September 20, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: THE LOST WORLD (1925)

Starring Wallace Beery, Bessie Love, Lewis Stone, Lloyd Hughes, Arthur Hoyt. Directed by Harry O. Hoyt. (1925, 110 min).

Like Citizen Kane, the cinematic influence and impact of The Lost World can't be understated. The groundbreaking special effects work of Willis O'Brien paved the way for future visual milestones like King Kong, 2001: A Space Odyssey and, fittingly, Jurassic Park

But unlike Citizen Kane, much of The Lost World was...well, lost. Significant amounts of footage had gone missing, been damaged or succumbed to the ravages of time, and for decades, the film was only available in murky, truncated versions...

...until last year, when most of the long-lost footage was found in various parts of the world and the film - nearly in its entirety - was restored to its original 1925 glory (primarily the work of Lobster Films). This Blu-Ray from Flicker Alley, boasting a first-rate picture and audio track (with a terrific score by silent film composer Robert Israel), is about as close as one can get to experiencing The Lost World as originally presented.

"Olly olly oxen free!"
What was groundbreaking 92 years ago may look quaint today, but what a thrill it must have been to see it in a theater back then! Remember when our jaws collectively fell open when we watched that first brontosaurus lumber across the screen in Jurassic Park? In 1925, seeing moving dinosaurs on the big screen for the first time - ever - must have been nothing short of mind blowing. But it wasn't just O'Brien's animation that made the film special; he figured out how to make the actors and creatures convincingly appear in the same shot.

"Shut up!"   "No, you shut up!"
Even though Willis and his creations are the undisputed stars of the show, the story itself - from Arthur Conan Doyle's novel - remains fairly engaging (and an obvious inspiration for Michael Crichton's own novel of the same name). The characters aren't particularly dynamic, but we like them and the great Wallace Beery looks like he's having a great time as the eccentric professor who first discovers these Jurassic giants still running around in South America.

The Lost World should be required viewing for anyone interested in film history, especially since it could be considered the very first effects-driven blockbuster. More than just a precursor to Willis O'Brien's legendary special effects in King Kong, it also happens to be very entertaining, particularly when viewed in the context of when it was made. This is a great-looking transfer and a fun disc for movie fans.

SHORT FILMS - "R.F.D., 10,000 BC," "The Ghost of Slumber Mountain" & "Creation" - All directed by FX legend Willis O'Brien, the last of which was unfinished
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By film historian Nicholas Ciccone
ESSAY - "The Lost World: Secrets of the Restoration" (printed in the booklet)

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