- Based on the novel The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- Directed by Kevin Connor
- November 29, 1974
During World War I, after a German U-boat sinks a British ship that ship’s survivors and the U-boat crew finds themselves in a strange land filled with dinosaurs and Neanderthals.
The older I get the more I realize that there are films out there that I really enjoy that I discovered only because they were shown at various points on the weekend as part of local stations trying to fill up their programming block. It’s not an experience you can have these days. If you wanna watch a movie, it’s a streaming service or a cable channel and those are either well-known films or products of those streaming services. Today’s film fans have really lost out on something special.
The Land That Time Forgot is one of those films that I regularly saw on a Sunday afternoon right after church. For some reason that’s when it always came on. And I first encountered it at a time when I was young and really into dinosaurs. What chiefly appealed to me then and to a large extent now is these are dinosaurs encountering modern man on a lost island and it’s something that I deeply wish were possible.
Much of what we get here is accomplished via miniatures or mid-70s puppetry for film. This was long before film CGI so options were limited. While I liked seeing the dinosaurs here, I never liked how those dinosaurs looked. Even compared to what you could find in the books when I was young these were not that accurate of depictions. These were stylized and done more in the way you would find them illustrated in the very early days of the 20th century rather than even by the mid-70s.
I am not talking about coloring or scales but rather they are largely done like creatures of myth. They look like monsters. I would have greatly appreciated something closer to the then current scientific knowledge. I get that this is an adventure story but they are using creatures that once walked the Earth and the public has a good idea of what they SHOULD look like.
The one close-up shot of a Tyrannosaurus rex is probably the weakest effect in the whole movie. The T-rex supposed to be racing along but even back in the day it was obvious this was some kind of puppet on a track whose legs were simply moving as it was pulled along. It reminded me of a bad windup toy of which I owned several.
The story is a densely packed 90 minutes. They don’t rush through anything, and they don’t skip anything with the fluff being minimal. The situation is quickly established and the main characters and the assorted rivalries and all the potential problems are laid out within the first 10 or 15 minutes with the rest of it the characters dealing with the situation and attempting to survive and understand the strange land they find themselves in.
While the dinosaurs are a threat, a much bigger threat is the German U-boat second in command Lt. Dietz (Anthony Ainley). While his commanding officer Captain Von Schoenvorts (John McEnery) comes to an understanding with Bowen Tyler (Doug McClure) and the rest of the sunk boat’s survivors, Dietz is firmly entrenched in his wartime us vs. them mentality. He intends to create a new front on which to carry out WWI.
The Land That Time Forgot is much more of an adventure story than a thoughtful film and the characters are what you would expect in such. Doug McClure is the brash American Bowen Tyler who knows exactly what to do. Lisa Clayton (Susan Penhaligon) is his British love interest. Von Schoenvorts is a patriot to his country but not an unreasonable individual. And Dietz is a single-minded individual too entrenched to see the bigger picture. What helps is that they are all not cartoonish even down to Dietz. And that helps with any movie really.
They do a good job of expressing the weirdness of the environment and situation the characters are in. This is a B-movie but a B-Movie made with some effort. Not everything is completely answered. Just enough is given to get an answer of a sort.
The dialogue is not bad and the characters are well crafted with direction that is solid. I am not calling this fine art but it is better than it should have been. The only real issues are some of the dinosaurs as I said earlier. Either the large dinosaur props or the smaller managers of the used interact with the other managers.
I understand that there was a remake of this done a few years ago by The Asylum which is group known for less than intelligent stuff. I’ve caught a few scenes from it and honestly what I have seen is not very good. What I would like to see however is something with a bigger budget and a quality director. There is potential here and the time is perfect to do it. I might even settle for just a redo of the special effects of this version.
The Land That Time Forgot is an entertaining adaption of the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. It has good characters and pretty decent direction. If you can judge a film based on the time in which it was made, then you will get past the special effects issues and enjoy yourself a lot. I cannot recommend this enough!