Sunday, June 3, 2018
This is my entry in the Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon hosted by Cinematic Catharsis and Realweegiemidget Reviews
Edgar Rice Burroughs gave us fantastic tales over a 40 year period of writing. Of course, everyone knows he was the creator of Tarzan, the boy who was raised by apes. Many a schoolboy (and girl) has thrilled to the adventures of Tarzan ever since he first appeared on the scene back in 1912. Many many actors have portrayed Tarzan over the years, including Elmo Lincoln (the first actor to play him, in a 1918 silent era film), Johnny Weismuller, Ron Ely (on TV), Christopher Lambert and most recently Alexander Skarsgård.
Burroughs also produced a lesser known, but still just as adventurous hero, in the character of John Carter, a man from Earth who ends up on Mars. This too was also filmed, in 2012, but was a financial and critical failure.
Given his imaginative mind, it stood to reason that even his lesser known creations would be ripe fodder for filming, and indeed some of them were especially attractive to the drive-in movie makers. The worlds of Pellucidar (a variation on the Hollow Earth theory) and Caspak (a lost unknown island/continent, renamed Caprona for the movies) both attracted attention for makers of drive-in movie fare.
Amicus Productions, a contemporary of Hammer Films, made movies over a brief 15 year period. A lot of these were of the shocking horror variety, but towards what turned out to be the end of it's run Amicus made three movies which were based on Burroughs stories. One was At the Earth's Core (1976), which was based on the aforementioned hollow earth Pellucidar books. They also made two of Burrough's lost world stories into film.
The Land That time Forgot (1975):
The movie opens with a bottle floating in the ocean. It is a carrier of the story that follows. A fisherman on the coast finds it and opens it and reads it, at which point Bowen Tyler (Doug McClure) takes over narrating the events.
A German U-boat sinks a British merchant ship. Of the survivors, initially it is just Bowen and a lady, Lisa Clayton (Susan Penhaligon). Fortunately for them they hook up with another lifeboat containing several officers from the merchant ship. But things are looking bleak for them because their supplies are limited and the ship was not able to give the Admiralty their location before it went down.
However, the German U-boat is in the vicinity, and the Germans, believing they are safe, surface. The British commandeer the ship as they catch the Germans unaware. Then the germans regain the upper hand and take the British prisoners. Then suddenly the British regain the upper hand and take the Germans prisoners. (I don't know for sure if all this was necessary to develop a need for later cooperation or if the director was just trying to pad the movie with extra action, but suffice to say that the command of the sub changes several times).
Eventually it turns out through various subterfuges, including the sinking of a German warship that the Germans were trying to contact, it turns out that the sub is hopelessly lost somewhere south of South America. The two nationalities have to come to some sort of agreement to cooperate or they will never get home.
They end up sailing for the fabled island that a previous navigator had found, the island of Caprona. The previous navigator never found a suitable landing place, so never got any further than the coast, but since our crew is in a submarine they can take an underwater entrance. And boy are they surprised by what they find....
It is an island that is some millions of years behind the times. Literally. There are dinosaurs and pterodactyls and cave men a-plenty. The whole of prehistoric times is encapsulated in the few hundred square miles of this island. And, it turns out, the island has some secret in which evolution is combined with reincarnation (at least that's how it seems).
Bowen and the rest of the company are stranded on the island until they realize that there is a vast deposit of oil on the island. And conveniently enough, they have all the equipment they need to convert it into usable fuel for the submarine. But since they are strangers to the land they attract unwanted attention of the various tribes of cave-men. The tribes consist, as with the dinosaurs, of various levels of evolution,including a Neanderthal-like tribe, a Cro-Magnon-likle tribe, and others. To make matters worse, the tribes don't like each other much either.
I have to admit, after having seen what CGI can do in movies like Jurassic Park, some of the dinosaurs in this and the sequel look decidedly fake. In fact a couple of them look like sock puppets. But it's still a rousing adventure of the type that made for good movie attraction back in the late 70's. And unlike some of the low budget stuff I've reviewed recently, the acting in this one is quite good.
The People That Time Forgot (1977):
The story from the lost Bowen Tyler has spawned a rescue mission. At the helm is Maj. Ben McBride (Patrick Wayne) who was a childhood friend of Tyler and is leading the mission to rescue him. He is accompanied by his pilot, Hogan (Shane Rimmer), a scientist, Norfolk (Thorley Walters) and a photographer for the newspaper, Charly (Sarah Douglas), whom McBride resents for coming along, but her father's newspaper is putting up much of the dough to finance the trip so he's stuck with her.
When the ship arrives at the island, of course there is no port for them to anchor, so the four load up on an amphibian airplane and trying to fly inland. They end up out of radio range of the ship, they are so far inland, and they end up having to fight off a couple of pterodactyls which cause damage to the plane and it is forced to land.
McBride leaves Hogan in charge of making the necessary repairs while he and Charly and Norfolk go off in search of Bowen. They encounter a young primitive, Ajor (Dana Gillespie). who is running from a pair of evil looking dinosaurs. After rescuing her, and convincing her they are friends, come to find out that Bowen had taught her and a tribe of others pretty good English. It seems, though, that she is the last of that tribe, as there is a competing tribe that has been hunting them down.
The competing tribe is a bunch of samurais (hey that's what they look like to me...) The competing tribe ends up capturing Bowen and troupe and take them back to headquarters in the mountain of Skulls. (The mountain is an obvious matte painting, but damn, it sure looks impressive.) It turns out that the spiritual leader of the tribe is a priest, Sabballa (who looks a lot like Tor Johnson, but is in fact another big time professional wrestler of the era, Milton Reid, better known as "The Mighty Chang").
The plan that Saballa is going to sacrifice the women as wives to the volcano god. Meanwhile the male members of the troupe have been cast into a dungeon where they find a ragged and haggard looking Bowen, although a Bowen who still has his strength despite having been a captive for some time... The three men escape from the prison dungeon and rescue the women, inadvertently killing the priest. But that doesn't faze the leader of the samurai warriors, so they aren't completely out of hot water yet.
Once again, the dinosaurs tend to look a little cheesy for someone who has seen how advanced computers have made such things a relic of the past, but given that caveat, both movies are well done and make for a great double feature, one for all ages. I think you can even let the little ones watch this.
Drive home safe, folks.