The Land That Time Forgot (1974)
Like every generation of movie lovers, there’s bound to be some films from your early years that you know would be frowned upon by today’s crowds. Movies that hold a place within your childhood memories that send you back in time and offer up a nostalgic smile while sitting in for another rewatch every few years. That’s just the way I feel about this Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation and it’s subsequent follow up, The People That Time Forgot from director Kevin Connor. It’s poster’s like this one that helped fuel my need to see these big screen adventures.
The year is 1916 and the tale is told in a flashback diary style. A canister containing the written story is thrown off a cliff to the ocean and the canister makes it’s way across the open sea to the eventual hands of an old sea dog along the shores of England. The voice narrating the written tale is that of Doug McClure who finds himself and a small amount of survivors in a life boat after a German sub has torpedoed their ocean liner during the years of WW1. Fortune smiles on them when the sub surfaces amidst the fog and carnage. Doug and the other male survivors make the snap decision to await the hatches to open and lay siege to the enemy vessel commanded by John McEnery.
The voyage will become a battle of wills between the German sailors and Doug’s group of ragtag survivors. A strategically placed magnet on the ship’s compass has Doug way of course and headed to the south pole and an uncharted island with mountain peaks all along it’s shore line. An underground river large enough to accommodate the sub allows it’s inhabitants to venture into the island’s interior to discover a place where time has stood still.
Upon surfacing, Doug and the rest of the crewman are about to set eyes upon the likes civilized men have never seen. It’s a land of dinosaurs and cavemen. This opens the door for one of those nameless crewman topside getting snatched from the sub and devoured by a paper mache head filled with teeth. Like every second Star Trek episode from the original series, you just knew this nameless character was in for a fast exit.
The two sides on board the sub form an uneasy alliance to explore the interior and gather enough supplies to restart their ocean voyage. They’ll take an ape man prisoner who kind of becomes a Man Friday to the crew and discover there is more than one tribe of Neanderthals to contend with. Some far more violent than the others. When Doug and the boys aren’t fending off spear attacks, they’ll have their eyes peeled to the skies above from the ever present threat of attacking pterodactyls.
The ending won’t come as a surprise if you haven’t already forgotten the opening scene of the film which will thankfully lead to a sequel in just a few years for those looking to discover “the rest of the story.”
Cheesy F/X may rule the day here with plenty of model work tossed in for good measure concerning the sub and ocean liner during the opening scene and subsequent footage but they all combine to add a fun nostalgic flavor to the proceedings. There’s an interesting trio of names associated with the producer’s credits on the film. Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg of Amicus Productions are listed as is Samuel Z. Arkoff from American International Pictures (AIP) having an uncredited hand in here as well according IMDB. I would imagine this to be true as Arkoff’s name would figure prominently in the sequel to follow. Other trivia bits include McClure replacing Stuart Whitman in the lead and the use of Anton Diffring to dub McEnery’s German U-Boat commander.
I’m not sure if it’s Burroughs who first hit upon this theme of the Lost Continent in time but the subject has long been a popular one for filmmakers. The Lost World of silent films, King Kong from Merian C. Cooper to countless low budgeters in the 1950’s. I do believe we have a another release headed our way that the youngsters of today will perhaps fondly recall years from now when talking of a movie they loved during their childhoods, Kong : Skull Island.
Now that I’ve revisited this Doug McClure adventure yarn thanks to the recent blu ray release I guess there’s only one thing to watch next so stay tuned……….