You know, it is equal parts sad and comforting that the idea of remaking a film has been around for over 50 years. While there is the rare occasion where a remake can be good, usually they are much worse than the original. But today’s movie is a remake that I have always had an issue with. See, in 1960, when this remake was announced they brought in Willis O’Brien, the man whose stop-motion animation made the original film famous, to work on visual effects. However, instead of using the stop motion animation he was famous for, the budget didn’t allow for it so they went with the classic Hollywood stand-by; lizards in makeup. I have always felt like that was an unintentional slap in the face to Willis O’Brien. But enough about that, let’s go ahead and dive into today’s movie, The Lost World (1960).
The plot: Professor Challenger has just flown into London Airport, where he is besieged by reporters the moment he steps out on the exit stairs. Challenger grows irritated by the reporters questions and strikes one of them, Ed Malone, on the head, knocking him down the stairs and Challenger steps over him as he leaves the plane. As Malone is picking himself up, he meets Jennifer Holmes, the daughter of his boss, who offers him a ride into town as she plans to also catch Challenger’s speech and later that night, she introduces Malone to her date, Lord John Roxton. At his lecture, Challenger tells the assembled crowd that he has discovered dinosaurs on a hidden plateau in the Amazon, and proposes that an expedition be made financed quickly, with his chief critic, Professor Summerlee, as one of the people going with him. Roxton volunteers to go and is accepted by both men but when Jennifer volunteers, she is rejected by Challenger. Malone volunteers and is rejected as well but when Stuart Holmes, Jennifer’s dad and the executive vice president of Global News, offers to finance $100,000 towards the expedition, Challenger reluctantly agrees to let Malone come on the trip. The expedition arrives at an outpost along the Amazon, where they meet Manuel Gomez, their helicopter pilot, and his assistant Costa. Challenger is also surprised to see Jennifer and her brother David waiting for them, who manage to blackmail their way into joining the expedition. Leaving early in the morning, the eventually reach the plateau that Challenger had found and set up camp but they are forced to run when a giant creature heads towards their camp. When they make their way back to the camp and find the helicopter has been destroyed and they have lost any means of communicating with the rest of the world. The next day, as they are exploring, they come face to face with a dinosaur, and Summerlee apologizes for doubting Challenger. When they are forced to run from the giant creature, Challenger and Malone get separated from the group and see a native girl hiding in the forest. Challenger has Malone chase after her and he succeeds in capturing the girl and bringing him back to their new camp. Challenger and Summerlee theorize that the girl’s ancestors must have found a way up to the plateau so there should be a way back down, but Roxton is concerned that they are all in danger from the girl’s tribe. Roxton and Malone end up fighting, with Malone knocking down Roxton but the fight stops when Roxton finds the diary of Burton White. Roxton give the diary to Challenger to read, then explains that Burton had found a map that supposedly led to the plateau and the fable of El Dorado, and it’s treasure of diamonds. Roxton was supposed to go with them but he never showed so Burton and his party went ahead and were never heard from again. Meanwhile, the native girl tries to run but is attacked by Costa. David rescues her and tries to talk with her but is shocked to discover that she knows how to use a rifle, though Challenger doesn’t believe him. Gomez says that he saw something moving in the jungle and goes to investigate but soon calls for help. Roxton, Malone, Challenger, David, and Costa go looking for him while Summerlee and Jennifer stay behind with the native girl when a shot is fired, grazing Summerlee and the girl chooses that moment to run. The others find Gomez, who had been hit on the head and his rifle is missing, and when they return to the camp, Malone, Roxton, and David go after the girl, splitting up in the process. Malone catches sight of the girl but quickly loses her and he is soon joined by Jennifer, who had gone looking for him. Before they can head to camp, a large dinosaur begins heading their way and they are forced to run. Winding up at some cliffs, they hide behind some rocks as a second dinosaur appears and begins fighting with the first one and both dinosaurs eventually fall off the cliff. When they return to the camp, they find it has been ransacked and everyone else is missing. David appears and tells them what happened but they find themselves surrounded and captured by natives. The natives take them to their village, where they plan on sacrificing them all. As they try to figure out what to do, the native girl appears and beckons them to follow her. She takes them to a hidden chamber, where they find Burton White, now blind, who tells them that there is a way out but it leads them through a volcanic maze. Telling the native girl to guide them, Burton quickly urges them to leave as he believes the mountain will soon erupt. Making their way through the dangerous labyrinth, the high priest and the native warriors are close behind but Gomez sets fire to some brush which flares up, causing the high priest and some of the warriors to fall while the others run back the way they came. They eventually come to a cavern, where they discover the diamonds as well as some dinosaur eggs. Gomez chooses that moment to try and kill Roxton, blaming him for the death of his brother, Santiago. However, his shot ends up waking a dinosaur that was sleeping in the lake, which promptly kills Costa. Noticing that the natives had damned up the lave, Malone tries to break the dam and release the lava to kill the dinosaur. Gomez, trying to make amends for waking the creature goes up to help and manages to break the dam but falls to his death in the boiling lake below. The group manages to make it out safely and watch as the plateau is covered in eruptions. Challenger reveals that he had brought one of the eggs out of the cavern with him, while Roxton reveals that he brought some of the diamonds, as he felt that they all deserved something for their troubles. When a final tremor occurs, Summerlee accidentally drops the egg, revealing a baby dinosaur that Challenger claims is a Tyrannosaurus rex and plans to take it to London as proof.
My personal problems aside, this is a pretty good sci-fi movie. The acting was decent, though I felt that Fernando Lamas (Gomez) probably gave the best performance out of the group. The story was good and did have some minor plots from the book that were left out of the original movie. While I personally never cared for the lizards-in-makeup effect, the settings were very well done, especially the scenes where they are flying in the helicopter. I have a lot of respect for Irwin Allen because he did a lot for sci-fi in movies and television, and he did a good job with this movie. I just wish Fox had given him the budget to really let O’Brien showcase his talents.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5