This version actually resembles Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's plot
(very unlike the 1960 version) but eviscerates the masculinist
politics of the book by replacing Sir John Roxton with a woman
and a kid!
Gold Pictures / Republic Pictures. 99 min.
George Challenger: John Rhys-Davies
Summerlee: David Warner
Malone: Eric McCormack
Malu: Nathania Stanford
Jim: Darren Peter Mercer
Jenny Nielson: Tamara Gorski
Producers: Frank Agrama, Norman Siderow, Daniele
Director: Timothy Bond
Screenplay: Peter Welbeck
Special Effects: Image Quest Ltd.
It is, appropriately, 1912. Malone bungles into the office of
Gazette editor McArdle looking for an adventurous assignment (but
no mention of Gladys Hungerford) and is sent to interview Challenger
whose housekeeper (no wife Jessie) warns Malone about her employer.
Malone poses as an Italian scientist, but Challenger sees through
it, reveals him to be a Canadian (not Irish) journalist, and wrestles
him down a flight of stairs where a policeman awaits. When Malone
decides not to press charges and Challenger respects this enough
to show him Maple White's sketchbook: "That, my young freind,
is the Lost World"--Africa (not South America; they filmed
in Zimbabwe)--and a pterodactyl which Challenger calls a
Challenger recounts his visit to the dying Maple White, his own
near fatal stabbing by a thief named Pedro which kept him from
any more than a glimpse of the "lost world, and invokes mocked
prophets: "Galileo, Darwin, Challenger!" since the British
scientific community does not believe his claims. He decides
to dare them all at a meeting later that day.
Challenger interrupts a ceremony honoring Professor
Summerlee to gather a group to journey to prove his claims. Malone
volunteers, Summerlee agrees to go but not if Challenger is going,
a newsboy Jim and a woman Jenny Nielson volunteer but are laughingly
dismissed. Jenny turns out to be a wildlife photographer and
daughter of rich American contributors to the sciences, and goes,
with animal rights sensibilities sneered at by Malone as "zebras'
rights. Jim stows away. Challenger appears when Summerlee opens
what turns out to be a blank map. And with a female guide, Malu,
the six row for weeks until landing where they hear native drums.
"We must be constantly on our guard." "Maybe
they want their world to saty lost." When they reach the
plateau, most are awed, but Summerlee, still skeptical, rejoins,
"We've all seen igneous extrusions before." Pujo (=
the book's Zambo) appears, but another of the party, Gomez, turns
out to have been the brother of the thief Pedro who tried stabbing
Challenger and was in turn killed. For vengeance, Gomez yanks
down the rope used to haul the six onto the plateau so that there
is no way back down.
On the trek we see a white peacock and then
apatosaurs. Summerlee falls through the ground into a cavern
serving as a pterodactyl rookery. He is attacked but is hauled
out of the hole. Jenny grows jealous of Malone's interest in
Malu. Jim (not Malone) climbs to a high spot to get the lay of
the land and sees a lake and a native. At night he tries to sneak
off to the lake, but Malone catches him. Malu also is out walking
and the three walk to the sulphurous lake. A "maneating
dnosaur" approaches, but Malu gives them some kind of fruit
to wipe on their faces and lo the dino sniffs but loses interest.
In the morning the camp has been attacked and
the others are gone. The "skeleton tribe" (they wear
war paint) has a ritual whereby humans--normally other tribesmen,
but this time also the Anglos--are sacrificed off a cliff to the
carnivorous dinosaurs. Jim fashions a "balloon from the
gods" with Malone's coat which diverts the tribe long enough
for a rescue and retreat to the safety among the other tribe.
We hear of the splintering of the tribes long ago when the medicine
men convinced some to worship the carnivorous dinosaurs, the
evil ones." Summerlee's extinction theories regarding microbiology
help save a baby pterodactyl when he deduces sufficiently from
the plant-leaf garlands involved in the ritual sacrifice to realize
the antidote to a prehistoric plague grows here. Irrigation and
horticultural benefits to the tribe from these white gods follow.
After the skeleton tribe's leader is hit with a rock and the
tribes reunite, the reward asked is to be shown a "way back
to our own world." A hidden cave is revealed by the chief,
provided that if need they will come back (which awkwardly smacks
of sequel). They vow to. Back at the canoes, Gomez shoots at
Challenger. Malone saves him, and instead of killing Gomez, Challenger
says, "Let the jungle have him." Malu stays in Africa,
and Jim has an unusually big backpack.
Back in London, the scientic institute declares
at a meeting that despite Challenger and Summerlee's reconciliation,
their tale is insufficient evidence. Fortunately, Jim brought
back the baby pterodactyl. Applause and congratulations follow.
At a celebration toast, Jenny is thought to be "transformed"
by a dress and an emerald Malu gave her. They drink to "science
Malone, Jenny, and Jim visit the zoo where
the pterodactyl which they've named Percival (or Percy) is being
kept. He seems unhappy, so they release him and he flies off,
presumably back to "the Lost World."
One could do without the kid and the dishwater-dull triangle,
and ape-people would have been more interesting than tribal factions.
The dinosaurs are a bit cheesy too. But the movie is lush and
Challenger is an especially successful characterization. David
Warner became very annoyingly ubiquitous in the early '80s, but
this casting also worked very well. A pointless balloon attempt
in Doyle's book is actually roped into the plot in this film;
and other little touches like this endear this film.
The inversion of the sexist, racist, speciesistic
politics of Doyle's The Lost World also works better than
one would expect, through the replacement of Roxton with Jenny
who, despite the forgettable performance, gives voice to an animal
rights perspective without serving merely as a mouthpiece. The
release of the pterodactyl from the zoo at the end sees this theme
through nicely. Obviously, this is a rarity in dinosaur films
and flies in the face of the original intention of Doyle's work.