Merry Christmas everybody. Hopefully you are all spending time with family and friends today. Today’s movie is a special treat for me to watch, for a number of reasons. First off, this is the only “silent movie” that I own. Second, it features special effects done by Willis O’Brien, which makes it well worth watching for that alone. Now King Kong is definitely considered O’Brien’s greatest movie, but if it wasn’t for people’s reaction to this movie, I don’t know if we would have ever had King Kong, or if we did, if it would have been as good. So here is one of Willis O’Brien’s first uses of stop-motion animation, The Lost World (1925).
The plot: Reporter Ed Malone is proposing to his girlfriend but she refuses, saying she prefers a man willing to take chances and face adventure. At the newspaper office, the owner and his lawyer are discussing the actions of Professor Challenger and his threatening to sue them, as well as attacking three reporters sent to interview him. When Ed bursts in the office and demands a dangerous assignment, the owner tells him to cover Challengers lecture and interview Challenger, though reporters have been barred from the proceedings. While waiting to get in, Ed sees his friend, Sir John Roxton, a big-game hunter, who helps Ed get inside the lecture hall. Inside, the students, as well as some of the other professors, proceed to heckle Challenger, and his claims that he as discovered prehistoric creatures living in the Amazon rainforest. Challenger states that he is not here to change people’s minds, but rather to propose they accept his challenge to go back to the Amazon with him and to see the creatures for themselves. Professor Summerlee, a rival of Challenger, agrees to go as a chance to discredit Challenger’s claims. Roxton also agrees to go, which Challenger accepts, knowing his reputation will add credence to his claims. Ed offers to go as well but when Challenger learns that Ed is a reporter, he becomes infuriated and chases Ed out of the lecture hall. Later, Challenger returns home and Ed, who had followed him, sneaks into his house. When Challenger sees Ed, he attacks him and the fight is broken up by a police officer. When the officer asks if Ed wants to press charges, Ed refuses, saying he was in the wrong for entering uninvited, which impresses Challenger. After learning that Ed is a friend of Roxton, Challenger agrees to tell Ed about his discovery. In his office, Challenger tells his servant to fetch Miss White, then, after Roxton arrives, he hands Ed the diary of an explorer named Maple White. At that moment, Paula White, Maple’s daughter, enters the room and she tells the men about her father’s exploration, which she was on as his assistant, and how they discovered a plateau that was filled with dinosaurs. Hearing how Paula’s father was trapped on the plateau, Ed tells Challenger that he might be able to have his paper finance a rescue mission, provided that they had the rights to cover it, to which Challenger agrees. As Challenger and Ed head off, Roxton stays behind with Paula, telling her that he cares about her. Reaching the Amazon, the group consisting of Challenger, Ed, Roxton, Summerlee, Paula, Austin, and a porter named Zambo, as well as a monkey named Jocko, set off down the river and eventually reach the base of the plateau. As they are figuring out how they will get across the chasm, an apeman attacks them by pushing a boulder off the top of the plateau into their camp. They then see a Pteranodon flying around, which is proof that prehistoric creatures do exist. The next day, the explorers chop down a tree to use as a bridge across the chasm and enter the plateau while Austin and Zambo stay at the base camp but a nearby Brontosaurus ends up dropping the downed tree into the chasm, trapping the group on the plateau. Stranded, the group observe several dinosaurs in the nearby area, including an Allosaurus, which attacks and kills an Edmontasaurus but when the body falls into the swamp, the Allosaurus goes after a Triceratops but is chased off. When the Allosaurus attacks the camp, bullets seem to have no effect on it so Ed throws a torch in it’s mouth, scaring it off. When Ed climbs a tree to get a look around, he is attacked by the apeman but Roxton is able to shoot it and the injured creature runs off. The group decides to set up camp in some nearby caves and while Challenger builds a makeshift catapult for defense, Roxton explores deeper into the caves and finds the skeletal remains of Maple White. Continuing down the cave, he comes to an opening, where he sees Austin and Zambo down below. Signalling to the two men, they yell up to Roxton that they are building a rope ladder and plan to use Jocko, who misses Paula, to carry a rope up to them so they can pull the ladder up. Meanwhile, Ed confesses his feelings towards Paula, which she returns and they ask Summerlee to marry them, since he used to be a minister. The tell Roxton the news, and he congratulates them, then asks Ed to get Challenger and Summerlee while he talks to Paula. Roxton shows Paula a locket he got off the remains of her father and tells her that her father is dead. Outside, Challenger and Summerlee are observing a fight between a Brontasaurus and an Allosaurus when the Brontosaurus is knocked off the cliff and falls into a muddy river below. As Ed looks for the professors, a volcanic eruption occurs, setting the jungle ablaze and causing the dinosaurs to begin stampeding. He eventually finds the two men and leads them back to Roxton and Paula. Back at the base camp, Jocko climbs up the cliff towards Paula, carrying the rope so they can pull the ladder up to them. Paula goes down first, followed by the others but as Ed is climbing down, the apeman appears and begins pulling on the rope ladder until Roxton manages to shoot and kill it. With them all safely back on the ground, Paula tells Ed that he has to go back to Gladys, as he had asked her to wait for him but Roxton, in spite of his own feelings for Paula, tells her that she shouldn’t throw her love for Ed away. As the group prepares to leave, they find the Brontosaurus still alive and trapped in the mud and they decide to bring the dinosaur back to London with them. Some time later, Challenger is speaking at the lecture hall and tells the assembled crowd that he has proof of the dinosaurs existence. However, Ed, who was overseeing the unloading of the Brontosaurus, calls and informs Challenger that the cage broke during unloading and the dinosaur was now loose in the streets. Challenger informs the crowd about the escaped dinosaur and they believe that this is merely a hoax of Challenger’s. Meanwhile, the Brontosaurus roams the streets of London, causing a panic as well as some property damage. When it reaches Tower Bridge, the weight of the dinosaur causes part of the bridge to collapse, dropping the dinosaur into the waters below. While this is occurring, Ed runs into Gladys, who introduces him to her husband, a store clerk that has never left London. Ed excitedly congratulates them then rushes off to find Paula and the two are excited to be together, while Roxton chooses to say nothing of his feelings and wishes them well. As the Brontosaurus swims away, Challenger stares sadly after it from atop a nearby bridge.
The Lost World (1925) was highly praised by the critics, holding a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critics all praised the work of Willis O’Brien, whose dinosaurs were so lifelike, they actually overshadowed the human cast as the stars of the movie. The movie would be the first film ever shown to airline passenger during a London-Paris flight in 1925, a risky movie considering that movie reels back then were highly flammable and the plane was a wood and fabric hulled plane. In 1998, The Lost World (1925) was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The movie was considered a box office success as it made $1.3 million off a $700 thousand budget.
This is a great movie to watch. The acting is pretty good, though it is hard to tell at times since this is a silent movie. The story was pretty good, having been taken from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book and the changes made from the book worked pretty well. The effects were absolutely amazing. Willis O’Brien made some incredibly life-like dinosaurs that, based on the scientific knowledge of the time, were as realistic as they believed. Plus, they truly set the precedent for every giant monster movie to come; that of a giant monster attacking a major city. I also felt the music used did a good job portraying the mood for each scene. I know silent movies are not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like giant monster movies or dinosaur movies, then you MUST see this movie.
Rating: 5 out of 5