Amicus Films, the British company best known for its macabre horror anthologies, turned to large-scale fantasy for a successful series of films in the mid 1970s. Produced by John Dark and directed by Kevin Connor (FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE), the team adapted some of the works of noted sci-fi author Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the results were THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975), AT THE EARTH'S CORE (1976), and LAND's sequel, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977) which was credited totally to AIP, for Amicus had already ceased to exist by the time it was released. MGM had released CORE and PEOPLE as single DVD releases in 2001, but now they have re-released PEOPLE properly with LAND on one great-looking double-feature disc!
THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT begins when the torpedoes from a German U-boat sink an ally cargo ship during World War II, killing off most of the passengers. The survivors include American Tyler (Doug McClure), British biologist Lisa Clayton (Susan Penhaligon), British officer Bradley (Keith Barron) and some of his soldiers. Shortly after the attack, they stumble upon the German submarine in a fog bank, and manage a surprise attack, soon seizing control of it. The Germans, led by the amicable Captain Von Schoenvorts (John McEnery, whose voice was dubbed by Anton Diffring!) and the stubborn Dietz (Anthony Ainley) take control back, but eventually lose it once again. Having to deal with a destroyed radio, a tampered-with compass, and now, prehistoric reptiles, they decide to remain neutral and work together as the sub becomes lost.
Believing to be somewhere in the south Atlantic, they soon encounter what appears to be a lost continent surrounded by icebergs and snowy cliffs. A theory is that it's the lost continent of Caprona, last seen two hundred years before by the Italian navigator Caproni. The submarine makes its way under the ice and into a sunny, tropical land where all sorts of adventures ensue. In a fight for survival, they find themselves battling an onslaught of giant dinosaurs, as well as various tribes of savage Stone Age men, but they do meet up with one friendly one named "Ahm" (Bobby Parr) who proves helpful to their cause.
A co-production between AIP and Amicus, THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT remains a fun ride today. The film does have its share of faults. Roger Dicken's puppet dinosaurs -- including floppy-bodied Allosaurus creatures and Pterodactyls that just glide on highly visible strings -- are less than convincing, but some of them are passable. On the other hand, the miniatures and other effects come off quite well, especially during the fiery climax. McClure often gets criticism for his acting job here, but he is actually very likable and durable, and it's hard to imagine anyone else as Tyler. Suitable for the kids (although it is packed with comic book violence), this is one of the most ambitious British fantasy films of its time with a charm that's not easy to replicate in the humdrum of the flashy and over-expensive modern movie world.
MGM's release of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. It now looks better than ever, with vivid colors and nice detail. There is some grain in various scenes, but it's mainly due to flaws inherent to the film's original elements. The mono audio track is excellent and serves the film's sound effects, dialog and superb Douglas Gamley score very well. There are also optional English, French and Spanish subtitles, and the original AIP theatrical trailer is included as an extra.
On the flip side of the disc is AIP's smart sequel THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, which picks up right where LAND left off. During the First World War, Bowen Tyler (Doug McClure, who now makes a "guest" appearance) was marooned on the lost island of Caprona, having battled German soldiers, cavemen and prehistoric creatures. Years later, a canister containing a note by Tyler is discovered off the coast of Scotland. His long time friend Ben McBride (Patrick Wayne) sets up a rescue expedition to see for himself Tyler's incredible claims about Caprona.
Along for the journey are Sarah Douglas (SUPERMAN II), an attractive and gutsy newspaper photographer, Hammer regular Thorley Walters as a distinguished English biologist and Shane Rimmer (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME), as a rugged airplane mechanic. They fly into the island in an aircraft that barely manages to lift its four passengers above the tall ice-cliffs. The plane is then damaged by a feisty pterodactyl, forcing them to land and take off on foot, leaving the mechanic behind to try and make repairs. During their excursion they meet Ajor (Dana Gillespie), a voluptuous native girl who has learned to speak English from Tyler, and she is able to help them find him. Tyler has been taken prisoner by a barbarous tribe called the Nagas, who have a nasty habit of sacrificing women to their volcano god. They reach the City of Skulls, only to be captured themselves by the Nagas, led by veteran Hammer villains Milton Reid and Dave Browse (wearing a hooded mask). McBride finds Tyler, but as prisoners, they must battle and escape the clutches of their captors before the two girls are too tossed into the volcano.
Based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT is another fun sci-fi adventure that makes for great Saturday afternoon entertainment. Sure the special effects are uneven, and the dinosaurs appear less frequently then they did in the first film, but it's got a lot going for it. The characters are well developed, and the cast is excellent. Wayne also starred in SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER the same year, and here he's suitable as the clean-shaven stalwart. Douglas is both beautiful and confident as the newspaper photographer, and Gillespie is the most stunning brunette cavegirl since Raquel Welch.
The film was mostly shot on the location in the Canary Islands and the immense open land makes for exquisite scenery. The City of Skulls (revealed as an admittedly unconvincing cell drawing) and its Nagas soldiers resemble something out of a Frazetta painting, giving an added dimension to the film's dazzling fantasy look. John Scott (who has done a lot before and after PEOPLE) composed the score, and it's one of his best and certainly most memorable (and I would love to see this get issued on CD someday).
MGM's DVD of PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT utilizes a new anamorphic transfer, letterboxed in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The film now looks incredible, as the transfer is immaculate, with bold colors and sharp detail. The mono sound is terrific, as this is a very loud adventure. The audio does not reflect the film's age and is definitely rendered nicely. A second audio track is available in French, and there are optional French and Spanish subtitles. The original theatrical trailer is also included.
NOTE: MGM's August 24 Midnite Movies are in-store exclusives to Best Buy, but they can also be found online at CD Universe, as well as Canadian retailer DVD Soon. (George R. Reis)
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