Friday, 16 June 2017


d. Irwin Allen (1960)

Arthur Conan Doyle's tale of an unknown Amazonian plateau populated by dinosaurs and savage primitives was first filmed in 1925, and has been adapted umpteen times since. This version is from Irwin Allen, the parsimonious producer and director of such television classics as Land of the Giants, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space. Allen spent a fair amount of money on this production, so made sure he got the most out of it by recycling clips from it for years to come. 

Unable to justify the expense of stop motion models, Allen simply glued horns and shit to some standard lizards and let them loose on miniature sets. The results are unconvincing, especially when a gecko blunders into shot and someone shouts 'My God, a Tyrannosaurus Rex!'. When a giant spider is needed (there's always a need for a giant spider in films like these) he simply blows up film of a normal spider to enormous proportions and uses an optical effect to colour it day-glo green.

The two best things about the film are ginger: Jill St John as a spoiled and slightly mercenary heroine, the sort of pretty thing on the make who comes on a dangerous expedition wearing red go go boots and carrying a poodle, and the great Claude Rains as the indomitable Professor Challenger, a man with hair and a beard as fiery as his irascible temper. 

Rains was born in Camberwell in abject poverty (nine of his brothers and sisters died in childhood), and grew up with a thick London accent that he never completely eradicated. A very dignified actor, his professional speaking voice is careful and cultured, a sort of dry purr but, when he gets excited and speaks quickly, every now and again you can quite plainly hear the twang of his native Cockney. It's a very endearing trait, and one that you'll listen out for from now on, I hope.    

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