the Movie Club Annals ...

 

The Lost World


Reviewed by Carl R.

Rating: x r≤ Poseidons  

   

x r≤


 

 

The Lost World

 
 

Introduction

  
There was absolutely nothing wrong with Irwin Allen's 1960 production of The Lost World. Nothing. It was perfect in every way. I therefore find myself in the unique and unfamiliar position of having to write a rave review about a Movie Club movie that was entirely devoid of flaws. 
 
Faced with such a confounding task, I half-heartedly considered faking a bad review, then praying my obvious deceptions would go unnoticed. But the patent transparency of my scheme convinced me to abandon it posthaste. After all, leveling concocted criticisms at such an unassailable masterpiece would be a futile and tiresome exercise, the pretense of which would escape nary a semi-cognizant soul.
   
Thus, having retreated from my would-be descent into literary intrigue, I start this review in earnest by borrowing a quote from the legendary Shelly Winters, spoken during the 1972 filming of Irwin Allen's The Poseidon Adventure:
 

"I'm ready for my close up now, Mr. Allen."

 

Shelly Winters, 1972

 
 

 
 

 Review

  
A bit of research into the casting choices of Irwin Allen, who wrote, produced, and directed The Lost World, begins to reveal the genius behind the virtuosity.   
   
The first accolades go to Irwin for his casting of Vitina Marcus, the immaculately groomed Saks 5th Avenue cave girl with exquisite taste in makeup, jewelry, and cave-wear. No finer cave girl ever graced a feature film. 
 

Vitina Marcus

 

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Vitina Marcus, as The Cave Girl 

 
She was the picture of prehistoric glamour, gliding across the silver screen in her designer bearskin mini-pelt, her flawless coiffure showing no signs of muss from the traditional courting rituals of the day, her perfect teeth the envy of even the most prototypical Osmond. Even her nouveau-opposable thumbs retained their manicure, in spite of the oft-disagreeable duties that frequently befell her as an effete member of the tribal gentry.  

 

By no means just another Neanderthal harlot, Vitina had a wealth of talent to augment her exterior virtues. Her virtuoso interpretation of a comely cave girl in The Lost World certainly didn't escape the attention Irwin Allen. In fact, he was so taken with her performance that he later engaged her services again, casting her as the Native Girl in episode 2.26 of his Voyage to The Bottom of The Sea TV series.
  
Leery of potential typecasting, Vitina went on to obtain roles with greater depth and more sophisticated dialogue. This is evidenced by the great departure she took from her previous roles when she next portrayed the part of Sarit, a female barbarian, in episode 1.24 of Irwin Allen's The Time Tunnel TV series.
 

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 Vitina, as Sarit 

 
Vitina's efforts to avoid typecasting paid off in spades, as she was soon rewarded with the distinctive role of Girl, a female Tarzanesque she-beast character, in episode 3.14 of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV series.
 
Lured back from the U.N.C.L.E. set by Irwin Allen, Vitina was next cast in the role of Athena (a.k.a. Lorelei), the green space girl with the inverted lucite salad bowl hat, in episodes 2.2 and 2.16 of the revered Lost in Space TV series.  
 

And with this, Vitina reached the pinnacle of her career. For her many unparalleled displays of thespian pageantry, she leaves us forever in her debt as she exits the stage. 

  

  

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Don Forbes

  

  
Next, Irwin is to be commended for his casting of Don Forbes, who played an uncredited TV announcer in The Lost World. Mr. Forbes, drawing upon his experience as an uncredited TV announcer in The Lost World, went on to play an uncredited TV announcer in episodes 1.1 and 1.2 of the revered Lost in Space TV series. 
 
Mr. Forbes, incidentally, was the narrator of Irwin Allen's 1952 documentary The Sea Around Us, a production for which Irwin won his only Oscar.  Were it not for the Academy's petty jealousy of Irwin's formidable talent, Mr. Forbes would have been awarded a gold statuette of his own. 
 
 

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Michael Rennie

 

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Michael Rennie, as Lord John Roxton 

   
For those who would still question the genius of Irwin Allen, I defy you to find a better casting choice for the character of Lord John Roxton than that of Michael Rennie. Mr. Rennie, who earlier starred as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still, went on to even greater heights, starring as The Keeper in episodes 1.16 and 1.17 of the revered Lost in Space TV series. 
  
Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Rennie often played highly cerebral characters with unique names, such as Garth A7, Tribolet, Hasani, Rama Kahn, Hertz, and Dirk.  How befitting that his most prolific roles came to him through a man named Irwin, a highly cerebral character with a unique name.  
 

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David Hedison

 

David Hedison, as Ed Malone

 
The selection of David Hedison to play Ed Malone was yet another example of Irwin's uncanny foresight. Soon after casting him in The Lost World, Irwin paved Mr. Hedison's path to immortality by casting him as a lead character in his Voyage to The Bottom of The Sea TV series. Although Voyage ended in 1968, Mr. Hedison departed the show with a solid resume and a bright future.
 
In the decades following Voyage, Mr. Hedison has been a veritable fixture on the small screen, appearing in such socially influential programs as The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Knight Rider, The Fall Guy and The A Team. Mr. Hedison's early collaborations with Irwin Allen have left him never wanting for a day's work in Hollywood, a boon to the legions of discerning fans who continue to savor his inspiring prime time depictions.
 
 

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Fernando Lamas

 

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Fernando Lamas, as Manuel Gomez

 
Irwin selected Fernando Lamas to play Manuel Gomez, the honorable and tortured soul of The Lost World who needlessly sacrificed himself at the end of the movie to save all the others. To get a feel for how important a casting decision he was to Irwin, just look at the pertinent experience Mr. Lamas brought to the table:

Lost Treasure of the Amazon, as Rio Galdez.

We've Lost a Train (episode of The Virginian), as Captain Estrada.  

The Lost Art of Dying (episode of Mannix), as Guest Star.

Irwin knew that such credentials could cause him to lose the services of Mr. Lamas to another project, and he took great pains to woo him onto the set of The Lost World. And even though Mr. Lamas never appeared in the revered Lost in Space TV series, his talent is not lost on us.

 
 

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Jay Novella

 

Jay Novella, as Costa

 
Jay Novello was selected by Irwin Allen to play Costa, the consummate Cuban coward who perpetually betrays everyone around him in the name of greed.  In pursuing his craven calling, Mr. Novello went on to play Xandros, the Greek Slave in Atlantis, The Lost Continent, as well as countless other roles as a coward. 

Although Mr. Novella never appeared in the revered Lost in Space TV series, his already long and distinguished career as a coward made him the obvious choice for Irwin when the need for an experienced malingerer arose.
 
 
 

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Jill St. John

 

Jill St. John, as Jennifer Holmes 

 
Jill St. John was Irwin's pick to play Jennifer Holmes, the "other" glamour girl in The Lost World. Not to be upstaged by glamour-cave-girl Vitina Marcus, Jill played the trump card and broke out the pink go-go boots and skin-tight Capri pants, the perfect Amazonian summertime jungle wear.

Complete with a perfect hairdo, a killer wardrobe, a little yip-yip dog named Frosty, and all the other trappings of a wealthy and pampered prehistoric society, Jill's sensational allure rivaled even that of a certain cave girl appearing in the same film. 

With the atmosphere rife for an on-set rivalry between Jill and Vitina, Irwin still managed to keep the peace, proving that he was as skilled a diplomat as he was a director.   

   
 

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Claude Rains

Claude Rains, as Professor George Edward Challenger

 
And our cup runneth over, as Irwin cast Claude Rains to portray Professor George Edward Challenger. His eminence, Mr. Rains is an entity of such immeasurable virtue that he is not in need of monotonous praise from the likes of me.  

I respectfully acknowledge the appearance of Mr. Rains because failure to do so would be an unforgivable travesty. But I say nothing more on the subject, lest I state something so obvious and uninspiring as to insult the intelligence of enlightened reader.
 
 

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The Cavemen

 

Irwin's casting of the cavemen mustn't be overlooked, for their infallibly realistic portrayals are unmatched within the Pleistocene Epoch genre of film. Such meticulous attention to detail is what separates Irwin Allen from lesser filmmakers, whose pale imitations of his work only further to underscore the point. 
  
To be sure, it is possible to come away with the unfounded suspicion that the cavemen are really just a bunch of old white guys from the bar at the local Elks lodge. But Irwin was an absolute stickler for authenticity, and would never have allowed the use of such tawdry measures to taint his prehistoric magnum opus. 
 
In truth, Irwin's on-screen cavemen were borne of many grueling years of anthropological research, so the explanation for their somewhat modern, pseudo-caucasian appearance lies obviously elsewhere. And in keeping with true Irwin Allen tradition, that explanation will not be offered here. 
 
 

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The Dinosaurs

 
 

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An Irwin Dinosaur, in 
The Lost World 

An Irwin Dinosaur, in
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea 

An Irwin Dinosaur, in 
Lost in Space 

 
 

Dinosaurs - Filmography:  

1960 - The Lost World, Written, Directed and Produced by Irwin Allen.

1964 - Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Season One, Episode 7 - "Turn Back the Clock",  featuring Vitina Marcus as The Native Girl. Produced by Irwin Allen.

1965 - Lost in Space, Season One, Episode 5 - "There Were Giants", co-starring Guy Williams
and Mark Goddard, Produced by Irwin Allen.   

1965 - Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Season Two, Episode 46 - "Terror on Dinosaur Island",  featuring Paul Carr, Produced by Irwin Allen.

1966 - Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Season Three, Episode 62 - "Night of Terror",  featuring Henry Jones, Produced by Irwin Allen.

 
  
And then there was Irwin Allen's masterful handling of the reptilian facets of The Lost World, most notably his inimitable casting of the dinosaurs. His dinosaurs were so realistic, so eerily lifelike, that they almost looked like living, breathing garden variety lizards with dinosaur fins and horns glued to their backs and heads.  
 
The less enlightened viewer might even suppose this to be true, that Irwin's dinosaurs were indeed merely live specimens of lizards, donned in Jurassic-era finery, vastly magnified, and retro-fitted into The Lost World via some penny-wise means of cinematic trickery.
 
But those of us in the know certainly know better than that, as we are privy to some otherwise unpublished information about The Lost World. The lifelike appearance of the Irwin's dinosaurs can be attributed to a wholly overlooked and fiendishly cunning approach to the art of delusion, which is that the dinosaurs didn't just look real, they were real. 
 
While the world abounds with middling minds who cannot fathom such a reality, we must follow Irwin's benevolent leanings and temper our natural feelings of contempt for this unfortunate assemblage of pedestrian lowbrows. In spite of Irwin's superior intellect, he never felt disdain toward the masses that constituted his audiences. He simply capitalized on their unaffectedness, and in the process recounted the benefits of exploiting the intellectually bereft for personal gain. 
 
The purpose of all this analysis, of course, is to place an exclamation point on the genius of Irwin Allen, the formation of his dinosaur exposť being a premier example. Note how he mindfully manipulates the expectations of his unsuspecting audience, compelling them to probe the dinosaurs for any signs of man-made chicanery.  Then, at the palatial moment when the dinosaurs make their entry, he guilefully supplants the anticipated display of faux reptilia with that of the bona fide article. 
  
Upon first witnessing the de facto dinosaurs, some in the audience think they've been had, and indeed they have. Irwin, in engineering his masterful ruse, had used reality as his medium to convey the illusion of artifice. His audience, in essence, was blinded by the truth. It was the immaculate deception, and none but Irwin Allen could have conceived it.
 
Indeed, the matter of where the live dinosaurs came from has been conspicuously absent from this discussion, as the Irwinian technique of fine film making strongly discourages the practice of squandering time on extraneous justifications and other such trite means of redundant apologia. For the benefit of the incessantly curious, however, just keep in mind that Irwin Allen wrote and produced The Time Tunnel TV Series, a fact that should provide some fair insight into his modis operandi.
  
In closing, I am left to ponder the lucidity of any of you lost souls who are still unable to appreciate the high art form of Irwin Allen. Perhaps your barnyard perspective on cultural matters can be elevated through some therapeutic means of personal enlightenment. Might I suggest an apocalyptic browbeating of your idle sensibilities? On second thought, it probably wouldn't help. As a matter of practicality, I am left with but one option, which is to leave you with the following words of parting advice:
   
Soliloquize your purported grievances toward the proximity of the dermatoglyphics on the posterior surface of the phalanges cheiromancy. 
  
In other words ... 
 
Talk to the hand.
    

Carl R.