Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Lost Continent (UK, 1968)















Based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley called 'Uncharted Seas' which kinda explains itself really. Yep once again we have another adventure which sees a group of people who are lost at sea and end up in some kind of twilight zone or dimension X where time stands still.

The plot is pretty common really and there seems to have been quite a few people write stories around this premise. This time the group of people on board the ship seem to be misfits of society or outcasts, people in trouble with the law etc...This is fine but unfortunately for most of the time you don't really care about them because they are all nasty to each other. Heck even the Captain acts all suspicious and grumpy for a lot of the time...and he's suppose to be the hero! A lot of attention is given to the characters though that's for sure, very deep backgrounds going on, lots of dark areas etc...Its just a shame they didn't really interest me personally, I wanted to see monsters damn it!

So due to carrying some rather dangerous explosive cargo and the fact most of the passengers can't go back to port in case some get nabbed by the police (most are in general trouble with various reasons), the ship continues into stormy weather. Low and behold something goes wrong, the ships hull is damaged putting the dangerous substance in jeopardy, AND there is a mutiny from the grunts below deck about the whole situation with the cargo. Thusly everyone eventually abandons ship after much arguing and scuffling.

Rather oddly the small group of people float their way back to their ship after some shark issues and carry on as planned. The only difference now is they are in some unknown uncharted area. This is mainly when the film kicks into gear and into weirdness. The uncharted area they drift into is full of skeleton ships, wrecks, the sea is covered in some deadly seaweed that strangles people to death and their is a mysterious island ahead. So the first half of the film was some kind of seabound 60's drama which was kinda dull, and now the second half turns into your typical Edgar Rice Burroughs type adventure into the unknown...but still looking very 60's

Its actually quite eerie and well directed, there is a nice sense of errr...mystery I guess as its not clear what the hell is going on (other than they are in some kind of twilight zone). Things take a turn for the surreal when a lone girl reaches the ship by walking across the seaweed covered sea surface using big paddles under her feet and two balloons attached to her shoulders presumably for balance. A very Terry Gilliam-esque look about it that idea.

Turns out she is Spanish and descended from people who got stuck in this weird place centuries ago (I presume?). There are also members of the Spanish Inquisition trapped in this place too, they are also descendants of people trapped eons before and the two groups fight each other in a religious war. The leader of the Spanish soldiers is a child and descendant of the Spanish Conquistadores...and a brat. I guess the hard thing to believe here is the fact these people have been fighting each other for all this time yet never once thought to stop and try escape from this bizarre dimension X type place. Also, what happened to everyone else from all the other ships??

Naturally fighting ensues between the Spanish and the folk off the ship. There is some monster action in here too with a Sarlacc type sea monster (hmm I wonder Mr Lucas, copy much?), a giant scorpion and a giant hermit crab but you hardly see much, no stop motion goodness, just big rubber models that wobble. The battle sequence on board the galleon is quite good, quite a lot of death and fire, the Spanish all look reasonable authentic and the galleon itself is OK, obvious set of course.

Its an odd film really, very strange in mood and story, the Spanish folk just seemed obscure, I was expecting battles with sea beasties. On the downside as I said before its also hard to get behind anyone in the film because they are all so unlikable. The cast are all pretty unknown to me which doesn't help (despite being a Hammer production) but admittedly the Captain (Eric Porter) is the clear winner in terms of performance.

I think the film is decent enough, it looks great for sure, production values must have been good. You can tell its all on sets but it still looks polished and well thought out, the mysterious uncharted sea also looks good with matte painting work and models. I just get the impression the original novel probably explains things in better detail and delves deeper, the film feels like it skimming over plot in places.

The films ending is open ended which is cool and again eerie as we never know what happens to these people. I'm unsure whether this is a good adaptation of the book or not, certainly seems well crafted and definitely enjoyable at times. Starts off very slow but gets more and more intriguing, bit of a hidden gem I would say, cult for sure, worth the watch but will probably split opinions.

6.5/10