Retro-View: The Lost Continent (1968)

“Now we go where the weed takes us.” – Captain Lansen

And now for something completely bugfuck: THE LOST CONTINENT. While villages and campuses burned in 1968, there was still a thriving exploitation movie industry to feed. British studio Hammer Films was feeling the genre and cultural schism at the box-office. No longer in his gothic glory days, director Terence Fisher had gone from the stylish Dracula and Frankenstein epics of the late 50’s/early 60’s to rubbery tentacle beasties in the cheap (but effective) ISLAND OF TERROR in 1966. Hammer was trying to swing with the times, and with the success of THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1967) based on Dennis Wheatley’s novel, the studio ambitiously adapted Wheatley’s “Uncharted Seas” for their most unusual production, directed by Michael Carreras. In fact, THE LOST CONTINENT is the SKIDOO of Hammer Films.

My first memory of the movie was an indelible, disturbing image burned on my young retina during an afternoon “Creature Features.” The scene in question featured a poor man being thrown into a medieval well housing a vegetative quicksand with teeth. His writhing screams as he’s chewed and swallowed down by the killer weed must have traumatized a small legion of TV children. Or at least me. Of course, I always loved the film’s poster, a bold explosive promise of men, maidens and monsters that was the back cover of Famous Monsters of Film Land #116.

It wasn’t until years later that I finally watched the whole damn thing proper, courtesy of my friend John Romero, who I convinced that he must get THE LOST CONTINENT when I saw the wide-screen laserdisc release. We watched it under apropos conditions, on a huge screen TV with his family on a Saturday night in Dallas. I was sold immediately by the credits, an evocative surreal yellow model-scape of wrecked galleons with the psychedelic lounge sounds of The Peddlers actually singing, yes, “The Lost Continent.” If that clip above doesn’t sell you on the film, then I don’t know what. Good day, sir!

As others have noted, the movie’s plot is THE LOVE BOAT on acid. Split into two distinct sections as jarring as Tarantino’s FROM DUSK TO DAWN (1994), the first half of THE LOST CONTINENT sets up a ship of unpleasant fools as only the bitchy Brits can do. Each character is running away from something unsavory or illegal, and that’s how they find themselves on a creaky boat loaded with explosives plunging into a hurricane. After abandoning ship, the bickering survivors end up in a golden watery graveyard of ancient sea vessels and creepy, bizarre vegetation. Discovering their boat that ended up surviving the hurricane, the crew also discover they are not alone. A buxom young lass (a Hammer mainstay) clomps out of the mist, her body held aloft by two large balloons (no jokes) as she pleads for shelter. Behind her, a phalanx of motley conquistadors appear looking for her and the battle between lost civilizations begins.

Not only do we find out that a generation born of very English Spanish Conquistadors have been here trapped in ancient time, but there are also critters like a huge squid with burning tentacles and a giant VW sized rolling scorpion. The monsters are in the usual stodgy mechanical Hammer mold but they’re just freaky enough to be fun and effective. And they fight! I have no doubt Toho studios saw this film when they made YOG! MONSTER FROM SPACE (1970) (boring Japanese title: SPACE AMOEBA) and incorporated similar creatures.

After some boat survivors are captured, they end up before the young fey El Supremo of this lost continent and his unmerry band of religious zealots, peasants and conquistadors. I like how El Supremo is being brainwashed by his aide, a scary monk in robes, his face covered by a pointy-headed hood. You can see the boy’s conflict in the famous aforementioned Weed from Hell scene as his glee turns to revulsion.

So now the rest of the crew must go rescue their comrades, leading to the exciting climax of 20th century guns mowing down 16th century swords. El Supremo decides to side up with the good guys and…I won’t tell you who wins or loses, but you’ll know by the first scene in the film which opens in flashback to the end. Got it? Yes, the script by Michael Nash is a mess, as there’s no reason to spend 40 minutes developing POSEIDON ADVENTURE character and motivations only to switch into action monster movie mode and jettison their problems. To be fair, the piano-funnyman drunkard (nicely played by Tony Beckley) credibly goes from obnoxious lush to concerned hero. I also really liked Eric Porter as the stalwart Captain. For some reasons, when I watch British actors I almost never see a bad one. Or I’m snowed by the accent. Overall, this has a stolid, interesting cast. And did I mention the buxom young lasses?

I’ve probably written way too much about this film, but although it doesn’t get much praise from critics, THE LOST CONTINENT is easily one of my favorite Hammer productions with its bizarro beasties, lounge score and unique cinematography by Paul Beeson. I love its genre mash-up; a perfect Saturday afternoon movie and that’s probably why it appeals to me today. And the man-eating plant is still creepy. Such were the simple horrors against the global backdrop of real war and rebellion circa 1968.

Advertisements

14 Responses to “Retro-View: The Lost Continent (1968)”

  1. Oh, Lord…This is just too much. I told Craig my Terence Stamp story but I never told it to you, christian.

    Craig, you can’t tell him without my permission. BUT…

    All I’ll say is that he lives in my home town. For at least a portion of the year. He claims he can’t afford to buy a home here. Hard to believe.

    But he was absolutely lovely…

  2. Did I write “Terence Stamp”? Ooops. I meant “Terence FISHER” who directed most of Hammer’s classic horror. Oh my.

    But Miranda, when do I get the WHOLE Terence Stamp story?

  3. I THOUGHT that was a mistake. What the hell would that beautiful man – the former lover of my idol Julie Christie – be doing in a Hammer picture?

    Mmmmm…

    I just like to torture boys until I get everything I want. It’s the lion in me. Um…MEOW.

    Don’t know if I can trust you. Have to check with Craig.

    But I’ll probably tell you, christian. ONE DAY….

    Be good now…

  4. christian Says:

    Well, you do torture.

    But remember, Oliver Reed was in Hammer’s classic CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, and he was the former lover of many British ladies…Faye Dunaway too boot!

    On film anyway…

  5. God, I was IN LOVE with Oliver Reed growing up. Did you ever see THE ASSASSINATION BUREAU, with him and DIANA RIGG? This shows what kind of taste I had as a kid. My cousin in Oregon dug it so we sat up and watched it one night. Then when I came home I saw it every time it aired.

    I remember when RUSSELL CROWE won the Oscar he had a shout out for Ollie. But CANDICE BERGEN (in her autobiography) said that he was a complete dick. He had his lady on set at the time and he apparently told Candy that they would have a sexual relationship while filming – or they would have nothing at all. She told him where he could stuff that and he never spoke to her again.

    Funny that two people could have such opposing reactions to someone. But I wasn’t there and I don’t know. But he was apparently a hard ass tough as nails Brit.

    Just so you won’t think I’m a terrible human being, I MAY tell you my Terence Stamp story (off site) if Craig approves you. I mean, you two go back a ways, right? But I don’t know you NEARLY AS WELL as I know Craig.

    Couldn’t have this get around, you know. If Craig will vouch for you, christian, I may just consider it…

  6. christian Says:

    I think Craig would vouch for me. I hope.

    As fer Reed, I love him. David Franzoni told me great stories about him on GLADIATOR. But he was a sexist pig. Check out this incredible Carson moment between him and Shelly Winters:

  7. Oh, yeah…VERY condescending. But it was the 70s and I think (unfortunately) that likely did reflect a lot of mens’ attitudes at the time. Some Brits tend to be tremendously old school as well.

    God, I would have loved to have him try that on me. I would have wiped the fricking FLOOR with him.

    I still get similar attitude from a few chicks and older men. (Usually 50+.) RIGHT. Just because you’re considered glamourous and you have blonde hair doesn’t mean you don’t have an IQ like a bowling score, ladies and gentlemen. Believe me, once I trot out a few words with multiple syllables they shut up fast.

    It’s very very rare. But when it does present itself I dispense with it easily. GAME. SET. MATCH.

    Stereotypes are made to be broken. People that are that foolish bore me.

    *yawn*

  8. christian Says:

    I sure wouldn’t cross you.

    Now. About Terence Stamp?

  9. I’ll tell you about Terence Stamp as soon as I get Craig’s approval. Get hold of him and tell him to show his cute little face in here. Or tell him to either e-mail me or grab me on AIM.

    I don’t want this precious info to get into the wrong hands. I may be a wild girl but I DO have my reputation to think of.

    What can I say, christian? I may be a lot of things. But I’m not easy.

    All the good stuff comes to those who wait. Or who gets the appropriate approval. Wherever. Whenever.

    The clock is ticking…

  10. Fair enough. I’ve always believed patience is THE virtue.

  11. halmasonberg Says:

    I love this film. Thanks, Christian, for turning me on to it. And though they didn’t need to spend 40 minutes with the characters before getting to the actual Lost Continent, I felt like the boat itself and its misguided passengers was a Lost Continent unto itself.

  12. Agreed. Thanks for the big screen viewing. I’m still ascared of that killer weed.

  13. […] Harryhausen’s ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966),  CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1963), oddities like THE LOST CONTINENT (1968) and sc-fi classics like QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1968) along with Hammer off-shoots such as THE […]

  14. popuptent…

    […]Retro-View: The Lost Continent (1968) « Technicolor Dreams 70[…]…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: