Director: Harry O. Hoyt
Writer: Marion Fairfax
Cast: Miss Bessie Love, Mr. Lewis Stone, Mr. Wallace Beery, Mr. Lloyd Hughes, Miss Alma Bennett, Mr. Arthur Hoyt, Miss Margaret McWade, Mr. Bull Montana, Mr. Finch Smiles, Mr. Jules Cowles, Mr. George Bunny, Mr. Charles Wellsley, Jocko, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Release Date: 2/2/1925
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Based on the diary of explorer Maple White, Professor Challenger (Mr. Wallace Beery) claims that living dinosaurs inhabit far reaches of the Amazon. Joined by sportsman Sir John Roxton (Mr. Lewis Stone), White’s daughter Paula (Miss Bessie Love), reporter Ed Malone (Mr. Lloyd Hughes), the reluctant Professor Summerlee (Mr. Arthur Hoyt), and an Indian servant named Zambo (Mr. Jules Cowles), Professor Challenger embarks on an expedition to prove his theories.
The earliest adaptation of The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this offering benefits from swift pacing (unlike the 1960 version directed by Irwin Allen) and a compelling spirit of adventure. Unfortunately, modern audiences may criticize this film for its shallow characters and primitive creature effects—much in contrast to the fluid stop-motion animation of Ray Harryhausen, known for 20 Million Miles to Earth, It Came from Beneath the Sea, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and other classics within the sci-fi/horror genre.
Similar to nearly every film produced during the silent era, The Lost World is marred by the overacting of its principal cast members. Nevertheless, Wallace Beery deserves praise for his subdued interpretation of Professor Challenger—written as a volatile, eccentric, and cartoonish figure in Doyle’s original story.
As opposed to King Kong, Godzilla, and Jurassic Park, The Lost World fails to explore the dinosaur theme with an air of subtlety and suspense. Rather than teasing the concept of ancient relics surviving into the modern world, for example, director Harry O. Hoyt merely plunges the viewer into a land of dinosaurs, ape-men, and other wonders that should, through more competent storytelling, induce awe from those with vivid imaginations.
Also problematic is the love triangle involving Paula, Roxton, and Malone, which lacks the emotional depth of a captivating romance subplot—a theme handled more delicately in the otherwise inferior remake mentioned earlier.
Conceived during a time before satellites, cell phones, and the internet, The Lost World exploits fear of the unknown, especially concerning uncharted pockets of land, to sell early moviegoers an extraordinary premise—namely that prehistoric, mammoth-sized creatures could still exist in regions undisturbed by human activity.
Combining elements of horror, adventure, and science fiction, this film earns its reputation as one of the greatest silent features ever made. Especially worth noting is the Brontosaurus rampage in the final act, which, perhaps not by coincidence, bears a striking parallel to the climax of The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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