It has charm in spades but too little drama drawn out of the conflict
The study of nature, Miss Clayton, has taught me that life is founded upon killing and destruction. The sea swarms with living things that prey on one another to survive.During WWI a German submarine targets a British transport ship and sinks her, but unbeknownst to the crew, a few survive. These survivors band together and improbably take the sub when it surfaces. The ensuing power struggle between the two crews is brought to an end when it is discovered that the sabotaged compass has put the sub, which is dangerously low on supplies and fuel, out of reach of any neutral port and it is only by luck that they discover a lost island somewhere in the Antarctic. With no alternative other than to find land or starve, the sub navigates a treacherous underwater river, and surfaces in a tropical paradise that is inhabited by pre-historic animals, dinosaurs and primitive men. Can the two crews work together and find a way to survive this alien place where every creature seems to want their blood?The Land that Time Forgot follows the events of the original book by Edgar Rice Burroughs closely, save for the ending. It stars Doug McClure in the lead role, along with a who’s who of mid-seventies British TV acting talent. Shot at Shepperton but with American money the whole thing has a ‘budget restricted’ quality; limited set size, passable model work, though the monsters are clearly puppets, save the larger props which are barely animated. Despite their limitations, these do have their charm but the film suffers terribly with pace and tension; there is limited characterisation and whist the story is peppered with action scenes everything feels like padding (especially the submarine squabbles) as if director Kevin Connor fails to capitalise or draw any drama out of the script. Whilst still enjoyable, even at 90 minutes the film can feel a bit of a drag.
Picture QualityThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region locked to A.
Very much a print of two halves; all the scenes set on the submarine are demonstrably inferior to those set on the island; this is in part due to the cinematography being of much darker hues and drab, washed colours, not helped by the large amount of rear screen projection that plays havoc with the grain structure leading to a ‘dirty’ looking image. Detail, however, is pretty good, skin has a reasonable texture, as do clothing weaves; the interior of the sub (dials, pipework, instrumentation, charts etc.) all have clean edges, while the hull of the sub itself looks suitably solid. The grey murky fog holds a good shape and never descends into blocks. Colouring is rather ‘thin’ though and slightly pushed towards blue, so whilst skin tones are OK, it can look a little tepid, and overall colours never have that bold vivid nature of the best titles.
However, once the film reaches the island, things all change; most dramatically the colour scheme becomes far more bold and vivid; greens suddenly become very lush, blue stronger and reds far more prominent (stylistic choice remember) and this gives the picture much needed verve. The location shooting now affords a wider scope with regard to detail; the grasslands, the forestry, the mud and sand, the oily water and fire – all are sharp and clean. Skin colouring now has that ‘Hollywood’ lustre. The primitive women bathing at the source have never looked so, ahem, clean. The detail level does have the slight disadvantage of showing up makeup lines and prosthetic appendages, as well as the wires holding up the pterodactyl! The model work does stand up to this added detailing, especially the submarine underwater, though the puppets do suffer slightly. Their bullet wounds look suitably gory though.
The primitive women bathing have never looked so, ahem, clean
Brightness and contrast are set extremely well, both in the submarine and on the island there are some really strong black levels adding decent frame depth, even in the claustrophobic environment of the sub. Perhaps just the slightest hint of crush was spotted, and whilst the whites never clipped, the searchlight underwater as the sub is navigating the trench has a slight digital look to it.
The original print is in pretty good nick, there are plenty of small white speckles and other assorted elements of damage, especially in the first half, and the grain structure can go quite wild on the rear projection, though on the whole it’s not too bad. Digitally there were no compression problems, though a wee bit of edge enhancement was possibly seen in the first half, though there was no banding or posterization. A reasonable good transfer of a reasonable print; although it could benefit from a touch up here and there.
Sound QualityOnly the one track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, luckily it’s pretty good. Dialogue is clean and precise, sound very natural and is never lost in the mix. Effects are also well realised, with explosions, gun shots, dinosaur roars and submarine engines all benefiting from nice separation. Bass is slightly lacking though and none of the aforementioned attain anything substantial from the subwoofer. The score is quite effective, and makes good use of the speakers as well as being nicely layered into the mix. Despite the limitations of the source there is a feeling of wideness; this is especially effective on the island. And the climax as a myriad of action vying for you attention and all is well presented without any loss, distortion, hiss or crackle. Basic but gets its information across with gusto.
ExtrasAudio Commentary – With director Kevin Connor and (moderated by) Brian Trenchard-Smith who discuss the film in reasonable detail covering the basics, from casting, set-ups, production, shooting, effects and other technical issues; a little dry but entertaining nonetheless.
Making of featurette – Vintage piece in 1.33:1 ratio and terrible quality, more film clips than content (nothing has changed then) though the interviews with the crew do make this a quick one watch feature.
Blu-ray VerdictThe Land that Time Forgot was a novel by prolific writer Edgar Rice Burroughs and was brought to the screen in the mid-seventies by director Kevin Connor in only his second feature film. This limitation does show in the finished product as whist the film is peppered with plenty of action sequences, there is limited characterisation and no tension drawn from the drama of the two trapped crews. The whole thing rattles along in ninety minutes, but incredible still feels like it is padded out – this is especially true of the first half of the film which is spent on the submarine; when all the action should be set on the island.
Obviously budget limitations were the deciding factors (cheaper to have a small submarine set than an island full of dinosaurs) but the film only really opens up once the island has been reached. The ideas of evolution, man’s impact on nature, war, human nature and forgiveness are barely hinted at and then squandered for the next dinosaur getting its head blown off. Effects are quite good, model work especially so, and whist the puppets act as such, they do have a great charm and their death scenes are extraordinarily bloody. In the end, though, even rose tinted glasses can’t quite save this one, I did love it as a kid and there is charm in spades, but realistically there is too little drama drawn out of the conflict to draw you into the picture and thus any action ultimately lacks impact due to a lack of empathy with the characters. Ripe for a glossy make-over though (ignore that rubbish from 2009).
In the end rose tinted glasses can’t quite save this one
As a Blu-ray the set is pretty good – the picture has had little, if any, clean up and suffers accordingly; whilst being a bit drab in the first half, once on the island things really liven up in terms of colour, though the whole thing has good detail and black levels. The sound comes in DTS-MA HD 2.0 flavour and is clean, bright and clear with good separation, though bass is somewhat lacking. The extras package is light but watchable.
You can buy The Land that Time Forgot on Blu-ray here
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