Wednesday, March 30, 2011

THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975) & THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977)

For a few years in the early-to-mid-Seventies, producer John Dark and director Kevin Connor made a series of fantasy adventure movies based on and/or inspired by the works of pulp writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan. These films (all starring beefy TV cowboy Doug McClure) were The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, At The Earth's Core and Warlords of Atlantis. Produced by England's Amicus Studios, and released in the United States by American International Pictures in 1975, Land is one of the last old-fashioned fantasy films produced before Star Wars came along and re-defined the genre forever.

Doug McClure (you may remember him from such TV series as The Virginian and movies like Humanoids From The Deep and The House Where Evil Dwells), stars as Bowen Tyler, an American passenger on a British liner that is torpedoed by a German U-Boat during the first World War. When the U-boat surfaces, a handful of survivors, led by the gung ho American, manage to take control of the sub.

After McClure demands that the Germans take them to a neutral port, the two crews battle back and forth for command of the submarine until they somehow manage to get hopelessly lost. Just as supplies are about to run out, they come across the lost continent of Caprona, and discover that it is a world where evolution works differently, and dinosaurs still exist (along with cavemen).

The story is pure classic pulp, with plenty of hair-breadth escapes, fistfights, gun battles, volcanic explosions, and a great climax. There's plenty of rugged, two-fisted action, and a true sense of wonder to the film that should entertain all but the most thoroughly jaded.

Many of today's viewers may laugh at the puppet and mechanical dinosaurs (although the pleisosaur that attacks the submarine still looks pretty cool to me), and the make up on the Neanderthals is admittedly pretty shoddy. But the miniature work is excellent, the action scenes are well-staged, and while nobody's going to win an Oscar here, the performances by the cast of talented British character actors (especially Susan Penhaligon, who makes a delightful damsel in distress, and Anthony Ainsley as the sinister Dietz) are just right for a movie like this.

Land was one of my favorite adventure films when I was growing up, and I still enjoy it today.

The People That Time Forgot, American International Pictures' sequel to Land, was released in the Summer of 1977. A square-jawed aviator, played by Patrick Wayne, son of John, and star of the same year's Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger, leads an expedition to the prehistoric island of Caprona in search of adventurer Doug McClure, still marooned there after the events of the previous film. The expedition consists of Wayne, his mechanic (Shane Rimmer; The Spy Who Loved Me), a female reporter (Sarah Douglas; Superman 2, Beastmaster 2, Space: 1999), and a paleontologist (character actor Thorley Walters). After their biplane is forced down by an attacking pterodactyl, the adventurers discover a beautiful cavegirl (the gorgeous Dana Gillespie), who eventually leads them to Skull Mountain and the evil, samurai-like Nagas, who have McClure locked away in their skeleton-strewn dungeon.

People is a full-blooded, old-fashioned Saturday matinee adventure, with vicious cavemen, clunky (mechanical) dinosaurs, an evil Tor Johnson lookalike, volcanic eruptions, swordplay and plenty of heroic derring-do. As in his Sinbad film, Wayne makes an handsome, whitebread, hero, while Douglas, an underrated actress who's appeared in tons of fantasy films, makes the most of her spunky girl reporter role. Gillespie provides the eye-candy, and Walters and Rimmer provide solid support. McClure, who shows up late in the film, looks a little tired of these cut-rate lost world epics, but acquits himself adequately.

The production design and special effects have a charming, nostalgic cheesiness about them, with obvious matte paintings, miniatures and mechanical monsters adding to the cliffhanging fun. Although primitive by today's high-tech standards, I'll take this kind of hand-crafted filmmaking over today's CGI-dominated 3D toons any day. The photography is magnificent, making good use of the rugged, prehistoric-looking locations, and the score by John Scott is rousing, if a bit spare.

Fox/MGM released both films on their "Midnite Movies" label several years ago, and eventually paired them up on one double-feature disc. The disc includes trailers for each feature, and that's it. Both movies look great, presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the original mono soundtracks are crisp, clear and devoid of background hiss. If you can still find it, it's a great deal for just a few bucks. The Land That Time Forgot/The People That Time Forgot

Now, if Fox/MGM would release Warlords of Atlantis, my Dark/Connor/McClure collection would be complete!

12 comments:

  1. THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT was one of my favorites as a child. The ending always left me wanting more. Until I saw the sequel almost two decades later. I didn't really want that. But then again, I think I was too old to appreciate it anymore. :)

    Thank for the trip.

    - Ark

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  2. I have to agree with Arkhein -- "The Land that Time Forgot" was one of my favorites too. I didn't get to see it again for many years -- until TBS started airing it on a regular basis in the 80's. The sequel was less enjoyable, but at least they tied it in with the original.

    Doug McClure was fun to watch in all of these dinosaur movies and you know that he was just there for a paycheck and some fun. And he worked really well with Peter Cushing in "At the Earth's Core." His role in "The People that Time Forgot" was very limited and that's sad, because I really liked the Bowen character. He did go on to star in "Warlords of Atlantis" so I guess he wasn't too tired of the genre quite yet. I also believe that his roles in his many B movies earned him a tribute with the Simpsons character Troy McClure (voiced by the late Phil Hartman).

    SPOILER WARNING...
    It's too bad they killed off the Bowen character in the second "Land" movie, because I would have enjoyed seeing him escape and have further adventures. Also, the absence of Susan Penhaligon (Lisa) was pretty harsh. I didn't like the explanation that she was "sacrificed" by the Naga guys. It felt like McClure took a page from the Charleton Heston book of "killing off your character so there won't be a sequel."

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  3. 'Land' and 'Warlords' had the benefit of Roger Dicken doing the miniature monsters, while 'Core' and 'People' were mostly 'suitmation'.

    I can watch all four films today and still enjoy them as much as when I first saw them.

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  4. I loved these movies as a kid. They were a matinee staple both at the base theatre and on TV when I was a kid. Great stuff.

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  5. I saw both Land and People that time forgot back in the day at a drive-in no less. I've always thought they were great adventure films and now have them both on DVD. Doug McClure was the man!

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  6. I'll be writing about At The Earth's Core one of these days... but I've never seen Warlords Of Atlantis, dammit.

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  7. Hi Chris,

    Love the page. Can i just say that they DID release 'Warlords of Atlantis' because i have it. Studio Canal released it in 2005. It was released as a 'Fantasy Adventure Triple Bill' boxed set with 'Earth's Core' and 'The Land That Time Forgot' and individually too. Google displays info for you if you type in the release# CCD30118.

    Nice to see i'm not the only one who loves these classics. I have a pretty large collection of dvd (from gerry anderson to godzilla and beyond) :D

    Take care

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  8. Warlords Of Atlants has not been released on DVD in NTSC Region 1 format. It is available in the UK and other countries, but I live in the U.S. and cannot afford import discs.

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  9. I prefer At the earth's core to both of these films. It's cheesy too, but far more exciting.

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  10. I love all of these Kevin Connor/John Dark movies. They really make me nostalgic for my youth.

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  11. Call me sexist, but those exquisite Frazetta girls, Caroline Munro, Dana Gillespie and Lea Brodie contributed immensely to the pulpiness of those movies and are sorely missed in updated fantasies like Jackson's Kong and John Carter (although I love those too).
    As an aside, f you keep a look out you can spot Lea Brodie in several episodes of Space 1999 s1 - I swear if they'd made her one of the main cast the show would never've been cancelled.
    BTW Has any other actress enjoyed such a great run in fantasy films as Caroline Munro?
    Best Chris B

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  12. CLASSIC!!! I saw Land at The Cinerama Dome in LA when I was 5 years old and it's been one of my all-time favs ever since!!! The ending is seriously epic and haunting and the same time. Blows anything today away and you totally see where a lot of later films got their inspiration from.

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