One of the delights of living close to London is that you can unearth or on this occasion, revisit, movies that you have seen in the past and allow you to re-evaluate them.
This last week, together with a very enthusiastic audience at the British Film Institute’s National Film Theatre on the South Bank, I enjoyed again The Land That Time Forgot' (1974). It was being shown as part of a short ‘Amicus at 50’ season. Amicus was Amicus Film Productions, established at Shepperton Studios by Americans Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenburg and you could view them as a kind of poor man’s Hammer Studios. Their output of movies from 1962-1980 were mainly low budget horror or adventure stories (Dr Who and the Daleks, The House That Dripped Blood, The Beast Must Die etc).
However in the mid-1970’s Amicus produced what I think was their best stuff in a trio of fantasy adventures ‘At The Earth’s Core’ (1975), ‘The People That Time Forgot (1977) and the film that started it all of – ‘The Land That Time Forgot.
Based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs book of the same name (1918) it starred reliable Western star Doug McClure, as action man Bowen Tyler travelling on a merchant ship during World War 1 and along with female companion Lisa Clayton (a pre- ‘Bouquet of Barbed Wire’ Susan Penhaligon) and sailor Mr Bradley (Keith Barron) are torpedoed by a U-Boat captained by German John McEnery (although actually dubbed by stalwart Anton Diffring) and his nasty second in command Anthony Ainley. There are various attempts to take over the U-Boat but the party end up in a unchartered land off the South Atlantic where dinosaurs and ancient tribes still live.
As you might expect from such a scenario, much of the film is taken up with the Brits, the American and the Germans coming together (most of the time) to fight off the wild inhabitants of the land and try and get back home to safety.
For 1974, the special effects are, as I remember them, pretty first-class – bearing in mind that, as Keith Barron mentioned in an entertaining question and answer session after the screening, much was filmed in a quarry in Leatherhead. The special effects team of Derek Meddings and Roger Dicken would later go on to work on the original Alien, a number of Gerry Anderson productions as well as the Superman and Roger Moore Bond pictures
It’s true that in places the film plods by 2012 standards, some of the scenes are quite ropy but its hugely entertaining and the central trio of Doug McClure, Susan Penhaligon, and Keith Barron make for great chemistry. The movie is bookended by a great opening and poignant conclusion and it was a surprise ‘sleeper’ hit back in 1975 when it was released in UK cinemas and it still holds up today. Keith Barron in his post-screening interview was very funny, whether it was about Doug McClure’s on-screen drinking, his genuine regret about not making the one Hammer film he was offered or what kind of wine goes with a plate of plesiosaurus. The DVD for the remastered edition of the film is released on 30 July.