Genre: Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.
Release Date: August 13th, 1975 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Kevin Connor Actors: Doug McClure, John McEnery, Susan Penhaligon, Keith Barron, Anthony Ainley, Godfrey James, Bobby Parr
n June 3rd, 1916, the British supply ship S.S. Montrose is torpedoed, leaving two survivors, American sailor Bowen Tyler (Doug McClure) and biologist Lisa Clayton (Susan Penhaligon) adrift on the ocean. They’re momentarily rescued by another lifeboat, with a few displaced officers, commanded by Mr. Bradley (Keith Barron), before discovering the German U-Boat that sank them in the first place. Clamoring atop the surfacing vessel, the ragtag crew overpowers the unsuspecting submarine and sets course to British waters, only to learn that piloting an enemy craft can only safely traverse and communicate in neutral American territory.
Imprisoned Captain Von Schoenvorts (John McEnery) tampers with the compass, putting the U-Boat nearer to a German ship, but after successfully thwarting the rendezvous, Bowen and his cohorts realize that they’re now completely lost. Temporarily agreeing to help, for his own sake, Schoenvorts recalls reading about a new continent in the south seas, with an inhospitable iceberg-covered coast and no harbor, named Caprona by a navigator, uncharted and forgotten for 200 years. Narrowly steering through the treacherous exterior, the mix of survivors explores the paradisiacal land, lush with vegetation and prehistoric life – and cavemen creatures intent on stopping Tyler’s plans to recover enough oil to fuel their escape route.
The tables turn repeatedly and repetitiously at the start, setting up a wartime adventure that deviates into a lost world dinosaur extravaganza. The early premise of hostile enemies forced to work together – or the fleetingly intelligent notion that crude oil needs refinery processing to be useful – are ignored for gun battles with water monsters, allosaurus attacks, and humanoid ambushes, revealing an intriguing hierarchy and variety in the evolution of man and beast (with known time periods separated by millions of years, represented and living together in a confined ecosystem). It’s particularly convenient that a biologist is on hand to identify species and interpret the grunts of an apeman, while Schoenvorts relinquishes plenty of educated observations on their perplexing environment. This should have taken the place of narration, except that a narrator is still utilized, offering incredibly dull, unenthusiastic, and pointless commentary.
Based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, “The Land That Time Forgot” is foremost a prehistoric adventure, transplanting contemporary people into a primitive and dangerous domain. Supplemented by Douglas Gamey’s jarring, rarely suspenseful music, it’s the outdated, gimmicky dinosaur segments that are the real treat, using rubbery puppets enlarged by camera tricks (appearing like toys during close-ups) to create excitement. The monsters are hilariously grand in their blood-soaked cheesiness (with humidity, fire, and steam to conceal the insuppressible fakeness), occasionally fighting with each other while humans spectate. A brief glimpse of an enormous dino skull in the background of the oil wells is one of the most amusing (and convincing) shots. The climactic (and rather disconsolate) finale begs for a sequel; and, sure enough, two years later, the similarly crafted “The People That Time Forgot” arrived on the big screen.
– Mike Massie