Michael RipperEric PorterNigel StockDana Gillespie
The Lost Continent
Medium: film
Year: 1968
Director: Michael Carreras
Writer: Michael Carreras, Dennis Wheatley
Keywords: fantasy
Country: UK
Actor: Eric Porter, Hildegard Knef, Suzanna Leigh, Tony Beckley, Nigel Stock, Neil McCallum, Ben Carruthers, Jimmy Hanley, James Cossins, Dana Gillespie, Victor Maddern, Reg Lye, Norman Eshley, Michael Ripper
Format: 89 minutes
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063240/
Website category: Fantasy
Review date: 26 June 2012
It's got some glorious design work and the last half-hour sporadically throws up cool bits out of nowhere. Otherwise a waste of time.
It's a Hammer film from 1968, but not horror this time and instead sort of adventure-ish. I'd put it no more strongly than that. It's also based on a Dennis Wheatley novel, which is akin to saying that your fiancee is of sub-human intelligence, likes eating human flesh and emits dangerous levels of radiation. It's not even the only Dennis Wheatley adaptation released by Hammer in 1968, the other being The Devil Rides Out. Yeeesh. I tried reading a Wheatley once.
The story involves a ship, followed by a ship, after which we're on a rowing boat for a bit before getting back on the ship. An hour into this 91-minute film, we finally sight land. What's that you say? A continent? Don't be silly. Can't think where you get these ideas from. It's an island surrounded by killer seaweed, but on the upside it does at least give the film something to do instead of traipse around after the ship's dreary, unlikeable passengers and crew. They're mostly dodgy and/or on the run from something, which explains why they're on Eric Porter's ship of death in the first place. They include:
(a) Eric Porter as the ship's captain, whom I remember as the finest Professor Moriarty I've ever seen, opposite Jeremy Brett. He's playing an abrasive son-of-a-bitch with the world's worst business plan and whose idea of democracy is to let you speak for more than two seconds before overruling you.
(b) Nigel Stock, continuing a minor Sherlock Holmes theme since when this film was made he'd been the BBC's Dr Watson for the past four years. He was also in Time-Flight. He's playing the most unpleasant of the main characters, saying things like "I speak for my daughter" to prevent any danger of her contributing her own opinion.
(c) Hildegard Knef. The actress is German, spent time in a prisoner of war camp and according to wikipedia caused a scandal in 1950 with the first nude scene in German cinema history. Her character gets the best-developed backstory and seems like a decent person, but is unfortunately a bit dull.
(d) Suzanna Leigh, who had a fairly short acting career that included a couple of Hammer films. The other is Lust for a Vampire, so maybe she goes topless in that? She doesn't here and nor does anyone else, although on the upside there is some mighty cleavage when Dana Gillespie eventually arrives.
(e) Tony Beckley, who played Harrison Chase in The Seeds of Doom. His character drinks.
(f) Michael Ripper, because this is a Hammer film and he's in nearly all of them.
(g) Victor Maddern, who was a very minor regular in the Carry On films and played Robson in Fury from the Deep.
The movie's first hour is trying to be a claustrophobic, gripping survival story, but it's neither claustrophobic nor gripping. People abandon ship, which is a good idea from the point of view of getting away from Eric Porter but not quite so clever if one remembers that a hurricane's coming. If you were in the middle of the open ocean, a thousand miles from land (I quote), where would you prefer to be? (a) a ship, or (b) a rowing boat. D'oh. Conveniently the movie forgets about the hurricane, so the characters don't get punished for that choice.
It also feels bitty. There's no main story, but instead the approximately random interactions of these not particularly interesting characters. They have backstories. They have off-putting sex, which we don't see. They get trapped somewhere that I presume is meant to be the Sargasso Sea, except that they say Sargossa. Very little happens that you'll care about, basically. It's not unwatchable, but the only good bit was when a shark swam up and did the audience a favour.
Fortunately things improve at the hour mark. We hit the Not Actually A Continent and the film finds all kinds of cool things to show us. These include man-eating seaweed, Gillespie's cleavage and clown-like weirdos with balloons on their heads and inflatable life rafts for shoes. If nothing else, they make for an amazing movie poster. There's a giant scorpion monster so wonderful that I'd nearly recommend watching the movie just for him, except that he pops out of nowhere, sends the entertainment factor through the roof for a few minutes and then disappears again. Is it just my imagination, by the way, or did I recognise that sound effect when he showed up? The Day of the Triffids? The War of the Worlds?
Almost as awesome are the film's villains. Well, sort of villains. They only get about five minutes' screen time, but they're brilliant anyway. They're the Spanish Inquisition, having been stuck in the Sargasso Sea for centuries, and they're led by the inbred teenage descendant of Hernan Cortes the Conquistador. He calls himself El Supremo and says things like, "In interrupting me, you are interrupting God, who speaks through me." He also has a man-eating octopus pit. These dudes look like a cross between pirates, Vikings, the Pope and the Klu Klux Klan and they've been airlifted in from a far more entertaining movie. We needed more stuff like this and less random whining from Eric Porter's crew and passengers, but unfortunately this movie's story would appear to have been sneezed out rather than written.
There's a funky song over the opening credits, though. It's Lost Continent, performed by The Peddlers.
In summary: don't bother. The best of their good stuff here was capable of greatness, but none of it's on-screen for more than about five minutes. Unfortunately the movie's much more interested in just following around the main cast, none of whom deserves the attention. Some of the acting's not bad, especially Eric Porter, but at the end of the day it's a weak story that's trying to be character-based but doesn't really know how to go about it. A good director might have been able to fix that, but unfortunately they sacked the original director (Leslie Norman) and replaced him with the writer and producer, Michael Carreras. Apparently Hammer made quite a few movies like this about worlds of prehistoric monsters, after the fashion of One Million Years B.C., but that just means there's even less reason to seek out this specific example of the genre.