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The Lost World (1925)
Director: Harry O. Hoyt

review by Steven Hampton

Eureka Video are to be commended for releasing this restored version of the silent era's adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic children's adventure, about turn-of-the-century discoveries of living dinosaurs atop an isolated plateau in South America. More than a curiosity for those interested in the source of Spielberg's sequel to Jurassic Park, this is a fascinating piece of early cinema history with landmark visual effects created by stop-motion animator, Willis O'Brien.
   It stars Wallace Beery as Professor Challenger, intrepid leader of a British expedition going up the Amazon in search of the wildest life on Earth. What they find is much more than expected or imagined. There's an ape-man who represents the 'missing link' surviving in the dense jungles where gigantic reptiles forage and fight in the shadow of a rumbling volcano. Although the filmmakers had little choice but to include the pointless romantic subplot - featuring a happy ending for young reporter Edward (Lloyd Hughes) and explorer's daughter, Bessie (Paula White), The Lost World is still remarkable entertainment - both for its groundbreaking technical artistry and innovative combination of fantasy elements. Make no mistake, folks, this is a seminal SF movie in every respect.
   What ensures that The Lost World is a classic, so it deserves a place in the genre vaults, is the meticulous animation work by O'Brien. Like the best 2-D cell-animation cartoons, the various dinosaurs created for this film are imbued with genuine character by a skilled artist, in both the sculpture of these impressive saurian creatures and the painstaking job of bringing them to simulated life for the screen. The quirks of silent movie performances and the tinted monochrome photography aid the willing suspension of disbelief, so that in retrospect, this adventure actually feels more convincing (as if it really happened back in 1908, as genre historian Roy Pilot cleverly hints) than any of Spielberg's recent trilogy of tales about cloned resurrection of such beasts in the Jurassic Park movies. Ironically, it's the very unreality of The Lost World that makes it seem more believable.

Related pages:
tZ  - The Lost World (2001) review by Donald Morefield
tZ  - Jurassic Park III review by Ceri Jordan
The Lost World
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