Friday, November 24, 2006


This fantasy adventure (which intelligent design advocates would boycott today) feels like a missing link between the 50's and 60's stop-motion work of Ray Harryhausen and the elaborate CGI worlds of Spielberg's JURASSIC PARK and Peter Jackson's KING KONG. The dinosaurs here seem to be mostly miniatures or full-size models, and while they're not as effective as the digital creations of today, they move in a more realistic fashion than the mythological creations of Harryhausen. The plot is taken from a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs and involves the discovery of an island where evolution has run rampant. Set during WWI, the film begins at sea in a dense fog with a German submarine sinking a British supply ship; a handful of survivors (including husky American Doug McClure and British scientist Susan Penhaligon) take refuge on top of the sub when it surfaces and wrest control from German officer John McEnery. They decide to head for a neutral coast but McEnery sabotages the compass and seesawing power games ensue, the upshot being that the sub winds up in uncharted waters. Lost and worried about dwindling fuel and food supplies, the motley group comes upon an island that McEnery assumes is the mythical continent of Caprona, inhabited by dinosaurs and cavemen at varying degrees of biological advancement, with more evolved creatures present as they head north. They kill and cook a plesiosaurus, manage to communicate with a relatively friendly caveman, and discover oil which they hope to use to get back to civilization, but external dangers and internal strife cause our group problems, leading to an exciting climax. The acting is decent, with McEnery and Anthony Ainley (as an untrustworthy German lieutenant) standouts. Penhaligon has a nothing role and can't do much with it. McClure plays the hero with stolid conviction. The effects and sets might not pass muster for today's viewers, but I found the film, the kind I associate with the long Thanksgiving weekends of my childhood, to be more fun than I expected. [TCM]

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