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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World

movie review of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1960) starring Michael Rennie, Claude Rains, Jill St. John, Fernando Lamas

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1960) starring Michael Rennie, Claude Rains, Jill St. John, Fernando Lamasbuy-from-amazon This is the Irwin Allen version of the movie, where the “dinosaurs” are plainly lizards with fins and horns attached, making the “frightening” monsters laughable–and that’s a crying shame.   The acting is fine, and the interaction between the various A-list actors (Michael Rennie, Claude Rains, Fernando Lamas, Jill St. John, David Hedison) is one of the best things about the movie.  It should also be said that, despite the title, the movie takes large liberties with the basic story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle–for example, in the original novel, there were no female characters at all.

The basic story has the eccentric Professor Challenger (played marvelously by Claude Rains) mounting an expedition to the Amazon, where he believes a hidden plateau, the ““Lost World” of the title, exists, populated by prehistoric creatures.   The group becomes stranded there, and various hidden agendas come to the forefront, with one member of the party planning the murder of another.

Despite the schlocky effects, my children and I enjoyed a recent viewing of The Lost World on Turner Classic Movies, and I hope that you do as well.   I rate it 3 stars out of 5.


Synopsis of  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1960)

An eccentric scientist (Claude Rains) returns from the Amazon with news of a distant plateau where creatures from the dawn of time still prowl the jungle. To prove his story, he gathers a team of explorers, including a journalist (David Hedison), a playboy-adventurer (Michael Rennie), a beautiful socialite (Jill St. John), and a pilot (Fernando Lamas) with a secret plan of revenge. But an unexpected attack on their camp leaves the group stranded in a world of dinosaurs and other exotic creatures, where humans are no longer the lords of the earth – they are helpless prey.


Cast of character’s in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World

  • Professor George Edward Challenger (Claude Rains, Casablanca).  The short-tempered leader of the expedition, who has no people skills
  • Professor Summerlee (Richard Haydn, Five Weeks in a Balloon).  A rival of Challenger’s who joins the expedition
  • Lord John Roxton (Michael RennieThe Day the Earth Stood Still).  An experienced big-game hunter who joins the expedition.  But whose motives later get called into question, with a story of the lost city of El Dorado
  • Ed Malone (David Hedison).  A journalist at the Daily Gazette who volunteers to join the expedition
  • Jennifer Holmes (Jill St. John).  The daughter of the owner of the Daily Gazette, who tags along — and manages to annoy the woman-disliking Professor Challenger repeatedly
  • Manuel Gomez (Fernando Lamas).  The expedition’s helicopter pilot, who has a personal enmity against one of the other expedition members
  • David Holmes (Ray Strickland).  The brother of Jennifer, the son of Malone’s boss Stuart Holmes
  • Costa (Jay Novello).  Gomez’ assistant who also guides the expedition into the plateau.  While keeping a greedy eye out for rumored diamonds, and scaring:
  • The Native Girl (Vitina Marcus).  An Indian native, who has found her way to the plateau, and so must know a way back down.  If she can avoid Gomez and the giant spider …
  • Burton White (Ian Wolfe).  A professor who visited the Amazon Plateau on an earlier  expedition — and it’s last surviving member

 Editorial review of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, courtesy of Amazon.com

The Lost World is Irwin Allen’s glossy, 1960 adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel. In essence, The Lost World is Doyle’s tale of an expedition to a mysterious plateau deep in the Amazon rainforest, where cantankerous adventurer Professor Challenger leads an expedition to prove the existence of prehistoric creatures living far from the civilized world. Allen’s film, as with his many movie and television productions focusing on disasters (The Poseidon Adventure) and science fiction (Land of the Giants), is full of relationship complications within a large ensemble of characters, creating drama and tension even before terror strikes. An attractive cast including Claude Rains as Challenger, Michael Rennie, David Hedison, Jill St. John, and Fernando Lamas makes Allen’s The Lost World fun to watch, especially if one self-consciously overlooks the cast’s persistently clean and pressed wardrobe (and perfect hair) despite the jungle heat and assaults by cannibals.

Part of the film’s charm is also its most ludicrous element: “dinosaurs” played by various, wriggling tropical lizards, a far cry from the stop-motion animation creatures–that actually look like dinosaurs–in Harry O. Hoyt’s amazing take on The Lost World 35 years before Allen’s. —Tom Keogh