane while the island explodes around them ye old volcano god doesn't take kindly to being denied. Tyler and his buddy Ben get to fight side by side against a horde of samurai armor-clad baddies. It's all very old fashioned, formulaic stuff... which, by the way, is pretty much the way Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote 'em.
   
As with the other AIP-Burroughs flicks, the budget just wasn't there for state of the art effects or production design. The monsters are all unconvincing puppets with the exception of the pterodactyl, which comes off rather well despite barely ever flapping its wings. (It's very adept at riding those Capronan air currents, apparently.) Model work is spotty, too; shots involving miniatures of the airplane range from very good to laughable. But location filming in the Canary Islands helps a great deal, providing a suitably primeval looking world for the characters to explore. (Thus People isn't hamstrung by cheesy interior sets like At the Earth's Core.) And the cast is game, not just going through the motions. The buxom Gillespie certainly makes for nice eye candy... Too bad they never found an excuse to get Douglas in skimpier attire!
    A few mild curse words aside, The People That Time Forgot is old-fashioned adventure fare suitable for watching with the kids. Provided the popcorn's extra buttery and the soda pop (and Dad's brewski) is cold, there are definitely worse ways to kill an hour and a half on a rainy Saturday afternoon
.
NOTE: Watch for a ridiculous blooper near the end of the film, when Wayne and McClure are holding off the pursuing Naga war party... Crouching behind a boulder, Doug is hit square in the head with an arrow which harmlessly bounces off!

As with 95% of MGM's Midnite Movie DVDs, The People That Time Forgot is a bare-bones disc with only the theatrical trailer as an extra. That being said, it should also be noted that MGM continues its excellent track record when it comes to value. The disc retails for under $15 (actually in the $12-14 range online and around ten bucks in stores), boasting exemplary audio and visual quality. The widescreen presentation is anamorphically enhanced to boot. 1/05/02
UPDATE In August 2004 MGM released a terrific double feature DVD pairing People with its precursor, The Land That Time Forgot. The film is on Side B of the disc and is presented exactly as described here.
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