Thursday, September 1, 2016

"A Living Hell That Time Forgot!"


Actress/singer/songwriter Dana Gillespie - playing Sarah - makes the biggest impression, thanks to her 44-26-37 assets. Gillespie had previously appeared in the striptease exploiter SECRETS OF A WINDMILL GIRL and Hammer's THE VENGEANCE OF SHE.  

AFTER Michael Carreras hastily made PREHISTORIC WOMEN in the wake of ONE MILLION YEARS B.C.'s worldwide success, he would also be responsible for this Hammer fantasy loosely based on Dennis Wheatley's 1938 novel Uncharted Seas. On his rusty tramp streamer Corita, Captain Lansen (Eric Porter) has a cargo of illegal explosives (ten tonnes of water-sensitive Phosphor B) and an array of motley passengers (including a deported ex-mistress of a Third World president (Hildegard Knef), a blackmailer (Benito Carruthers), an alcoholic pianist (Tony Beckley) and an exiled abortionist (Nigel Stock)). When the ship becomes stranded on the floating swamp of the Sargasso Sea, the travellers must face such terrors as man-eating seaweed and a stranded Spanish galleon complete with Grand Inquisitor (Eddie Powell) and boy king "El Supremo" (Daryl Read).

Featuring imaginative sets and water tanks specially constructed at Elstree, THE LOST CONTINENT is a fun but convoluted picture which drowns under its own hyperbole ("SEE BLOOD-BEASTS battling over female flesh! TORTURE PITS for forbidden lovers! SACRIFICE to giant jaw-snapping molluscs! HELPLESS BEAUTIES attacked by crazed-kelp-monsters!"). It's really three films in one, a "ship of fools" tale, an adventure yarn, and an unintentional monster movie parody that relishes its kaiju-like creatures and cleavage. Originally released in America shortened by eight minutes, this truncated version actually replaced the longer cut in British circulation; DVD releases have restored this largely inconsequential footage, but there is one delirious scene where resident blonde Unity (Suzanna Leigh) is called a "hellcat" and almost punched during sex.

Gillespie's extensive musical output has encompassed pop, folk, rock and latterly blues. After performing backing vocals on 'It Ain't Easy' from David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, she recorded an album produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson in 1973, Weren't Born a Man.

The Lost World subgenre is a popular staple of pulp novels and cinematic spectacle. H.Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines and the Hollow Earth work Symzonia; A Voyage of Discovery are often considered its printed paper springboard, exploring strange environments typically un-European. But THE LOST CONTINENT was a box office failure, released between Lost World picture peaks such as MYSTERIOUS ISLAND and the affection given to the Amicus/Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations of the 1970's. Indeed, 1968 was a sobering year for fantastic cinema, a time with little regard for such a dynamic but ultimately empty release.