“The Lost World” (1925)
Based upon the 1912 adventure novel by Sherlock Holmes scribe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry O. Hoyt’s 1925 “The Lost World” presents Conan Doyle’s less well known but equally estimable (in a more overtly flamboyant fashion) creation, Professor George Edward Challenger in his initial appearance on the screen.
This tale of a small band of intrepid adventurers, who travel to the farthest reaches of unexplored South America in order to find evidence of an uncharted plateau housing remnants of prehistoric epochs, has been substantially watered down in the adaption process from its initial action oriented pulp attraction with the inclusion of a woman in the novel’s original all male quartet of explorers, which not only changes the masculine dynamic of the narrative but fundamentally alters both a major character’s motivation in joining the expedition but also makes irrelevant the ironic twist ending pertaining to the cynical extinguishing of the novel’s tenuous connective thread to the romantic ideal.
Fiery Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery) leads a small group of volunteers, including renowned hunter Sir John Roxton (Lewis Stone), fellow scientist Professor Summerlee (Arthur Hoyt), journalist Ed Malone (Lloyd Hughes) and Paula White (Bessie Love, whose role in the story is the aforementioned invention of the film adaptation), the daughter of explorer Maple White who was lost in a prior expedition to the mysterious plateau. The evidence of White’s discovery, a journal filled with sketches of living prehistoric creatures, is met with mockery when presented by Challenger to a conference of esteemed academics. Malone, in an attempt to cement his relationship with girlfriend Gladys Hungerford (Alma Bennett) by demonstrating an active pursuit of heroic adventure, persuades his editors to sponsor a rescue mission for White with Malone acting as their exclusive correspondent.
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Such a harrowing anecdote. I have never ceased to be stunned at the horrors some people are willing to inflict on children. I suppose this carries over into how I view something as essentially trivial as film as well, where it’s my own personal prejudice is to find moral discomfort in any film which callously trades in the targeting of menace or imperilment specifically against the helpless young.
I have a very personal memory of this film. The adult son of one of the neighbours in a small apartment block where I lived used to own a projector, and would show films on the wall of their living room. It was 1960, and I was 8 years old, when he invited me and some of the other boys in, to watch a film. That film was this silent version of ‘The Lost World’, and we all thought it was amazingly good. So much so, we asked him to run it again, and watched it twice in succession.
Other times, he showed us different films, including some from Buster Keaton, and various Keystone Cops shorts. Also the Fay Wray version of ‘King Kong’.
Then one day, he and his mother suddenly moved out, and the film shows stopped unexpectedly.
I was in my mid-teens when my Mum told me that he had been showing ‘special films’ to one young boy in particular, and the police had been notified. A lucky escape for me perhaps, but I still remember enjoying the films, before the ‘incident’.
Best wishes, Pete.