Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Lost World (1992) and Return to The Lost World (1993)

I'm still limbering up before starting to write up those three 1980s low budget movies I was talking about the other day.  I just need to complete a bit more research. The trouble is that work and other stuff keeps intervening.  As does watching yet more schlock movies.  Last weekend, for instance, I sat through a double bill of Harry Allan Towers films, namely The Lost World (1992) and Return to The Lost World (1993), which, typically for Towers' productions, were shot back to back with the same cast and crew.  These come from his later period, when he was South Africa-based, which explains why the venue has been changed from South America in Conan Doyle's source novel, to Africa.  I can only assume that South Africa had no extradition agreements with any of the countries that Towers was wanted in - the numerous allegations against him included tax evasion and running call girls.  It also offered tax breaks and low productions costs, which were also powerful incentives for Towers to set up shop there. 

But to get to the films themselves; they are typical of Towers' productions in that they flatter to deceive, with name actors headlining the cast (John Rhys Davies, David Warner and a pre-Will & Grace Eric McCormack in this case) and exotic locations.  But, as ever, there is little to back this up.  The 'action' is painfully slow and strung out, with too many static dialogue scenes padding out the running time.  Worst of all is the lack of dinosaurs.  Which is something of a problem as, for most casual viewers, the dinosaurs are the whole point of watching a film based on The Lost World.  Particularly one that has clearly been rushed into production to cash in on the imminent release of Jurassic Park.  What we get are a few rubber dinosaur puppets, photographically enlarged, which are never seen in their entirety: we see a head and neck 'towering' over trees here and a rubber foot or two trampling on branches and undergrowth there.  These are supplemented by brief appearances from some life-sized (but not very convincing) puppets representing dinosaur heads when they have to interact with actors (which only rarely occurs).   Bearing in mind that contemporary audiences had already seen previews of Jurassic Park's ground-breaking CGI dinosaurs, this was pretty poor.  But par for the course for Harry Allan Towers.  Which isn't to say that the two films are a complete bust: John Rhys Davies and David Warner are well cast as Professors Challenger and Summerlee respectively and deliver highly entertaining performances.  But the various alterations from the source novel, including the obligatory inclusion of female characters and elimination of the Lord Roxton character in favour of a jungle girl type character, just weaken the plot further.  Worst of all is the invention of a child assistant for Challenger.  The sequel starts promisingly, with the 'Lost World' being exploited by ruthless Belgian oil prospectors, starts promisingly, but quickly succumbs to all the vices of the first film.

Despite the inevitable disappointments these films turned out to be, we're not finished with Harry Allan Towers yet, as I have some more of his films to wade through.  Hopefully, I might eventually manage a longer and more detailed assessment of the man and his output.



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