The Lost World (1925)

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Released 10-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Alternate Audio
Audio Commentary-Roy Pilot (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Expert)
Featurette-Conan Doyle And The Lost World (12:38)
Outtakes-(12:33)
Gallery
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1925
Running Time 92:42
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:07) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5 Directed By Harry O. Hoyt
Studio
Distributor
First National Picts
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Wallace Beery
Lewis Stone
Bessie Love
Lloyd Hughes
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $32.95 Music Robert Israel
Alloy Orchestra


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Alternate Music/Sound Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    And so once again we find ourselves reviewing the latest trawl through the classics of silent film by Eureka Video. This time it is a genuine classic of cinema, the first true science fiction great in The Lost World. Something of a seminal film in many ways, I had long heard about this legendary film, but had never had the chance to watch it. So when this came up for review, and in the resounding silence that generally follows the announcement of silent films, I stuck my hand up willingly to do the review. It is not often that you get to watch one of the pivotal films of a genre, and that is precisely what this film is. It is no stretch of the imagination to suggest that this film was a sensation upon release, for it broke many a new ground for film at that time.

    Not the least of this is the invention of the stop motion animation technique by Willis O'Brien for the dinosaur sequences of the film. Ray Harryhausen might be the effects wizard that really refined the technique, but this is where it all began. And the fact that we can actually see the film is quite amazing too, for it was reputedly destroyed in the late 1920s in anticipation of its remake as a talkie. The remake actually ended up being King Kong, but by then all that was left of the film was a somewhat truncated version of the film which Kodak Eastman used as the basis for 16mm versions for home movie buffs, but the original negative, though truncated, apparently remained in good condition. It was apparently through the discovery of a full 35mm, almost pristine, print in a Czech archive in the early 1990s that the film has been able to be restored to something like its original length. The blurb claims this to be the most complete version of the film to have existed since the original release in February, 1925. It is still missing some elements obviously and one of those is apparently a prologue that featured Sir Arthur Conan Doyle checking out the models of the dinosaurs used for populating The Lost World. A different prologue taken from a newsreel of the era, featuring an interview with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is used in its stead.

    And yes, it is the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame. The Lost World was proclaimed to be one his greatest novels, so it is perhaps logical that Hollywood would come beckoning for film rights. It also happened to be one of the best science fiction works up to that time. So what exactly is The Lost World about? Precisely that actually...

    Journalist Edward E. Malone (Lloyd Hughes) has been set a task by his fiancée Gladys Hungerford (Alma Bennett) - do something brave and daring to prove his love, and they shall be married. Professor George E. Challenger (Wallace Beery) provides him with the opportunity to do exactly that. Challenger has returned from the Americas with a fantastic tale of a lost world where dinosaurs still roam. His colleague Maple White is lost there, but he is determined to return to the lost world to prove that it exists to a sceptical world (well, at least London) and to rescue his colleague. At a public speaking engagement, Challenger faces a riotous mob as he seeks volunteers for his trek back to the lost world. He gets them: Professor Summerlee (Arthur Hoyt), sceptic who wants to go just to prove Challenger is lying, Sir John Roxton (Lewis Stone), big game hunter seeking a new challenge and Edward Malone, needing the perfect opportunity to impress his fiancée. The party will be rounded out by the daughter of Maple White, Paula (Bessie Love), desperate to find her father or prove him anything but a liar in death. This intrepid bunch travel to the upper reaches of the Amazon in search of the lost world.

    Since the dinosaurs are the real stars of the film, obviously the intrepid travellers make it to the lost world and find those reptilian ancestors alive and well. The only problem is to survive the ordeal and return to London with enough proof to convince all the sceptics. We also get the obligatory romance thrown in for good measure.

    When all is said and done, the real stars here are those animated dinosaurs and the fact that they still remain convincing enough over seventy five years later just goes to illustrate the excellence of the effects on first release. In fact, it is quite clear from the film just where the inspiration for all those Godzilla films came from... in that respect, the film has a heck of a lot to answer for! Simply put - no The Lost World, no King Kong and a whole raft of other films. It is just amazing to sit and watch the animation parading across the screen here, knowing full well that this was where it all began. Sure, it is not in the league of what Ray Harryhausen did thirty years later, but it is still mightily impressive. The story itself is noteworthy for being somewhat different from most silent films and it certainly has enough of a story to make the effort of watching the film worthwhile.

    The Lost World is one of the true pivotal films of the past century and I am very glad that I have finally got to see the film. If you have any interest in the history of film, then you will surely want to check this one out.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Being of the silent era, the transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The front cover proclaims "magnificent restoration of the 1925 film". I might well have some argument over the use of the word magnificent, but I suppose that since the film had all but disappeared in something approaching its "proper" length we should not be too pedantic over the usage. Whilst I have seen worse looking transfers, it is also fair to say that I have seen better amongst films of this vintage. It is not more than average as far as sharpness is concerned, with plenty of sequences displaying a distinctly soft image, especially away from the centre of the camera. Detail is average too, with some scenes being better but other scenes being much worse. Overall, I would have expected better from source material described as "pristine" and "photographically beautiful", so I can only conclude that someone got carried away with the blurb. Shadow detail is about what we expect from films of this vintage (that is, fairly poor) and clarity leaves plenty to be desired. Grain is not much of an issue here, although it is of course present. Low level noise is not a problem.

    This is a very strongly tinted film, and sometimes the tints detract from the film due to the underlying image being a tad soft. The underlying black and white is certainly nothing spectacular although the grey scales are pretty adequate throughout for everything is quite clearly delineated.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are no significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There is the obligatory encyclopaedia of film artefacts on display though, and it takes a little while to get used to the vertical scratch marks in particular. Once you do get used to them however, there are few other artefacts that really jump out as being obviously distracting, just a few blobs here and there that we sort of expect in films of this age.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 54:07 during a scene change. As such, it is pretty good and not at all disruptive to the film.

    Since this is a silent film, there are obviously no subtitles on offer. It is a pity, though, that no English subtitles were provided for the audio commentary.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three soundtracks on the DVD: an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, an Alternate English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Obviously in the case of the first two soundtracks, the appellation English is very much a notional one for they are just music soundtracks. The first, default, soundtrack provides a traditional style musical accompaniment, whilst the second provides a more modern style soundtrack.

    The music comes up very well in the transfer and it is easy enough on the ear.

    The traditional musical accompaniment comes from Robert Israel whilst the more modern musical accompaniment comes from The Alloy Orchestra. I find the latter a little too jarring for my taste and find it detracts from the film somewhat. The traditional score is much more film-friendly in my view, but your view may of course vary.

    The soundtracks obviously don't have too much to do and thankfully there are no great demands placed on them by the music. They are quite clean and clear with no indications of any blemishes. They are there but you really don't take much notice of them.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Whilst not quite to Special Edition status, this is about the best extras package I have seen on a DVD from this source. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue, because it is a darn good one.

Menus

    Whilst they contrast too markedly with the feature, since they are sharp, vibrant colour efforts, they are nonetheless quite nicely done. There is a lengthy, and marginally annoying as a result, introduction to the main menu, which has some nice audio and animation enhancement. Certainly significantly improved upon previous efforts I must say.

Audio Commentary - Roy Pilot (Author of The Annotated Lost World)

    Not the most scintillating effort ever and there are some lengthy silent bits. But when he speaks he does provide some nice information into the making of the film and so on. Worthwhile listening to once, but I could never imagine returning to it again.

Featurette - Conan Doyle And The Lost World (12:38)

    An interesting mixture of biography, production notes and restoration notes, this is presented in a scrolling manner that rather infuriatingly takes over twelve minutes to run. Some might like these sorts of presentations but they just annoy me for I can read a lot faster than they scroll. I have no problem with the contents however, which are most interesting. They are presented with "traditional" musical accompaniment.

Outtakes (12:33)

    Well I never thought I would sit down and watch outtakes from a seventy five year old film! These are a collection of animation outtakes that were discovered n an archive and have been restored. Some look like abandoned sequences whilst others are sequences that were simply stuffed up (like those when presumably Willis O'Brien or his associates are captured on film!). Whilst they have been restored, they still have some issues that reflect the fact that they are outtakes from a long time ago. Nonetheless, they are very interesting and well worth while viewing. They are presented in the same format as the main feature, with "modern" musical accompaniment.

Gallery

    A collection of thirteen photos of dinosaur models, posters and programmes.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are a number of versions of the DVD floating around Region 1, but the closest to this one is the latest release from Image Entertainment which seems to be identical in content to the Region 4. There would thus seem to be no overwhelming reason to prefer either region.

    Other versions of the film come from Good Times Home Video, which basically is the original shortened version of the film with no extras, a superseded version from Image Entertainment which is basically the shortened version with additional stills and other material to fill in the missing footage and a version from Lumivision which is basically the same as the superseded version from Image.

Summary

    There is no doubting that The Lost World is a true classic of cinema, with plenty of groundbreaking effects on offer. It is the sort of film that genuine fans of film should grab and watch on a regular basis, for this does in many ways have a potted history of special effects work contained therein, at least in a visual way. The transfer is not too bad considering the age of the film and the fact that it apparently has been rescued from oblivion. Another thumbs up to the efforts of Force Video, even though this is unlikely to be a huge seller.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, September 09, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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