It has charm in spades, but realistically, too little drama drawn out of the conflict
The 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 just ninety minutes, but incredibly it still feels like it is padded out – this is especially true of the first half of the film which is spent almost exclusively 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.
The story is set during WWI where 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 film follows the events as they happen in the original book save for the ending, and stars Doug McClure in the lead role. It also plays as a who’s who of British TV acting talent in the mid-seventies! Shot in Shepperton but with American money the whole thing has a ‘budget restricted’ quality and even though it is not without its charm and I remember being very enamoured with the film when I saw it as a kid - through adult eyes the films suffers terribly with pace and tension.
There is limited characterisation and whist the story is peppered with action scenes everything feels like padding as if director Kevin Connor fails to capitalise or draw any drama out of the script. Even at 90 minutes it can feel a bit of a drag. In the end even rose tinted glasses can’t quite save this one, I did love it as a kid and it has charm in spades, but realistically there is too little drama drawn out of the conflict to draw you into the picture and thus any emotion is ultimately lost due to a lack of empathy with the characters. Ripe for a glossy make-over though (ignore that rubbish from 2009).
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