The Lost World
Screenplay: Marion Fairfax
Release: Flicker Alley
Sometimes, even when I think otherwise, I am a pretty lucky guy. On Sunday I was able to watch this release projected on the big screen at the Canton Palace Theater. To boot I also had a live accompaniment on their Kilgen Theatre Organ by Jay Spencer. This was, unfortunately, an instance where the experience was better than the film.
True to its title, the 1925, 10-reel version of The Lost World effectively disappeared from circulation in 1929—all known positive prints destroyed—a move by First National Pictures to help clear the way for another “creature film” utilizing special effects and Willis O’Brien’s cutting-edge animation techniques: King Kong. For more than 80 years, only abridged editions of The Lost World remained in existence… until now!
Follow Professor Challenger, played by the inimitable Wallace Beery, as he and a crew of curious explorers embark on an expedition in search of a mythical, prehistoric plateau in South America. Along for the adventure are eminent scientist Summerlee (Arthur Hoyt, the director’s brother), sportsman Sir John Roxton (Lewis Stone), journalist Ed Malone (Lloyd Hughes) and Paula White (Bessie Love), whose father disappeared on the same plateau. The party is not there long before the “lost world” of the jungle begins to reveal its secrets: a primitive ape-man, a Pterodactyl flying through the air, a massive Brontosaurus feeding upon the trees, the vicious Allosaurus, and many more monstrous beasts of the Jurassic age.
Flicker Alley, Lobster Films, and Blackhawk Films® are thrilled to present the world-premiere Blu-ray edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, the most complete version of the film ever released. This visually stunning 2K restoration, accomplished by Lobster Films, features newly-discovered scenes and special effect sequences, incorporating almost all original elements from archives and collections around the world. Renowned silent film composer Robert Israel contributes a new and ambitious score, performed by a full orchestra in 2016.
This edition is dedicated to David Shepard, and to the collectors, archives, and passionate cinema lovers, who help preserve films for future generations.
I want to be clear about something, what Flicker Alley and Lobster Film have done is just short of revelatory. I knew this film existed but had not watched it and I am glad that I waited. For giggles, while writing this, I have a version of the film playing from archive.org and it is visually underwhelming. Which is impressive because I love dinosaurs and Claymation.
The restoration work is tremendous. The cleaning, 2k scanning, scratch removal, and re-tinting absolutely set the standard for what I think a restoration should look like. I know that source material dictates exactly how much can be done, but even the clips in The Lost World which are still damaged look good. All of the parties should be incredibly proud of their accomplishment.
My problem is in the film itself. Dino Claymation aside the movie leaves a much to be desired. Most of my silent film experience is with fast-paced comedies but even with the sci-fi, drama, and action/adventure pictures move at a better pace than The Lost World. The shots are held a bit longer than necessary where even a few seconds start to feel like minutes.
It is also racist. I badly want to be able to disconnect a modern viewing from an historical production but the blackface acting and stereotypically written dialog rip me out of the experience. I know that times were different and I am certainly not suggesting that Lobster and Flicker Alley should consider censoring the picture but it is difficult. It is just embarrassing that I, or Mr. Spencer, our organist, have to apologize or warn viewers at the onset.
I watched a bit of the physical disc before I found out that my local theater would be screening so I can tell you that the orchestral score is very well made and the other classic Willis O’Brien short films make this release essential for fans of special effects. O’Brien would, shortly after The Lost World, go on to make King Kong. Also, and more important to me Ray Harryhausen’s films may not have been realized without King Kong, which may not have existed with The Lost World.
- Audio Commentary: Feature-length audio essay by Nicolas Ciccone, amateur filmmaker and film historian.
- Deleted Scenes: Restored outtakes from a 1925 original nitrate transfer of The Lost World.
- F.D., 10,000 B.C. (1917): Short film directed by Willis O’Brien for producer Thomas Edison.
- The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918): Short film written and directed by Willis O’Brien in a new 2K restoration by the Dinosaur Museum.
- Creation (1930): Unfinished film directed by Willis O’Brien that nonetheless convinced Merian C. Cooper to hire O’Brien for King Kong.
- Image Gallery: Featuring original production, exhibition, and promotional materials.
- Booklet Essay: “The Lost World: Secrets of the Restoration” by Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films.
Director: 6 – Cinematography: 9 – Edit: 2 – Parity: 0 – Main performance: 6 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 7 – Sound: NA – Story: 6 – Script: 5 – Effects: 10 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 6 – Keeps interest: 8 – Lasting: 5